Why Civil Rights Laws Are Necessary

In the comments section, James Schipper makes several comments against civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, elaborating a libertarian argument for getting rid of them. Although I’m sure he is not a racist personally, advocating getting rid of these laws unfortunately is advocating for a de facto racist project that is bound to harm certain ethnic groups.
So in this case, Schipper is a non-racist or anti-racist who is promoting a racist agenda. I know that sounds weird, but life is pretty confusing. He has the entire libertarian and anarchist community behind him in this regard too.
Here is his argument:

In Canada, only a minority of adults are now smokers, and I suppose that in the US it isn’t any different. It is therefore nonsense to say that all businesses in the hospitality sector have an incentive to offer the right to smoke.

If all bar and eateries were forced to choose between being totally smoke-free and allowing smoking, then probably 2/3 of restaurants and 1/2 of bars in a larger North American cities would opt to be smoke-free.

I quite agree that non-smokers should not be forced to become passive smokers, but they won’t have to be if they can choose between smoke-free and smoking establishments.
As to workplaces, I don’t see why smoking should not be allowed if there is consent of all employees. Anti-smoking laws reveal a Procrustean mentality which seeks to impose the same for everybody.
As to anti-discrimination laws, there is such a thing as economic association. Employers and employees have to work together and employees have to work with other employees. Many may prefer to work with their own kind.
Anti-discrimination laws don’t work for small firms anyway. If Peter has 10 employees and they are all white, how does one prove that there is discrimination. The sample is too small. Many small companies are ethnically and racially homogeneous simply because the employer hires his relatives and friends.
Large firms do not have an incentive to antagonize public opinion. If the vast majority of the population is opposed to racial discrimination, then a firm that openly practices racial discrimination will lose clients.
When most people are against racial discrimination, then anti-discrimination laws aren’t necessary. When most people are eager to practice racial discrimination, then anti-discrimination laws, apart from being anti-democratic, are unenforceable.
Anti-discrimination laws lead to surreptitious discrimination, which is very hard to prove. As a result, people who are in charge of enforcing anti-discrimination laws will almost inevitably resort to quotas, at least when they operate on the assumption that ability is equally distributed among all populations.
Look at the dilemma in which employers in the US find themselves. To avoid discrimination in hiring, they use tests, but when different groups have different average scores on these tests, they can’t be used. Anti-discrimination laws would make more sense if no equal ability between groups is assumed.
However, how do you devise tests for all the jobs that are out there? Wouldn’t life be much easier if there were no diversity within countries?

I think they already tried that with bars here in the US, James. Almost all bars just went smoking and said screw it. There were just about zero, or maybe zero, non-smoking bars. Drinkers smoke.
As far as restaurants, I guess we had non-smoking restaurants here in the US. Restaurants generally opted to have smoking sections. Most restaurants had separate sections. In 1992, I ate out in the Bay Area and generally the restaurants had smoking sections. And yes, you could breathe the smoke.
The problem with workplaces going all-smoking is that a number would do just that, especially working class jobs for guys. Some of these guys don’t smoke, and they would be locked out of those workplaces. In parts of the US with high smoking rates, many businesses would go all-smoking.
It doesn’t matter if folks wish to be around their own kind. As a statist, I want to force them to associate with folks they don’t wish to be around in the workplace. This was the old segregationist anti-integration argument by the way.
As far as large corporations go, a lot of them now have diversity goals and whatnot. It seems to be working out pretty well. They are satisfied with the quality of the employees they are getting, and they are rarely getting sued or taken to court. Managers are under strict orders to not discriminate in hiring. The reason they adopted these goals was to not run afoul of civil rights laws.
The problem is that here in the US, discrimination goes on, particularly in home sales and renting. Less in employment, but still it exists. I assure that if the Fair Housing Act were overturned, rampant discrimination would return to renting and home sales.
It doesn’t happen so much now because there are agents all over the place pretending to rent places and the government will sue you good if they can prove you discriminate, and proving it with an agent is pretty easy. Most apartment managing firms are under strict orders not to discriminate and not to work with clients who demand that. Also a lot of folks would stop selling homes to Blacks too.
So, while discrimination is not rampant in the US, it’s a problem enough, and the laws have done incredible work towards remedying the problem. The WN’s admit this and are furious about the laws because they know how well they have worked. So the argument that the laws won’t work in either case (your argument) doesn’t seem to make sense.
I don’t agree with the testing being thrown out due to differentiating scores, but I doubt that that has to do with Civil Rights laws. I’m sure if there was racial differentiation on test score outcome, it would not be a violation of civil rights laws properly interpreted.
It’s not really a huge problem in the US, employers hiring all of these unqualified minorities just to avoid a civil rights lawsuit or prosecution. The only time the DOJ goes after these guys, it’s a pretty blatant and obvious case of illegal discrimination.
The enforcers don’t rely on quotas. They work really hard to build great cases, and win almost all of them. They don’t prosecute that many cases anyway, so they choose them very well. I think the number of firms unfairly taken to court over reasonable discrimination must be small.

