Wednesday, March 21, 2018

quotes from Kierkegaard's "Provocations" (and an overview)

Charles Moore provides an intro to the version of Provocations that I read/enjoyed. He discusses Kierkegaard’s primary goals: to be aware and to act—vs. merely to "know".

Moore: Kierkegaard’s task was not the introduction of new ideas, a theology or philosophy of life. Rather, he said “My task is in the service of truth; and its essential form is obedience.” Kierkegaard was fundamentally existential: “to keep people awake, in order that religion may not again become an indolent habit...” His aim was to provoke the individual so as to become an individual in the truth.

He also made an absolute demand that “idea” should be translated into existence (being and doing), which is exactly what his contemporaries, in his opinion, failed to do: “Most systematizers stand in the same relation to their systems as the man who builds a great castle and lives in an adjoining shack; they do not live in their great systematic structure. But in spiritual matters this will always be a crucial objection. Metaphorically speaking, a person’s ideas must be the building he lives in – otherwise there is something terribly wrong.”

His strategy was to help them take a decisive stand: “I wish to make people aware so that they do not squander and dissipate their lives.” Faith, therefore, requires a leap. It is not a matter of galvanizing the will to believe something there is no evidence for, but a leap of commitment. Christianity is not a doctrine to be taught, but rather a life to be lived.

Here's what Kierkegaard says on this topic:

I have wanted to make people aware and to admit that I find the New Testament very easy to understand, but thus far I have found it tremendously difficult to act literally upon what it so plainly says.

The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many scholars, but it did not make them move. Who had more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

When Christianity becomes nothing but doctrine, the test is nothing but a scholarly examination.

If a person does not become what he understands, then he does not understand it either. Between understanding and willing [are] excuses and evasions.

When it comes to doing what we know to be God’s will, we do not dare to say: I will not! So we say: I cannot. Is this any less rebellious? If it is God’s will that you do it, how is it possible that you cannot?

What is needed is not professors but witnesses. No, if Christ did not need scholars but was satisfied with fishermen, what is needed now is more fishermen.

When we see someone holding an axe wrong and chopping in such a way that he hits everything but the block of firewood, we do not say, “What a wrong way for the   woodcutter to go about it,” but we say, “That man is not a woodcutter.” Now for the application. When we see thousands and thousands and millions of Christians whose lives do not resemble in the remotest way what – and this is decisive – the New Testament calls a Christian, is it not tampering with the meaning to talk as one does in no other situation and say: “what a mediocre way, what a thoroughly inexpressive way these Christians have.” In any other situation would one not say, “These people are not Christians.”

And finally, on the implications for apologetics: A king’s existence is demonstrated by way of subjection and submissiveness. Do you want to try and demonstrate that the king exists? Will you do so by offering a string of proofs, a series of arguments? No. If you are serious, you will demonstrate the king’s existence by your submission, by the way you live. And so it is with demonstrating God’s existence. It is accomplished not by proofs but by worship. Any other way is but a thinker’s pious bungling.

Miscellany from Provocations:

On commitments and keeping them (reminiscent of Seinfeld’sreservations): Now, what is the point of this parable? Is it not meant to show us the danger of saying “Yes” in too great a hurry, even if it is well meant? Though the yes-brother was not a deceiver when he said “Yes,” he nevertheless became a deceiver when he failed to keep his promise. In his very eagerness in promising he became a deceiver. When you say “Yes” or promise something, you can very easily deceive yourself and others also, as if you had already done what you promised. It is easy to think that by making a promise you have at least done part of what you promised to do, as if the promise itself were something of value.

On being lukewarm (Rev 3:16): The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism – no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity served up sweet. There is nothing that so insidiously displaces the majestic as cordiality. Perpetually polite, so small, so nice, tampering and meddling and tampering some more – the result is that majesty is completely defrauded – of course, only a little bit. And right here is the danger, for the infinite is more disposed to a violent attack than to becoming a little bit degraded – amid smiling, Christian politeness. And yet this politeness is what our Christianity amounts to. But the very essence of Christianity is utterly opposed to this mediocrity, in which it does not so much die as dwindle away

On the Spirit (a la Jn 5:30, 15:5; Gal 3:2-3): Such self-knowledge we are referring to is really not complicated. But is one not able, then, to overcome oneself by oneself? How can I be stronger than myself? When we speak of overcoming oneself by oneself, we really mean something external, so that the struggle is unequal.

