Did You Mean "*Dis*analogy," Steve?

Landsburg's whole post was an exercise in deliberately missing the point of what your opponent is saying, but this part was especially bad:

"I am dismayed by Father Wildes’s blindness to the clear analogy between being forced to work someone else’s land and being forced to serve someone else’s lunch."

Okay, there indeed is something about these two situations that is analogous: both parties are being placed in a legal situation in which they are forced to choose between two options, each of which they would rather avoid.

This slave is being faced with the choice: pick cotton or die.

The restaurant owner is being faced with the choice: serve people of all races lunch, or... don't run a public dining establishment.

So, while there is some analogy, the situations are far more dissimilar than they are alike. No one, after all, is forced to run a public dining establishment. (No one is forced to live either, but that is sort of a sine qua non for doing anything else.) One does not even have to run a public dining establishment if one wishes to prepare food for a living. One could, for instance, open a private club that includes a restaurant of some sort, and private clubs can allow in whomever they choose. Or one could take a job working as a cook for a wealthy family, of whatever race one chooses. Only if one chooses to run a public dining establishment is one obligated to serve people of all races indiscriminately.

And it is not as though the idea that public establishments might be regulated by the public was some shocking new notion that was just born with civil rights legislation. For instance, from the American founding well into the latter half of the 19th century, there was not really anyone questioning whether the public had a right to regulate public businesses, for instance, as to their opening hours, or as to whom they might not serve. The only real argument was whether such regulation should be done at the federal or at the state level, with "state-level" usually winning.

9 comments:

  1. "So, while there is some analogy, the situations are far more dissimilar than they are alike."

    Depends on what your reference point is for the analogy. The situations are exactly analogous in reference to property-rights violations. They are totally different in reference to choices that affect your ability to be alive.

    I'm guessing Lansburg probably was using property-rights as his reference point here.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The situations are exactly analogous in reference to property-rights violations.

      ???

      Delete
    2. "The situations are exactly analogous in reference to property-rights violations."

      That is a stunning assertion, rob! Being seized and forced to work your entire life for someone else is "exaclty analogoous" to having to serve a black person breakfast at your diner?!!

      Delete
  2. Gene wrote:

    "For instance, from the American founding well into the latter half of the 19th century, there was not really anyone questioning whether the public had a right to regulate public businesses, for instance, as to their opening hours, or as to whom they might not serve."

    I'm being serious: There were state regulations on when businesses had to open in the 1800s?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there were many regulations on when they could NOT be open, Specifically, Sunday blue laws

      Delete
    2. I would also imagine that taverns had mandatory closing times for serving liquor, much like today. And state-level licensing requirements were common.

      Delete
    3. I'm being serious: There were state regulations on when businesses had to open in the 1800s?

      O.o

      They're called laws.

      Delete
  3. Oh, duh, okay. I really didn't know what you meant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Not that it affects your general point, but I'm skeptical of the historicity of this:

    "One could, for instance, open a private club that includes a restaurant of some sort, and private clubs can allow in whomever they choose"

    Didn't businesses try exactly this when the law was passed, and fail given that you don't generally get to pick your own private vs public label? A quick search found this (see "Protecting Civil Rights" heading).

    I don't imagine civil rights legislation as having much of an impact if people could opt out of it with a simple, "oh, this is a private club, sorry. Actually, you seem pretty swell, let's fast-track your application. Oh, we can find you a table right now, in fact!"

    And before you say, "but then that wouldn't be a private club", that would contradict your claim that private clubs "can allow whoever they choose"; that would be "can allow whoever they choose so long as they're choosy enough".

    (Sorry if you see this twice, form was flaky.)

    ReplyDelete