I watched Ron Paul on Hardball yesterday afternoon talking about his opposition to the Civil Rights Act and while this of course reminds you of his troubling racist associations, I think that’s actually the least significant part of the story. The real issue here is Paul’s perfectly sincere non-prejudiced, non-biased reasoning here. The Civil Rights Act is, after all, a genuinely large infringement of people’s private property rights. It says that just because you own a hotel doesn’t mean you can decide to bar black people from staying at it. It says that just because you own a bus, you can’t decide to make black passengers ride in the back. It says you can’t buy—at any price—a seat at a whites-only lunch counter. It’s a massive instance of big government medaling in people’s private business.
It was also in the 1960s and 1970s an absolutely vital tool in resolving a social and political crisis of gargantuan proportion. And though it has less practical significance today (it’s not like people are chomping at the bit to open segregated hotels), the Civil Rights Act remains an important tool against racism and an important token of America’s strong commitments to non-discriminatory norms.
But Ron Paul, like Rand Paul before him, opposes this measure not—or not only—out of some bias against black people but out of a deeply-held belief that the state should never solve any social problem no matter how severe the problem or how effective the solution.