Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Richard Epstein on the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Libertarian theory requires the state to enforce property rights and contracts. These decisions flew in the face of those principles. At its best, and in its original form, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought to break the control of the local segregationist forces over their political institutions. First on the list was Title I, which attacked exclusion from voting. Next was Title II, which dealt with the question of public accommodations. Title II did not create any elaborate federal agency. In the aftermath of the sit-ins, it was intended to counteract the manifest abuse of state power that fostered segregated institutions. It was welcomed by virtually every national company that did business in the South, for at long last it put federal power in opposition to corrupt state power. The instantaneous levels of compliance with its mandate were well-nigh universal. The South was a freer place after its passage than before.