John Stossel

I just don't trust government to decide what discrimination is acceptable. Its clumsy fist cannot deter private nonviolent racism without stomping on the rights of individuals. Today, because of government antidiscrimination policy, all-women gyms are sued and forced to admit men, a gay softball team is told it may not reject bisexuals and a Christian wedding photographer is fined thousands of dollars for refusing to take photos of a homosexual wedding.

I'll say it again: Racial discrimination is bad. But we have ways besides government to end it. The free market often punishes racists. Today, a business that doesn't hire blacks loses customers and good employees. It will atrophy, while its more inclusive competitors thrive.

In the pre-1964 South, things were different. But even then, private forces worked against bigotry. White owners of railroads and streetcars objected to mandated segregation. Historian Jennifer Roback writes that in 1902 the Mobile Light and Railroad Company "flat out refused to enforce" Mobile, Alabama's segregation law.

In cities throughout the South, beginning in 1960, student-led sit-ins and boycotts peacefully shamed businesses into desegregating whites-only lunch counters. Those voluntary actions were the first steps in changing a rancid culture. If anything, Washington jumped on a bandwagon that was already rolling.

It wasn't free markets in the South that perpetuated racism. It was government colluding with private individuals (some in the KKK) to intimidate those who would have integrated.

It was private action that started challenging the racists, and it was succeeding -- four years before the Civil Rights Act passed.

Government is a blunt instrument of violence that one day might do something you like but the next day will do something you abhor. Better to leave things to us -- people -- acting together privately.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate