“Did you hear what your buddy Rand Paul said?” Nude Eel crowed recently. “He doesn’t think the government can tell him who he can serve in his restaurant, you can’t agree with that!” Like most Libertarians, The Free Agent is used to this kind of knee-jerk reaction. Mister Eel, who sees legislation (rather than the judiciary) as the righter of wrongs, makes two errors. He mistakes Mister Paul and The FA’s viewpoint as being in support of segregation, and he forgets who forced segregation in the first place.
When we cede a power from ourselves to the state, we give it a coin with two sides, that to forbid and that to compel. The Free Agent responds to Mister Eel that if she acknowledges the authority of the state to compel her to serve someone in her imaginary restaurant, she must also allow it to deny her right to serve. She would sooner sneer in contempt and boycott a whites-only restaurant than demand the police make it play nice. She will tolerate people with whom she disagrees in return for the same toleration from them.
Yeah, she said it—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 overreached. All that was necessary to end Jim Crow was for the Supreme Court to rule that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids it. What the Civil Rights Act did was use the misbegotten authority to compel a different policy. In Mister Eel’s world, Jim Crow could return should the political winds shift, in The Free Agent’s, it could not.
Daily, we are ceding too much power to governments at all levels. If business owners can be forbidden from serving smokers, they could be compelled to allow it. (New Orleans used to have laws protecting smokers as addicts.) If we can be compelled to purchase health insurance, it could be made illegal tomorrow. What we’re giving up is not a decision, it is the authority to make the decision, one way or another. The Free Agent rarely quotes hippies for obvious reasons, but Power to the People, people!