We should not, then, speak about one’s coming into debt by receiving love. No, it is the one who loves who is in debt. Because he is aware of being gripped by love, he perceives this as being in infinite debt.

On true/false repentance: Yes, in the temporal and social sense, repentance may come and go. But in the eternal sense, it is a quiet daily commitment before God. In the light of eternity, one’s guilt is never changed, even if a century passes by. Repentance, if it is forgotten, is nothing but immaturity. The longer and the more deeply one treasures it, however, the better it becomes.

All the objections to Christianity – what are they, after all, to the person who in truth is conscious of being a sinner and who has experienced belief in the forgiveness of sins and in this faith is saved from his sin? One conceivable objection might be: Yes, but is it not still possible for you to be saved in some other way? But how can one reply to this? One cannot. It is just like a person in love. If someone were to say: Yes, but you could perhaps have fallen in love with another – then he must answer: To this I cannot reply, for I know only one thing, that this is my beloved. As soon as the person who is in love tries to reply to this objection, he is by that very fact not a believer. It is claimed that arguments against Christianity arise from doubt. This is a complete misunderstanding. The arguments against Christianity arise out of rebellion, out of a reluctance to obey. The battle against objections is but shadow-boxing, because it is intellectual combat with doubt instead of ethical combat against mutiny.

The true Christian is one who becomes a sacrifice in order to call attention to the truth that Christ is the only true sacrifice.

On God’s word: My listener, how highly do you value God’s Word? Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved. I assume that God’s Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to the lover. I assume that you read and think you ought to read God’s Word in the same way the lover reads this letter…If there are obscure passages but also clearly expressed wishes, he would say, “I must immediately comply with the wish – then I will see about the obscure parts.

On followers of Jesus: He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for… A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

On forgiveness: Is it not pure conceit to believe in your own forgiveness when you will not forgive others? If we fail to understand that forgiveness is also a burden that must be carried, even though a light burden, we take forgiveness in vain. Forgiveness is never earned – it is not that heavy. But neither is it to be taken in vain, for it is not that light either. Forgiveness is not to be paid for – for it is not that costly and it cannot be paid for. But neither is it to be treated as nothing; it is bought at too high a price for that.

On grace: That Jesus Christ died for my sins certainly shows how great his grace is, but it also shows how great my sins are.

On good intentions: whenever things are really serious, honest good intentions never suffice…Good intention makes a person think that everything is settled by a resolution. But if anyone allows himself to be nourished by good intentions, the resolution itself becomes a seducer and deceiver instead of a trustworthy guide. It is a proud thing to dive into danger, and it is a proud thing to battle with untold horrors, but it is also wretched to have an abundance of intentions and a poverty of action, to be rich in truths and poor in virtues.

On politics: Politics is nothing but egotism dressed up as justice.

On prayer: He who prays knows how to make distinctions. Little by little he gives up what is less important, since he does not really dare to come before God with it, demanding this and that. In proportion as one becomes more and more earnest in prayer, one has less and less to say, and in the end one becomes quite silent. Indeed, one becomes quite a hearer. And so it is; to pray is not to hear oneself speak, but it is to be silent, and to remain silent, to wait, until the one who prays hears God.

On preaching: If it is assumed that speaking is sufficient for the proclamation of Christianity, then we have transformed the church into a theater. We can then have an actor learn a sermon and splendidly, masterfully deliver it with facial expressions, gesticulations, modulation, tears, and everything a theater-going public might flock to.

On solitude/silence: In a passionate age great events give people something to talk about. Talkativeness, on the contrary, also has plenty to talk about, but in quite another sense. In a passionate age, when the event is over, and silence follows, there is still something to remember and to think about while one remains silent. But talkativeness is afraid of silence, for silence always reveals its emptiness.

