Jon Stossel Calls for Repeal of Public Accommodations Section of Civil Rights Act

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

My opinion: John Stossel is a crazy libertarian.

I’m not criticizing all libertarians everywhere. But John Stossel is crazy. In my humble opinion.

I heard him speak a few years ago at the Annual Meeting of the Inland Press Association. He used an ice rink experiment/analogy to try to demonstrate why regulation doesn’t work. He conducted an "experiment" where he observed an ice rink, with everyone skating just fine, and then had someone call out instructions to those skating, which ended in disaster. His conclusion was that "regulation" doesn’t work, and, when left alone, the "free market" skating was best for all.

He ignored the fact that an ice rink is already regulated. There are walls around ice rinks. If an ice rink was completely deregulated, the walls would be down, and a bunch of dudes on zambonis would be cruising the ice with the skaters.

An ice rink is regulated. And John Stossel is naive.

From Media Matters:

KELLY: Rand Paul is a libertarian. You are a libertarian. He is getting excoriated for suggesting that the Civil Rights act — what he said was, "Look it’s got 10 parts, essentially; I favor nine. It’s the last part that mandated no discrimination in places of public accommodation that I have a problem with, because you should let businesses decide for themselves whether they are going to be racist or not racist. Because once the government gets involved, it’s a slippery slope." Do you agree with that? 

STOSSEL: Totally. I’m in total agreement with Rand Paul. You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it’s a private business. And if a private business wants to say, "We don’t want any blond anchorwomen or mustached guys," it ought to be their right. Are we going to say to the black students’ association they have to take white people, or the gay softball association they have to take straight people? We should have freedom of association in America.

KELLY: OK. When you put it like that it sounds fine, right? So who cares if a blond anchorwoman and mustached anchorman can’t go into the lunchroom. But as you know, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came around because it was needed. Blacks weren’t allowed to sit at the lunch counter with whites. They couldn’t, as they traveled from state to state in this country, they couldn’t go in and use a restroom. They couldn’t get severed meals and so on, and therefore, unfortunately in this country a law was necessary to get them equal rights. 

STOSSEL: Absolutely. But those — Jim Crow — those were government rules. Government was saying we have white and black drinking fountains. That’s very different from saying private people can’t discriminate.

KELLY: How do you know? How do you know that these private business owners, who owned restaurants and so on, would have said, "You know what? Yes. We will take blacks.

STOSSEL: Some wouldn’t.

KELLY: We’ll take gays. We’ll take lesbians," if they hadn’t been forced to do it. 

STOSSEL: Because eventually they would have lost business. The free market competition would have cleaned the clocks of the people who didn’t serve most customers.

KELLY: How do you know that, John?

STOSSEL: I don’t. You can’t know for sure.

KELLY: That then was a different time. Racism and discrimination was rampant. I’m not saying it’s been eliminated. But it was rampant. It was before my time, before I was born, but obviously I’ve read history, and I know that there is something wrong when a person of color can’t get from state to state without stopping at a public restroom or a public lunchroom to have a sandwich. 

STOSSEL: But the public restroom was run by the government, and maybe at the time that was necessary.

KELLY: But that’s not what Rand Paul said. Rand Paul agreed that if it’s run by the government, yes intervention is fine. He took issue with the public accommodations, with private businesses being forced to pony up under the discrimination laws. 

STOSSEL: And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement, and say it’s time now to repeal that part of the law

KELLY: What?

STOSSEL: because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t 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.