Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Wisdom from the New York Times editorial board:

It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market.

Did an intelligent, educated person actually type those words? Did an editor actually approve them for publication? Can anyone in that place think straight?

It was only government power that created and sustained the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow, um, LAWS. They were preemptions of the free market, so how could it have abolished them?


Joel Davis said...

De jure was successfully abolished de jure. In related news, I was able to take a left turn while walking, so much for the free market on that one!

Joel Davis said...

just realized that my last joke was a bit too inside (i.e: too only-get-it-if-you're-inside-my-head) I was making a joke about making a call to something outside of all possible actors within the situation and faulting an unrelated actor (in this case, a "free market")

Michael said...

I didn't read the Times article, nor do I know that much about the history of the situation, but I thought the argument was that it was Federal law that overrode racist Jim Crow state law. If that's the case, obviously the quotation from the Times has the facts slightly askew, but the annoyed critique, then, disingenuously sidesteps the key point: in the face of the racist state laws the market alone could not have overcome legal segregation without the interference of Federal state power. To say that market forces could have resolved post-slavery discrimination in the absence of the states' Jim Crow laws is fine and maybe true -- but those laws did exist so the market wasn't enough. If I have the facts of history wrong, I'm happy to be corrected.

Sheldon Richman said...

Jim Crow laws segregated government not private facilities. The market -- narrowly defined as the network of cash transactions -- perhaps couldn't have eliminated those laws (though perhaps it could have, de facto, by providing alternative facilities). But you seem to assume that a voluntary social movement couldn't undo Jim Crow without federal help. On what basis do you think that? If lunch counters could be desegregated without federal help, then state laws could have been defied and ignored to the point where repeal was the path of least resistance for the authorities.

Matthew said...

Sheldon... I was under the impression that there, indeed, were some laws that mandated segregation for businesses that chose to serve both whites and blacks. Is that not true?

Sheldon Richman said...

As I understand it, railroads and street cars were the only private companies subject to segregation laws, such as in Louisiana. Wikipedia says Jim Crow applied to government facilities. I am not aware of a law that forbade lunch counters from integrating. I'm happy to be corrected if that is wrong.

Michael said...

I actually wasn't giving a personal opinion, I was just pointing out that I thought the standard argument somewhat eluded your rebuttal to the Times article. I do not assume that private market arrangements may not have been sufficient. I have very much a pro-market bias. However, as your reply makes clear, there's a lot of assumption and speculation in that position: a lot of "if"s and "could"s.

Also, just to play the devil's advocate: governments are not (because they don't need to be) efficient economic actors, so a "path of least resistance" scenario can hardly be assumed. Quite the contrary, due to bureaucratic inertia and union self-interest, government initiatives -- which can be endlessly funded through appropriation of tax dollars -- tend to take on a life of their own. Fighting "illegal desegregationists" could have been a great boondoggle to the state's public services. The path of greatest pork, rather than least resistance. This too is merely speculative, but based on an observation of state tendencies which I doubt you'd dismiss out of hand.