On the Kingdom and the “not yet”: This is the paradox of Christianity – namely, that a kingdom which is not of this world still wants to have a visible place, yet without becoming a kingdom of this world. This is why Christian collisions are produced. It is no good for you to say that the world is immersed in evil, and then slip through it easily. If you do this, your life expresses that it is really a very good world and simply cannot be done without your also being an accomplice in one way or another.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

on Hillary's rant in India

This analysis from Ben Shapiro seems spot-on: elitism, despising people who are beneath you, incoherent self-righteousness, blame-shifting, and the political implications for Dems who refuse to shed Hillary and look in the mirror. (I can't wait to share my forthcoming Wigan Pier article with you!) But the middle of that first paragraph is a doozy:

Hillary in India "continued to struggle publicly with the most humiliating experience of her life, not her husband's continual sexual misconduct or her State Department's mishandling of Benghazi but her loss of the presidency to a reality television show host." Ouch!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

more on Murray: individual vs. group differences-- and the real racists, even by their own definitions

More on Murray and his co-authored book, The Bell Curve. I've written about this at length: the reactions to him at Middlebury; excerpts from the work itself (for the folks who, reasonably, don't want to read the tome-- and for folks who want to be reasonable in trying to critique it); semi-"academic" responses to TBC; and an excellent interview with Sam Harris

This is from an exchange I had this AM on the topic-- centered on confusion about individual and group differences:
The differences in intelligence between any two individuals is roughly half. What do you think the percentage is? (You didn't answer the question in my last post.) From there, some careful attempts at aggregation are possible, but this requires measurement at the group level, which MH also discuss.

MH are also quite careful-- repeatedly, insistently-- to distinguish between groups and individuals. For an individual of race X or Y, we can say *nothing* with confidence in this realm, since there are so many variables in play and the statistical relationships are so messy.

Groups are where we see the political and public policy ramifications-- MH's chief interest. Murray, as a Libertarian, wants to spend little energy there-- an area where he is ironically and clearly less "racist" than his critics. Most of his critics want to spend a ton of energy there-- given their political penchants (e.g., identity politics) and their often race-based and heavily-race-correlated policy RX's (e.g., affirmative action, welfare policy).

So, we end up with a delicious irony: Murray is ideologically disposed to focus on individuals, where race differences don't matter. Fans of govt activism (including most of his critics) and others are ideologically disposed to think foremost about groups-- where race differences do matter. But given their allergies, they ignore and shout down the scientific evidences about groups.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Ripken, Gehrig and Ironmen streaks

John Eisenberg has a nice book on "The Streak" of consecutive games played by Cal Ripken-- as well as the streak of the man he surpassed (Lou Gehrig) and the history of the other streaks (particularly, pre-Gehrig). In addition to describing the two streaks and the men behind them, Eisenberg wrestles with the "idea" of streaks (why are they attractive?) and the pros/cons of streaks (is it better to be dogmatically consistent or to take breaks?)

The book is well-written with Eisenberg artfully interweaving stories. Early-on, the weaving is within chapters. Later, Eisenberg rotates topics between chapters-- generally, with a chapter on Ripken, and a chapter on Gehrig, and a chapter on something else.

Both were great players. Ripken won 2 MVP's, made 15 All-Star Games, had 3,000 hits and 400 HR's. Beyond that, he changed the way shortstops were seen/used in baseball-- from a light-hitting, slick-fielding middle infielder to a slugger who could field at least reasonably well. "He would alter basic notions about his position." (3). Gehrig is sixth in RBI and top in grand slams. He was 28th in HR's (with 493); 33rd in triples; 41st in doubles; 19th in total bases; and 16th in batting average (.340).

The book is mostly about Ripken, but includes quite a bit of discussion about Gehrig too. Gehrig played into the 1939 season, but by then, ALS had devastated his play. On July 4th, he uttered the famous line: "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth". And he was dead in two years. Ripken chased "a famously doomed legend, literally the stuff of Hollywood...The Pride of the Yankees" (19) with its 11 Academy Award nominations (21).

On the night Ripken broke the record, play was stopped for 22 minutes of applause. It was Rafael Palmeiro who suggested that he run around the outskirts of the field while the fans celebrated (2). Ripken said that catching the last out of the World Series was his best baseball moment, but "the victory lap was my best human moment". (9) After the game was over, there was a ceremony to honor the streak, including remarks by Joe DiMaggio (22-23).

