Sunday, January 8, 2012

Reagan and the Continuing Debate Over the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Other 60s Civil Rights Legislation

In a previous post, I mentioned the brouhaha that erupted when Reagan told the California Negro Republican Assembly that, while he shared their moral abhorrence with racism, he nonetheless felt that the 1964 Civil Rights Acts represented "a bad piece of legislation."

Writing in March of '66, James Kilpatrick opined that Reagan might have been better served had he spent some time with the conservative group the Philadelphia Society who had taken up the issue of civil rights and civil rights legislation as it was being developed in the 1960s.  They had concluded that:
…paradoxical as it may seem, the existence of racial prejudice as a force in the market is not necessarily bad for the Negro, provided this one important thing – that the market is a free market.   For prejudice is not a uniform condition…Some employers and merchants would not discriminate at all.  Others would discriminate in every conceivable way.

When discrimination is required by law, as in the old southern segregation statutes, the natural economic force of prejudice is artificially contained , and the consequences obviously are bad for the Negro.  But the reverse is also true:  When discrimination is prohibited by the law, as in the Civil Rights Act, the natural economic force of prejudice also is interfered with.  Left alone, the market will impose its own price on the “high-prejudice” merchant, for the “low-prejudice” merchant and the Negro entrepreneur will fill the economic vacuum.  But when society attempts to remove this penalty by passing a law, the result is simply this:  Discrimination continues. But it doesn’t cost anything. 

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