How does a libertarian address civil rights issues?
Would there be laws prohibiting a guy in Alabama from denying service at his lunch counter to people on the basis of their race, sex, religion etc.? What if serving people of other races would run off white customers and lose money for this individual’s business? …Most people do not buy “he would be crazy to turn down someone’s money.”
In a libertarian society, businesses could refuse service to individuals for any reason. However, they would be ‘punished’ by losing the profit they otherwise would have made. This feedback is so powerful, that even in the post-Civil War South, segregation could only be maintained when governments made integration (serving blacks and whites in the same establishment) a crime. If integration could only be stopped by outlawing it in the post-Civil War South, surely today it would take place readily without government mandates. If some individuals, black or white, wished to maintain some separatism, why should we force them together?
Civil rights legislation made segregationist laws unconstitutional. In a libertarian society, laws enforcing segregation could never have been passed in the first place. Slavery would never have been legal. In short, if the US had been a totally libertarian society, blacks would never have been discriminated against and given second-class status. Government set the stage for racial prejudice and is only creating backlash and further prejudice by forcing people together.
(Chapters 3 & 4 of Healing Our World deal with other forms of discrimination against the disadvantaged. The “moral” of the story is that the best way to get rid of prejudice is to honor our neighbors’ choice, not try to enforce ours via government.)