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Jonathan Bean Archive

Jonathan Bean is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the Independent book, Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.
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50 Years Ago Today: The Detroit Riot and the Decline of Civil Rights Liberalism (III)



(continued from Part II) After the Watts riot of 1965, bureaucrats in the administrative state (e.g., EEOC, Small Business Administration) created racial preferences in employment and lending programs based on their own administrative authority, not any explicit authorization from the Congress. Indeed, the Democratic majority (and the Republican minority) were adamantly opposed to racial discrimination...
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50 Years Ago Today: The Detroit Riot and the Decline of Civil Rights Liberalism (II)



Throughout American history, government at all levels has used race to categorize, enslave, segregate, regulate human behavior, and limit immigration with “nationality” quotas that served as substitutes for race. Categorizing by race was essential to racist agendas.

In response, classical liberal civil rights activists struggled to eliminate government-mandated racial categories. They were anything but naive: racism was real, categories or no categories, but the government stamp of approval made things worse–and caused constant mischief in the ever increasing addition of group categories in the census or in immigration statutes. The only feasible solution was the most radical one: the complete elimination of government racial categories. Individuals might discriminate but would no longer have the support of the State. With time, classical liberals felt, the irrationality of racism and xenophobia would give way to better human relations.

50 Years Ago Today: The Detroit Riot and the Decline of Civil Rights Liberalism (I)



Fifty years ago today (July 23, 1967), the largest urban riot of the 1960s rocked Detroit for five days (July 23-28). An encounter with the police (shutting down an illegal after-hours bar), sparked looting and arson on a scale far surpassing the riots that had burned in other American cities. While such riots often started with incidents involving law enforcement, the police were ordered—again and again—to stand down and let a small minority of African Americans loot property of small business owners (both black and white).

The Detroit Riot marked a turning point in how American policymakers dealt with race. The classical liberal tradition of civil rights, with its emphasis on rule of law and equal protection (regardless of race) gave way to policies that purposely treated minorities as “protected categories” deserving of treatment not accorded other citizens.

Big Government, Racial Violence, and the Police



In August 1965, the streets of Los Angeles erupted in fire, as black rioters burned hundreds of stores and ill-equipped police withdrew from the violent scene. Initiated by a minor altercation with a police officer, Watts was followed by worse riots, often sparked by encounters with police, turning cities like Detroit into burnt-over districts....
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Say No to Reparations: Remembering Slavery, Forgetting the Classical-Liberal Values that Abolished It



Advocates of reparations for the descendants of African American slaves recently challenged socialist Bernie Sanders to embrace their cause, which he refused to do. A leading advocate of reparations, Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates, criticizes Sanders for placing class-based politics before race. Lost in the unending debate over reparations is a key point: group reparations ignore the...
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Nonvoter Manifesto: Don’t Vote!



I am a nonvoter. I stand by my principled decision not to vote. Ever.

People think voting matters. It doesn’t, particularly now when so much power is amassed by unelected bureaucrats (the officials our Founders denounced in the Declaration of Independence for harassing the people). People know little or nothing about issues and theirs is rational ignorance–the governments (local/state/federal) have taken “responsiblity” for everything under the sun. There is no “knowing the issues” when they count in the hundreds or thousands.

What Is Consent? Edison’s Light Bulb



Back in 2006, Congress passed a “green” law to save energy by replacing the warm light of the incandescent bulb with alternative bulbs (not so friendly to the eyes or the pocketbook). Did Americans truly “consent” to the elimination of this light bulb? Almost no one knew their lawmakers passed this law. Moreover, the expensive, ugly-lit light bulbs regulators wanted Americans to buy were on sale for years. The problem was consumers – day after day, purchase after purchase – refused to consent to pay many times over for inferior light. Isn’t that a form of “consent” more responsive to the issue at hand than the passage of a law no one knew about?

Serpent in the Supreme Court: The Folly of “Strict Scrutiny,” from Japanese Internment to Affirmative Action



The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in The Fisher II case involving the use of race in admissions to the University of Texas at Austin. This case, like other college admission decisions dating to Bakke (1978), hinges on how the Supreme Court applies a “strict scrutiny” standard that originated with a decision upholding Japanese...
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Rosa Parks Day: The Triumph of Colorblindness and Capitalism



Sixty years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man and was arrested for disobeying Montgomery, Alabama’s segregation ordinance. The story is well-known, even today, as we celebrate “Rosa Parks Day” (December 1). Following her arrest, African Americans organized a boycott of the city’s privately-owned bus company. Martin Luther King, Jr. became spokesman for street protests and, ever since, the civil rights movement is remembered as a militant expression of civil disobedience and “taking it to the streets.” Within a year, the city ended desegregation, but not for the reasons you might think. The real heroes behind Rosa Parks were the NAACP lawyers who battered down the walls of institutional racism with the force of the constitution, color-blind law, and capitalist forces that worked against racism—hallmarks of the classic liberal tradition of civil rights.

Small Business Suffers: The Riots, Past and Present



Several years ago, I wrote an article for The Independent Review on the urban riots of the 1960s (and the Rodney King riot of 1992). Watching the events unfold in Ferguson, it seems those in charge of riot control learned nothing. Once again, the victims were small business owners—many of them African Americans (as...
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