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John Stossel
John Stossel
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Fight Bigotry Without Government


"Backwards and hateful ideas ... oust John Stossel," said

In a newspaper, the organization went on:

"It's time that FOX drop Stossel ... we'll go directly after the network with a public campaign unlike anything we've pursued to date.".

Media Matters joined: "By airing Stossel's repugnant comments, Fox legitimizes his indefensible position."

What "indefensible" position did I take?

I said this: "Private businesses ought to get to discriminate. I won't ever go to a place that's racist, and I will tell everybody else not to, and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist."

Read that carefully: I condemned racism. I said I'd speak out against and boycott a racist's business. But to some people, I committed heresy. I failed to accept the entire catechism. I didn't say that we need government to fight racism and prohibit racist policies in private establishments.

For this, they demand that I be fired.

This controversy started when Rand Paul, who had just won a senatorial primary, told TV talker Rachel Maddow that the part of the Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination by private business is improper interference with property owners' rights. He, too, condemned racism.

But the chattering class's reaction to Paul's statements must have made him uncomfortable. The next day, he issued a statement saying that he would have voted for the entire act because federal intervention was needed.

Maybe. At the time, racism was so pervasive that such an intrusive law may have been a good thing. But, as a libertarian, I say: Individuals should be surrounded by a sphere of privacy where government does not intrude. Part of the Civil Rights Act violates freedom of association. That's why I told Fox's Megyn Kelly, "It's time now to repeal that part of the law."

You can't say that in America?

America's fundamental political philosophy has deteriorated quite a bit if we can't distinguish between government and private conduct. I enthusiastically support the parts of the civil rights act that struck down Jim Crow laws, which required segregation in government facilities, mass transit, and sometimes in private restaurants and hotels.

Jim Crow was evil. It had no place in America.

Racist policies in private restaurants are also evil, but they do not involve force. Government is force, so it should not be used to combat nonviolent racism on private property, even property open to the public.

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 is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="" <>></a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




10 Comments | Post Comment
I never looked at it this way, but thanks for clearing it up for me. I was unclear what Paul was talking about. Now I understand and I can't say that I disagree. I wouldn't go to anyplace that discriminated by choice either.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Nancy Raabe
Wed Jun 2, 2010 5:11 AM
It would be lovely if the government didn't jump into every private matter that occurs. We've veered too far away from the founding fathers' vision which was for politics to be a part-time community service. It's become a full-time, big money career track.

As for Civil Rights, the government was already involved as evidenced by the existence of segregation laws. They got more involved by jumping on the anti-segregation bandwagon.

Is there even one good example of when the government decided the best way to handle a situation would be to withdraw their involvement and leave it to private citizens?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Laci
Sat Jun 5, 2010 4:03 PM

GREAT article today. You're the most objective, unemotional and accurate reporter on FOX. Please keep speaking out on subjects like limited government. I always appreciate your intellectual and reason-based approach. Thanks for the great work.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Steve Siebold
Mon Jun 7, 2010 8:58 AM

Thanks for bringing the Libertarian views to the forefront. People should have the freedom to choose whom, where, and what they do with their time. I spend a lot of time in Japan, but there are many places that are "Japanese" only. This is a choice that business owners make so that they can cater to their customers whom wish to be with other Japanese people, not gringo's like me. It's all good.

