Ann Althouse


Ann Althouse responds to Ron Bailey here .

It is a bizarre response. Apparently what so offended Althouse is that anyone could possibly believe that a private business owner should be permitted to privately discriminate on the basis of race. This, to her, isn't a position that's compatible with civil discourse. Or, at the very least, if you hold this position, the burden is on you to prove to Althouse that you aren't ignorant, racist, or sociopathic.

What's funny is that Althouse accuses libertarians of being didactic, "true believers" on this issue, something she apparently finds "disturbing" and "repellent." But it's pretty clear that Althouse herself isn't all that interested in open debate. Tossing around accusations of racism in response to an opinion that can clearly be held by someone who harbors no racial animus whatsoever has a way of cutting off debate.

When, for example, someone in Althouse's comments section suggested that segregation in the south was largely the result of government policy, and that were it not for state-mandated segregation, the private sector would have integrated on its own (a position held by many economists, including Thomas Sowell), Althouse snapped back :

The notion that economic incentives alone would have desegregated the South is a ridiculous fantasy that I am amazed to hear expressed by anyone with a sound mind and a basic education.

Golly. Good thing Althouse isn't one of those "true believers" unwilling to entertain any idea that challenges her worldview!

I'll concede that I'm a bit biased in all of this. I happen to believe the very thing that sent Althouse reeling—that businesses should be allowed to discriminate in any way they please. I'd go out of my way not to patronize a racist, as I think would enough of the country to make racism a surefire business killer.  I also believe that the 14th Amendment compells the federal government to interfere when a state or local government—or agents thereof—is abusing a citizen's civil rights, for reasons related to race or otherwise.

But I happen to think that freedom of association also includes the freedom to be a bigot and to associate with bigots, as well as the freedom to, for example, serve someone who smokes. And I think the tremendous downside that stemmed from Heart of Atlanta and like cases that forced private businesses to desegregate is that we're now faced with an interpretation of the Commerce Clause that gives the federal government far too much power over local affairs, from telling cancer patients they can't smoke marijuana to ease the bite of chemo, to stopping hospitals from being built in order to protect some obscure, endangered, cave-dwelling insect. (I actually think the south could have been desegregated by way of the 13th Amendment—but that's another discussion entirely).

And oddly enough, despite the fact that I hold these opinions, I don't feel I need to to prove a damned thing to Ann Althouse about whether I do or don't hate black people.

I understand that Althouse disagrees with me on these issues. That's fine. And I understand that "state's rights" and "federalism" are often code words for state-sanctioned racism and bigotry. In my writing, I've been quite vocal about the GOP's deplorable "southern strategy," and its detestable habit of pandering to racists . That doesn't mean federalism isn't still a good idea.

Discussing these types of issues is the very reason groups like Liberty Fund sponsor events like the one Althouse and Bailey attended in the first place. But it's supposed to be just that—a discussion. Invitees are selected to provide for an interesting, provocative debate. It means you may possibly encounter ideas that are foreign to you, or that you disagree with. Dealing with those ideas without throwing a fit and unleashing accusations of racism every time your own beliefs are challenged is part of having a grown-up discussion with grown-up people about grown-up topics.