Eisenberg describes Ripken's family/background in chapter 4: blue-collar family and son of a big-league coach. He was drafted 48th in 1978 (behind Larry Sheets and Eddie Hook), the O's initially wanted him to be a pitcher, but ironically, Ripken wanted to be an "everyday player". And he had a streak in the minor leagues until he was called up to the majors.

In chapter 19, Eisenberg compares the Gehrig and Ripken streaks-- with respect to game schedules, travel (trains vs. time zones), grass vs. turf, media pressure, positional demands (SS vs. 1B), and "streak integrity" (Gehrig cut a few corners). In chapter 21, we're told about Sachio Kinugasa who Ripken surpassed for the world record in 1996.) After nagging injuries over a season and a half, he finally stopped the streak (of 2632 games) late in the 1998 season before retiring in 2001.

Eisenberg covers Gehrig's streak of 2130 games in chapters 9, 11, 14, 17. Before Gehrig, nicknamed "the Iron Horse", the record (of 1307 games) had been most recently held by Everett Scott (the subject of chapter 6 and the first half of chapter 8), the Yankees' shortstop when Gehrig broke into the majors. (Joe Sewell was the only other player to have more than 1,000 games and he too joined the Yankees in 1931.) Before that, the first streaks of note belonged to Eddie Hornung (464 straight games in 1882-1884), George Pinkney (578 but not recognized at the time), Eddie Collins (478), Fred Luderus (533).

Eisenberg even ranges back to the origins of "ironman" efforts (24-26), including the Greek story/legend behind the marathon in 490 BC, the inclusion of the marathon in the first modern Olympics (in 1896 won by a Greek!), the first Boston Marathon (in 1897-- only 24.5 miles), and swimming the English Channel (starting in 1875).

Eisenberg briefly covers post-Gehrig / pre-Ripken streaks (in particular, Billy Williams and Dale Murphy in chapter 18; Steve Garvey in chapter 20) and a handful of relatively puny post-Ripken streaks (xi).

Back in the day, it was more common-- with smaller rosters (owners couldn't imagine paying reserves to sit!) and no substitutions allowed except for injuries. Also, back in the day, records and box scores were not kept as carefully, making the accounting more difficult and obscure. Eisenberg points to the streaks as one of the catalysts for Al Munro Elias to get into what we now call "sabermetrics"-- an intense focus on the stats behind baseball-- forming the Elias Statistical Bureau in 1913 to sell stats (53)!

Eisenberg wrestles with some "philosophical" issues too: In chapter 12, what does it take to be an ironman? How else could it be measured aside from consecutive games? (Stan Musial had nine seasons when he played every game-- more than any player except Ripken, Gehrig, and Pete Rose.)

In chapter 15, what "shenanigans" were used to bolster streaks-- especially, token appearances-- and were those ethical? In chapter 16, we're told about the Ripken streak's close calls with respect to injury. Eisenberg relays the shenanigans that went into artificially extending other streaks, but Ripken was uninterested in this approach.  

In chapter 18, is it a good idea to pursue such streaks? What are the pros/cons? (In chapter 22, Eisenberg notes the many reasons why it is nearly-impossible that the streak will be surpassed again. So, the point is moot!) All things equal, we should strive to be consistent, dependable, etc. But when are things not all equal?

One of the questions that arises is the extent to which growing tired is a detriment to performance. In 1983, he his .315 in August and .385 in September. Ripken credits his early-career, late-season success as a key to being allowed to play without a break (73). In 1987, Ripken set a consecutive innings record (80). When he was struggling at the plate-- particularly, late in a season-- questions would arise. But he always did well enough or contributed in other ways (with defense and calling pitches occasionally) to stay in there.

Whatever you think of the Streak (Buster Olney said Ripken was the most selfish player he'd ever met, because of it!), it's an amazing thing. Thanks to Eisenberg for writing the book!

JFK and Reagan: supply-siders

A version of this appeared in newspapers across Indiana...

Larry Kudlow and Brian Domitrovic (KB) have written a helpful history on JFK and Reagan with respect to their dramatic "supply-side" reductions in marginal tax rates. (I caught wind of the book through a solid review in IIR.)  Bringing JFK into this discussion is particularly helpful in dealing with partisans (dramatic tax cuts have not simply been a GOP thing), folks who are focused on income inequality (given the policy's supposed contributions to income inequality and inequity), and statist ideologues (who prefer higher income taxes as both a means and an end).