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7 thoughts on “Why Civil Rights Laws Are Necessary”

  1. I think we run the risk of thinking too much about the laws and not the court decisions they create.
    I don’t agree with the testing being thrown out due to differentiating scores, but I doubt that that has to do with Civil Rights laws. I’m sure if there was racial differentiation on test score outcome, it would not be a violation of civil rights laws properly interpreted.
    Tell me what you think of the Duke Power case. “Disparate impact”, of course, doesn’t mean unfair test results. It means tests which produce different average scores by race….

  2. The problem is that those things were not really needed to do the job, and everyone knows that Duke Power only put those requirements in to continue its old discriminatory ways under a new scientific and logical face. The court not disparate impact, but that the company needed to prove that the requirements were actually necessary in order to do the job well. What this company did was more like the old poll taxes and tests they used to make Blacks take in order to vote.

  3. Non-smokers benefit from smoking allowed in bars because they will be discouraged from going to bars and thus drink less alcohol.

  4. Dear Robert
    I’m somewhat embarrassed to find myself in the company of libertarians, because I’m not at all a libertarian true believer. I don’t believe in the sanctity of private property or the infallibility of the free market. On the other hand, I think that the burden of proof should rest on those who advocate state intervention, not on those who oppose it. If the burden of proof rested on the opponents of state intervention, then total control of all human activity by the state would be the default position. Who wants that?
    Maybe I’m underestimating the extent of the willingness to discriminate in the US. One problem in the US is that so few blacks are employers. Blacks are 1/8 of the American population and if 1/8 of all jobs in the US were offered by black employers, then black job-seekers who are turned down by white employers could work for black employers.
    It should be kept in mind that employers have an incentive to hire meritocratically. Employers who are willing to hire less competent people of their own race or ethnicity instead of hiring more competent people of a different race or ethnicity will be at a competitive disadavantage against employers who hire strictly according to merit. One of the greatest anti-discrimination factors is the profit motive. That’s why it was necessary for the state to impose rigid segregation.
    If companies for one reason or another want to have a diversity policy, then I don’t have a problem with that.
    If all 18-year-olds arrived on the labor market or at universities with the same educational attainment, then meritocratic hiring by firms and meritocratic admissions by universities would put blacks on the same footing as whites. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and we can’t blame employers for that.
    Maybe I’m seeing it all wrong, but I have the strong impression that a lot of anti-discrimination laws and policies put some minorites in positions which they would not have attained by merit, and that is precisely what anti-discrimination policies were designed to avoid: that some people will rise farther than their merit allowed and at the expense of others with more merit.
    Regards. James

  5. James, I keep hearing stories about these “unqualified minorities rising high” but I don’t see much of it. At my mother’s work at a local community college, her boss had to be deal a Black secretary who was habitually late and just generally and out and out crappy employee. She got chance after chance but she just did not get it. Finally she got fired and she fought it through the union, claiming racism. The charge was a lie and everyone knew it, but it had to be fought anyway.
    Thing is she did not bring that charge under any known civil rights statutes that I know of.
    I’ve worked in quite a few fields with quite a few Blacks and Hispanics. I taught school for years. I think I met one incompetent Black teacher the whole time I was there.
    I’ve also dealt with Black and Hispanic workers in all sorts of positions from lowly to high-up. I almost never see the stereotypical incompetent minority affirmative action hire screwing up on the job. Methinks it’s almost an urban legend.

  6. If you go to the WN sites and see how many Whites are screaming very loudly that they want to get rid of civil rights laws so they don’t have to obey them, things start to seem pretty scary.
    I guess I just don’t see these laws as an undue burden. But if the firefighters’ test got thrown out due to some civil rights law, I’m with you in saying get rid of at least some of these laws. Mandating equality in outcome is absurd.

  7. As a statist, I want to force them to associate with folks they don’t wish to be around in the workplace. This was the old segregationist anti-integration argument by the way.

    Perfectly legal ways exist to get around this and achieve segregation. Restaurants for example use clever methods to attract WASP clientele but at the same time effectively excludes schvooga, shylocks, scratch-backs, and shit stabbers. I have to applaud them for their ingenuity (and more for the fact that Leftists are unable to do anything at all about it!).

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