Thought for the Day

For over 100 years, the Republican party* fought to establish the civil rights of all Americans regardless of race, almost invariably against the vigorous protests of the Democratic party.

At long last, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in public facilities, in businesses catering to the public engaged in interstate commerce,** in public schools and other government agencies receiving federal funds, and in businesses hiring more than 14 employees.  This latter provision (Title VII) also prohibited discrimination in hiring on the basis of sex.

Almost immediately, the Democrats would begin championing all those who would set themselves off from this civil society on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.***

Funny how just when we had achieved the full integration of our civil society thanks to the Republicans, the Democrats managed to discover a way to segregate us all over again.

*Founded in 1854 by anti-slavery activists.
**I.e. within the federal government's jurisdiction.
***I.e. through support for Black Power, feminism, and identity politics generally.


  1. Aside from a radical fringe, in what way do feminists "set themselves off" from civil society? BTW, I've always understood "civil society" to constitute the world of voluntary association outside of the formal structures of kin, market, and state--the world of the Sons of Erin and the Sons of Norway, Amnesty International, the DAR, etc.

    I heard a fascinating talk last fall by Julie Ringelheimer about competing notions of equality in EU law. There are several notions of equality, and they're necessarily in tension at certain points. Equality before the law is one, but keep in mind what Anatole France said: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." And equality before the law may require treating some people differently. If Christmas is a public holiday, should Jews working for state agencies be allowed to take Yom Kippur as a holiday? If not, is the state discriminating on the basis of religion by requiring observant Jews to take vacation or a personal day to celebrate a central religious holiday, whereas Christians are not required to use vacation or personal days for the same?

    Then, of course, there's equality of opportunity, which is sometimes in tension with equality under the law, too. For all of its flaws, affirmative action is an attempt to preserve some form of equality of opportunity in the face of the effects of discrimination and economic disadvantage.

    And as for "the Democrats manag[ing] to discover a way to segregate us all over again": really? What have American Democrats done since 1964 that can be compared, fairly, to segregated water fountains, railroad carriages, lunch counters, city buses, etc., or to redlining real estate?

  2. I'd say the Democrats have done a bang-up job convincing not a few people that "Republican" means "white, male, greedy, stupid, sexist, and racist." You, for example. And me, to my shame, until I started reading what Republicans actually say.

    "Civil society" as I understand it means those things which we do together as citizens, with the corollary sense of "being civil." These may include government institutions, but they also include other forms of association.

    I think what you give as an example of equality before the law is exactly the kind of conversation we should be having, rather than accusing each other of being greedy (the "1%") and sexist (the "war on women") all the time.

    I disagree about the effects of affirmative action. Thomas Sowell has written a great deal about the way in which liberal policies like affirmative action have backfired on the very communities that they were intended to help. I can suggest some reading, if you like.


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