The Mises Institute monthly, free with membership
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
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
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
including public employers, who discriminate. We have to root out that kind of
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
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.
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
Take careful note: Chavez, Chao, Thernstrom, Kemp, and Connerly are
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
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
really means is that a law against "discrimination" should bar quotas in all directions, neither
benefitting whites nor
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
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
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,  1969).