Today, Reagan gets far more attention for his tax cuts than JFK, probably because his policy move was more recent (1980s vs. 1960s), more dramatic in terms of the numbers (dropping the top rate by 60% vs. 30%), and more important for our economy (especially in light of the contemporary economic woes [183]). Still, JFK's effort was far closer to Reagan's than the tax-rate tweaks of other post-WWII presidents.

Likewise, the effects of the JFK tax cuts are more difficult to assess. His economy was not nearly as rough as what Reagan inherited from Carter. And the rise of the 1960s saw a range of countervailing economic policies that would have mitigated the effects of the tax cut-- whereas Reagan's overall economic policy legacy was cleaner. KB note dramatic changes in government spending in the 1960s (161). LBJ increased the top MTR temporarily for 1968-1970 (166). Nixon implemented the alternative minimum tax, increased capital gains tax rates, encouraged an increasingly profligate monetary policy, and returned us to a regime of wage/price controls in the face of troubles with OPEC (166-170).

KB's book also affords an opportunity to promote some Econ101 literacy. Tax cuts come in two basic varieties: "Keynesian" and "Supply-side". The former are named after the school of thought that became dominant in the 1930s but was decimated in the late 1960s (by economic theory) and the 1970s (by the data). For the macroeconomy, Keynesians emphasize the primacy of consumption (over investment). They embrace government activism in terms of (expansionary) fiscal policy. They have relatively little faith in market processes and relatively great faith in the knowledge and motives of government agents. (This would be a fun tangent to pursue. But here, it suffices to note that faith in government-- knowledge and especially motives-- has faded considerably over the last 50 years, given the historical data.)

For Keynesians, tax cuts are seen merely as a vehicle for increasing consumption to stimulate the economy. If I reduce your taxes, you will buy more stuff, increasing consumer demand and boosting the economy. Supply-siders acknowledge the consumption angle. But they also recognize the implications for the "supply side" of the economy. (The term was coined by June Wanniski in 1976 [181].) If tax cuts reduce marginal tax rates, then people will be allowed to keep a higher proportion of the fruits of their labor. Beyond more consumption, this incentivizes them to be more productive, work harder, be more entrepreneurial, engage in less tax avoidance and tax evasion-- all good stuff for people and an economy.

The modest tax rate changes of other presidents should cause modest results. But JFK and Reagan made dramatic changes that would be expected to yield dramatic results. JFK reduced the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%. Reagan and a strongly-Democratic House reduced the top rate to 28%. (The 1986 tax cuts passed the Senate 97-3 [215-216]!) Reagan used to talk about movie stars in 1950s Hollywood who only made one movie per year. Much of their income was taxed at the various marginal tax rates (tax brackets) before the last dollars were taxed at 91%. But if they made a second movie, all of their income would have been taxed at 91%! Who would do that?

Arthur Laffer came up with the Laffer Curve, famously drawing it on the back of a napkin (182). It illustrates the necessarily U-shaped relation between tax rates and tax revenues. To note, if tax rates are 0% or 100%, you'll collect no revenue. It follows that for rates up to a certain amount, higher rates will yield higher revenue. Beyond that point, higher rates will yield lower revenues. In contemporary terms, it's difficult to imagine that the Bush I, Clinton, and Obama MTR increases were helpful or even all that relevant. Supply-side arguments can be exaggerated and abused. It's unlikely that the relatively modest tax cuts of Bush II and Trump are a big deal either.

So, we might debate the size of supply-side effects, but their existence is not debatable. (At least for econ students, KB helpfully describe the tax cuts in terms of income and substitution effects [190]!) Often, "supply-side" is used as a term of derision, as if it's ridiculous. Instead, what's ridiculous is to deny their existence. (Perhaps we should call these people "supply-side deniers"?) Supply-side tax cuts are often referred to as "trickle-down". (Or do you remember Bush I's references to it as "voodoo economics"? The only voodoo was in Bush's numbers: KB note that he predicted 30% inflation from 30% MTR cuts [207]!) No economist will use that term: it's too vague and too colorful! When you hear it, you can trust that you're listening to a rube or a demagogue.