Dave S.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Dave S.
Wed Jun 9, 2010 11:49 AM
How DARE you speak common sense, Sir?
Our Constitution guarantees our right to be idiots and to shun other idiots. An American has the right to be as big a dipstick as he cares to be, and I, as an American, have a right to call him out on it. That is something that was once, quaintly, called freedom. Government has no business meddling in the thoughts of citizens, wrong though they may be.
If we could just get those self-aggrandizing idiots we elect to national office to actually "support and defend the Constitution" instead of padding their own purses with our money and power we would be freer and more secure in our liberties. If I decide that I wish to only associate and do business with those that share the same feeling about something that I do, I have a Constitutionally guaranteed right to do so.
If you think that makes me an ass, you have the right to punish me with your refusal to associate with me or my business. When did the idea of freedom become too complicated for people to understand?
Comment: #5
Posted by: dio
Sun Jun 13, 2010 7:11 AM
John, I am completely with you on this one. This argument is exactly the same in principle to the ban on smoking in restaurants. In that instance, if a private proprietor wants to cater to a market that does not like cigarette smoke, he/she is free to ban smoking in that private business establishment. However, the majority of Americans have become overly-dependent on the Nanny State and handed over their own decision making to this all-powerful bureaucracy. They have decided that they are no longer able to make their own choices, that the people who choose to smoke in restaurants are inferior to them, and that private business is not qualified to choose its market and to define best how to serve it.
It is a crying shame that, in a country that at one time respected the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech has been eroded to the point that someone who speaks their own opinion is threatened with removal from the media. Essentially, the people who have come out against your comment fit into the modern view that most Americans take regarding rights. They have taken the view that freedom of speech is defensible, as long as they agree with what you say. Heaven help the free thinker who speaks from a view that is not aligned with the mass.
This situation is quite disturbing and I applaud you for the bravery to make this comment and for standing by the principles outlined in our Bill of Rights. Every American who supports freedom as defined by the Founding Fathers should be with you. I certainly am.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Tom Jensen
Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:58 PM
Mr. Stossel,
Q: Do you REALLY think you're fooling people with this?
The Undisputed World Television Champion for privatizing EVERYTHING, wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act clauses that forbid private businesses from discriminating on race, ethnicity or gender?
"Private businesses ought to get to discriminate. I won't ever go to a place that's racist, and I will tell everybody else not to, and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist."
Is one step beyond Governor George Wallace of Alabama, IMHO:
""A racist is one who despises someone because of his color, and an Alabama segregationist is one who conscientiously believes that it is in the best interest of Negro and white to have a separate education and social order."
~ 1964 ( from "U.S. News & World Report" )
You're fighting to bring BACK the Segregationist policies championed by Wallace through the back door of universal privatization, while offering some platitude about what you claim to "personally believe" about racism, which can't be demonstrably verified or proven.
As the prior posts show, there are plenty of folks who want to turn back the clock with you. This conscious African-American, whose parents grew up in the Jim Crow South isn't buckdancing to your tune.
Comment: #7
Posted by: CartoonistCobra
Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:48 AM
From my blog

Much has been said by the progressive/collectivist at MSNBC about Rand Paul's comments about property rights and the civil rights laws. Now the progressives at MSNBC would have you believe that there would be no equal rights without the laws creating a protected class and denying the property owners their rights. In typical fashion they engage in revisionist history. It was the southern democrats that passed the Jim Crow laws. Now if they believed in the Constitution and enforced it the Jim Crow laws would never been enacted because it goes against the equal protection clause of the 14 th amendment. . . .All they had to do is enforce the Constitution and the equal protection clause and the people of good conscience would have trained their sights on businesses that engaged in discrimination. They would have boycotted those businesses and when the businesses felt the economic pinch they would changed their practice. Instead of simply enforcing the Constitution they created a protected class of citizens who had more rights not equal. They now have preferential treatment when it comes to government contracts as do Union members, is this equal protection? It has opened the floodgate to other legislation denying property owners their right to cater to a clientel of their choosing. The Nanny state abounds, if you open your doors to the public you no longer have any rights, they can dictate your menu, whether or not you can cater to smokers etc etc etc. If you are not part of the collective of their choosing you have less rights not equal. Of course it is not the first time that they used a crisis to circumvent the Constitution. They used the gang violence caused by their prohibition amendment to circumvent the second amendment and pass the first gun control laws. They used the tainted meat scare to pass the pure food and drug act and creating the FDA, they then granted the FDA prohibition powers an act that previously required a Constitutional amendment and thus we have the drug laws which also were racially motivated. They used the criminal activity caused by the drug laws to invade your privacy, you no longer have the ability to make a large anonymous donation to the charity of your choice, if you make a large cash withdrawal from your bank the bank is required to inform the government of your transaction.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Marshall Keith
Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:46 PM
This is a breath of fresh air and makes a lot of sense. I just love John Stossel as I am a libertarian thinker myself. Thanks for this great article. I'm looking forward to reading more of Stosse's work on this site.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Lisa Houserman
Fri Jul 2, 2010 8:41 PM
Re: CartoonistCobra No. He isn't trying to bring this policy back. Did you even read his article? He wants the government to stay out of it totally. That would be the government that was responsible for the laws governing segregation. You know, Jim Crow laws and other such things. Do you even know your history? Guessing you think it was a Democrat that sent in the troops to enforce desegregation too.

How did you miss the whole point of this article. It must be because he is an affiliate of Fox News. The wonderful thing is you as a private citizen can chose how we spend our money. And guess what, racist establishments would be boycotted. The civil rights movement started before the government got involved. So did women's suferage. They were fighting for their rights FROM their government. How can people forget that so many of the rights they want, were in fact denied them by the very people they are asking for them from?
Comment: #10
Posted by: Raymond K
Fri Sep 30, 2011 3:13 PM
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