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March 1998
Volume 16, Number 3

No Freedom, No Peace
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

President Bill Clinton called on nine opponents of affirmative action during his manipulative "national dialogue on race," and asked a reasonable question. "What do you think we should do?"

The right answer is nothing. Do nothing at all.

To achieve that ideal, government must get out and stay out of the race business. Allow complete freedom of association. That means we should call off the bureaucratic armies that pretend to read the minds of capitalists, admissions counselors, loan officers, and housing managers. Stop the terror campaign against businesses. Defang the lawyers looting companies through class-action lawsuits.

End the lies, smears, and attacks against average people for their supposed intractable racism. Stop the federal occupation of local school districts in the name of racial balance. Dethrone the federal judges who impose de facto quotas in every public institution and mandatory preferences in every private one. Come clean on the real purpose of racial politics, which is not justice but power and political spoils.

In short, stop the race racket. Don't attempt to centrally plan every institution in society on a racial basis. Allow people to associate as they wish. Permit all-white schools, all-black schools, and all-Asian schools, and any mixtures. Free business from its worries about federal race cops who can bankrupt them. Let people hire and fire, rent and serve, as they please, and take race discrimination off the court docket.

Don't "enforce" or "impose" diversity, or forbid it, but let people make their own choices. Free them from the civil-rights CHEKA once and for all. Trash all federal laws that imply they can know our motivations for why we do things. If we want it to have a role, let government judge us not by the "content of our character"--much less by the "color of our skin"--but by whether we commit crimes against person or property.

Above everything else, repeal the civil rights acts starting with 1964, scrapping its ambiguous and implicitly tyrannical language, whereby the great god government decides why we act the way we do and has veto power over our acts on that basis. Reintroduce that glorious old institution, freedom of association. Race relations were never more peaceful than when association and non-association were guaranteed as a matter of right.

This solution--the only one compatible with a free society and free economy--is also the only way out, however unhappy it will make those who benefit from the present tyranny. The source of racial conflict is not some vague "misunderstanding" between people that can be rectified through "dialogue." Its source is the coercive power of the state, which rewards some at the expense of others.

Alas, Clinton's hand-picked political dissidents had no coherent answer to his question. These supposed critics of affirmative action had their chance to speak their mind and they blew it. For example, Linda Chavez, pundit and head of the New American Community, revealed her solution to the race problem. "Every person in this room is adamantly in favor of vigorous enforcement of the civil rights law." Plus, "there are employers out there, including public employers, who discriminate. We have to root out that kind of discrimination."

Ah, yes, music to the EEOC's ears. Meanwhile, author Abigail Thernstrom of the Manhattan Institute assured Clinton "you've said some wonderful things on education." And Elaine Chao of the Heritage Foundation chimed in that Asians and Hispanics need to be recognized as part of our "diversified nation."

Jack Kemp was invited but refused to go on grounds that the meeting wasn't public. Asked later what he would have said, he answered he would insist we need to "fully enforce the civil rights laws of America."

And how happy Clinton must have felt after Ward Connerly, head of California's effort to end racial quotas in government, told the press: the president "understands race like no other President, living or dead." Yes, and Mussolini understood industrial economics like no one else (as the New York Times claimed in 1933), Lenin understood the needs of the workers of the world, Hitler knew the needs of the German workers, and FDR knew the needs of the U.S. unemployed.

Isn't it about time we dispensed with the myth of the omniscient politician? What Clinton knows, and knows all too well, is how to use race to his political advantage.

Take careful note: Chavez, Chao, Thernstrom, Kemp, and Connerly are conservatives. None of them mentioned the multitude of white victims of preferential politics. Neither did anyone suggest the possibility that there can be no "national" plan to bring about racial harmony. Not a word was breathed about the iron hand of civil-rights police on business. In the White House, as with the media in general, these remain unthinkable thoughts.

As these talking heads engage in "frank dialogue" with this "open-minded president," an army of bureaucratic thugs, dictators in black robes, and hate-filled shysters are waging war on the fundamental freedom of Americans to associate. They are wrecking small and large companies, and schools and colleges, every day. We're just not supposed to notice.

How to account for this sad spectacle of affirmative action critics turning into cheerleaders for Clinton, the most egregious racial-political manipulator since Lyndon Johnson? There's the president's charm. For anyone susceptible to con-men, Clinton is reportedly impossible to resist. Add to that the tendency of public intellectuals and pundits to worship the office of the presidency and we have a recipe for embarrassing displays of sycophancy.

Indeed, given Clinton's political instincts, it's a wonder that he hasn't used this technique to buy off his critics for years. One invitation to a White House dinner can purchase years of silence from political opponents. It worked like a charm for Reagan, who understood that Washington conservatives are more interested in appearing to be players than advancing any sort of principles.

But there's an even deeper, ideological basis for conservative complicity. None if these people is in fundamental disagreement with the idea that the federal government should be managing the nation's racial affairs. They simply have different ideas about how we should go about it.

Consider Jack Kemp's comment about the need to "fully enforce" the civil rights laws. What he really means is that a law against "discrimination" should bar quotas in all directions, neither benefitting whites nor blacks.

It's a glib remark that profoundly misses the point. The civil rights laws since 1964 empower the feds to discern our motives for what we do. It's not technically illegal to hire only Chinese waiters for a Chinese restaurant, so long as the person doing the hiring didn't assemble the staff with discriminatory intent.

But how can discriminatory intent be shown? Short of mind reading, there is no way other than to look at the results and compare them with a central plan concocted by the feds themselves. The present means of enforcing civil rights doesn't depart from the intent of 1964; it fulfills it in every respect. Freedom of association--in business or academia--no longer exists. It was abolished in 1964, and the rest was just a mopping-up operation.

What the conservatives (or, more appropriately, the neoconservatives) want is their sort of civil rights laws. Then, as advocated by Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice, they want to replace current quotas with another sort of affirmative action, one that is not race based but class based. Thus Harvard should be forced to admit people from low-income groups; this will result in de facto diversity without raising the hackles that race-based admissions policies invariably do.

These people are right that race-based policies have failed, but so too have class-based policies. The reduction of both the race and class approaches to politics (Nazism and Marxism) produced unmitigated evil and bloodshed. Anyone who thinks class warfare is a good substitute for race warfare needs to revisit the history of the 20th century.

What kinds of admissions policies should Harvard have? Let that be up to Harvard. Let the admissions officers face no reprisals from federal courts for their decisions. The same goes for every university and every business in the country. Let them exercise the right to self-determination. Let everyone freely associate or not associate. Down with the attempt to generate diversity through lawsuits and hectoring.

A university in Alabama that has historically served blacks recently came under court order to introduce "diversity" into its ranks. So it created a special category of scholarships for whites only. The Center for Individual Rights in California has sued on grounds that this is preferential. So who's right? Not the federal judge. But not California lawyers either. The alumni and the administration--the people who actually have an interest in the school's well-being--should be the decision makers as a matter of right.

No central authority can know how many blacks, Latinos, or Asians should be at Harvard, how waitresses at Shoney's ought to treat customers, how much female cashiers at Home Depot should be paid, or what human traits are and are not relevant for the working out of the division of labor. So long as government is charged with managing racial matters, it will continue to make trouble.


Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Mises Institute.

FURTHER READING: Richard Epstein, Forbidden Grounds: The Case Against Employment Discrimination Laws (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992); Walter Olson, The Excuse Factory (New York: The Free Press, 1997); Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, [1944] 1969).


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