Jonah Goldberg
Recommend this article

For instance, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote an afterword to Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" lionizing the late Arizona senator as the sort of honorable conservative all liberals respect. Goldwater's granddaughter produced a documentary in which Hillary Rodham Clinton, James Carville and other liberals sang AuH20's praises.

And yet, when a very clearly nonracist libertarian politician merely raises the possibility -- with admirable honesty and sincerity -- that Goldwater might have been a teensy-weensy bit right to vote against the 1964 bill (Goldwater had voted consistently for civil rights laws before then), it's an outrage.

For the record, Paul and Goldwater were both wrong. The libertarian position is not to defend Jim Crow but to condemn it, and not just because of its unjust bigotry but because of its economic folly that served to entrench that bigotry.

Paul weeps for the lost right of white businessmen to refuse black customers (even though he rejects the practice himself). But he fails to appreciate the perverse irony that one of Jim Crow's greatest evils was its intrusion on the property rights of whites. Jim Crow wasn't merely some "Southern tradition" undone by heroic good government. Jim Crow laws were imposed by government. And they banned white businessmen from serving blacks (Plessy vs. Ferguson, which enshrined "separate but equal" in the Constitution for another six decades, was largely about how blacks could be treated on railroads).

Liberals often deride the libertarian notion that the free market could have solved segregation. I think libertarians have a pretty good argument in theory, but the simple truth is we'll never know because the market wasn't free under Jim Crow. Nonetheless, it's certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.

Recommend this article

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.