Richard Ebeling emails:
My new article on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation is on, “Classical Liberalism and the Problem of ‘Race’ in America.”
We have often been reminded of the contradictions and inconsistency of slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. An inconsistency that continued after the Civil War with segregation laws in the Southern states and widely practiced racial prejudice and discrimination in the North, well into the twentieth century.
One of the most biting, witty and sarcastic critics of white prejudice and anti-black laws in the twentieth century was the African-American journalist and author, George S. Schuyler, who was also
anti-communist and a political “conservative” in support of personal freedom and private enterprise against the false promises of socialism. His writings from the 1920s and 1930s, remind us of just how cruel, humiliating and demining white bigotry against African Americans really was less than one hundred years ago.
But the other issue is, what were the political and policy positions of classical liberals and libertarians concerning race relations in those decades from the 1920s through the 1950s? And the answer, amazingly, is little and never loudly vocal. While, of course, condemning the slavery of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and general calls for equal treatment before the law for all including in the American South, there were few fervent and outspoken demands for the end to racial abuses and prejudices in the context of a forceful case for individual liberty and freedom of association.
As a result, throughout the period since the end of the Second World War, the issue of “race” in America has fallen almost by default to the critics of racism on “the left,” who only see “solutions” through political paternalism and coerced “reform” of human relationships.
This is now trending America to a new and dangerous race-based “identity politics” in which individuals are once again classified and “rewarded” or “punished” depending upon the biological category to which the collectivist social engineers assign people. Classical Liberals and libertarians must take up the baton of liberty and run with it in a way that challenges this trend in contemporary America, or the outcome will be no good for anyone in the United States.