Libertarian Ramblings

Why Obama doesn’t get it

Posted by gravisman on November 6, 2008 – Civil Rights

The above page details the Obama administration’s attitudes toward, and plans for, dealing with civil rights. There are two fundamental problems in thinking that pop out at me when I read it. First, when talking about “the problem” they don’t really address civil rights. Second, when talking about “the plan” they quickly show that they think civil rights can be achieved by force, which is exactly the opposite of the right idea.

The page points out four current problems relating to civil rights.

1. Average pay inequity relating white men to women and racial minorities.

2. Hate crimes

3. Vote suppression against minorities

4. Criminal justice inequities

The first three are simply not civil rights. You don’t have the right to get paid any certain amount, and you certainly don’t have the right to get paid an amount simply because someone else does. Every person’s pay is determined on the employment market by factors of supply and demand as well as their personal ability to market themselves and negotiate. Anyone who accepts a job for a given wage has done so under his or her own free will. If he or she believes his or her self to be undervalued, the option is always there to seek alternate employment, or stake out an independent means of survival.

As for hate crimes, this is a fine line. Crime is a problem. From the perspective of pure civil rights, the motive of crime is irrelevant. To single out hate crimes as a civil rights issue is to miss the point of non-aggression. 

Vote suppression is sad and unfortunate, but it’s also a part of the political game. Yes, physical threats of intimidation are bad, but efforts to mislead or discourage voting (as long as they come from non-government entities) are not a violation of civil liberties. Just as much as you have the right to vote, I have the right to try to convince you not to vote. This is almost exactly the same scenario as is played out between a criminal suspect and police. Just as much as the suspect has the right to remain silent, the police have every right to attempt to convince him or her to talk. Giving up his or her rights is the responsibility of the individual.

The final problem noted is the only one that counts as a real civil rights issue, and the reason is because it deals with a direct relation between citizens and the government. What Obama seems to fail to realize is that the entire premise of civil rights is to protect people from government. Civil rights are not about protecting people from people. Yes, the government exists to protect people from being violent toward each other and stealing each other’s property, but it’s not meant to be an arbiter of every human transaction. Since judicial inequities and racial profiling is about government treating different people differently, this is something that must be stopped and people’s civil rights are on the line. The right in question is equal protection under the law, which every citizen should expect.

One out of four is not impressive. I call that luck.

Perhaps even more alarming than Obama’s obvious failure to recognize the very nature of civil rights is his completely wrong attitude toward protecting them. If we read down the page to see the plan for improving things, the theme quickly becomes clear: let’s pass more laws. Laws do not expand rights. Laws contract rights. That is their nature (there are, of course exceptions, but this is a fairly reliable generalization). The way to expand civil liberties to repeal laws and policies that restrict them. It is insanity to go around setting more rules and expect that people will be more free with all the rules you’ve placed on them.

Some people just don’t get it….

Let us not forget what real change is.

UPDATE: The link supplied above is now broken, and the page that has replaced it has been largely overhauled. You can read the new page here.


2 Responses to “Why Obama doesn’t get it”

  1. Seeker said

    I think you make a valid point about the issues of labeling civil liberties as “the problem” without specifying its nature and that forcing it to change is not ideal.

    When it comes to pay inequity the fine line is that black men are payed less than white women that are payed less than white men of the same educational background and relative history. This isn’t to illustrate that pay gradients should vary, but that the difference in pay is based on what the company deems they can get away with paying a woman who “may” at sometime chose to have a family and thus is assumed to be less capable. Thats sexism as it assumes a woman’s role even if she is unmarried or married and not planning to have kids or planning on the husband having them.

    Criminal justice inequities are tied from the most basic tendency of police profiling which considering the number of white drivers that speed versus black drivers and the number that get pulled over and receive a ticket, it illustrates that its not merely who breaks the law but it dealing out the punishment. Also, for crimes of the same severity African americans often get harsher penalties such that a white man will recieve life and a black man will be put on death row.

    I commend your desire in trying to put these issues in perspective, but I don’t think you are accurately perceiving what it is about these problems that make them civil inequities and why they are government based concerns. I suspect you’ll reach your own conclusions, regardless, but I fear that you may have been the victim of disinformation.

  2. gravisman said

    1. Pay inequality. Recall that I said the difference between the first 3 and the last item is that the first three don’t involve people’s relationship with the government, which is precisely what civil rights are all about. This can be considered a social problem, but it’s not a civil liberties problem, and there’s no reason for it to be a government problem. If people are being under-paid, then market will respond to that with open opportunities. Don’t go knocking on the government’s door demanding it tell your employer to pay you more.

    2. Criminal justice. This issue I actually acknowledged in my post as a legitimate civil rights issue. I agree with you!

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