-The history of Democratic interest in lower tax rates (particularly JFK) was John Calhoun's opposition to "the tariff of abominations" from 1828. (28)
-KB detail wage-max laws (given Keynesian concern about inflation from higher wages) and the health insurance subsidy as a way to avoid that law-- supported by unions as a loophole and by corporations as a way to harm smaller competitors (33).
-In chapter 1, KB argue that the 1950's economy was rougher than I had understood. 
-JFK made reference to material vs. spiritual poverty (118). The earliest reference I had seen was by Kristen Kraakevik in an Acton pub. 
-KB mention the support of JFK's tax cut by Tip O'Neill and Dan Rostenkowski-- and the opposition of Donald Rumsfeld (139)! 
-KB credit Robert Mundell as the academic who led the policy charge (173-174).
-KB underline the role of Jack Kemp in promoting supply-side ideas in the 1970s and 1980s (202). 

-In chapter 8, KB lay out the complicated connections between civil rights, economic growth and tax decreases. In a word, before Kennedy's assassination, he could not his tax decrease if he pursued civil rights reform. It would fall to LBJ afterwards to push through the latter. 
-Finally, an irony in the 1950s: our battles against communism alongside our staggering Cold War MTR's!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Buchanan v. Warley: markets vs. government and discrimination

This is the longer version (which will appear in IPR) that also appeared in the Courier-Journal (800 words) and Business First (600 words)... (Here's a similar story in Reason, celebrating the life and work of Philip Payton Jr.)
This year is the 100th anniversary of a key U.S. Supreme Court case on civil and economic rights, involving Louisville. Buchanan v. Warley (1917) overturned racial zoning ordinances in Louisville which prohibited whites selling and blacks buying homes in white-majority neighborhoods. (On November 29th, the city dedicated a historical market at 37th and Pflanz to commemorate this.)

The NAACP organized a test case to challenge the law. (Charles Buchanan was the plaintiff—a white real estate agent who wanted the law overturned as well.) In Rehabilitating Lochner, David Bernstein describes Kentucky’s case as “extraordinary” and “notable for its length and its blunt racism,” arguing that segregation was divinely ordained and that “negroes carry a blight with them wherever they go.” (80)

Moorfield Storey argued against Kentucky before the Supreme Court. He had been president of the American Bar Association and was the founding president of the NAACP for 20 years until his death in 1929. He was deeply opposed to American imperialism, a proponent of laissez-faire economics, and a strong civil rights advocate.

Storey invoked the 13th Amendment (a civil rights argument) and the 14th Amendment (an economic argument), but the Supreme Court decided on the basis of the latter. Storey had argued that the law reduced the value of Buchanan’s house because he could not sell to William Warley, an African-American. Thus, the ordinance was a “taking” which violated the 14th Amendment right not to be deprived of property without due process of law.

In particular, the Supreme Court focused on “freedom of contract.” For example, writing for the Court’s unanimous decision, Justice Day supported “the civil right of a white man to dispose of his property if he saw fit to do so to a person of color and of a colored person to make such disposition to a white person.” (81)

By the same standard, the Court had previously struck down workplace safety laws and minimum wages. This approach stemmed from Lochner v. New York (1905) where the Court overturned laws that restricted the number of hours workers could be employed at a bakery.

Such rights were not seen as unlimited; they were subject to reasonable government regulation—to serve a legitimate and demonstrable public health or safety purpose. But under Lochner and as followed in Buchanan, “unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract” violated the 14th Amendment. 

In light of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), many legal scholars had argued that such laws restricted both races, and thus, were not discriminatory. Others rationalized government regulation to “prevent race conflict.” Buchanan was a key part of the Court’s move to oppose those interpretations. “In short, Buchanan helped to repudiate Plessy’s presumption that segregation laws…are reasonable.” (82)

At the time, other cities were considering or implementing their own residential segregation plans; Buchanan stopped those particular schemes. W.E.B. DuBois said it should be credited with "the breaking of the backbone of segregation." And it also helped to protect Chinese-Americans from racist policies in California.

Bernstein’s book focuses on the influence of Lochner as a pivotal court case, but he devotes an eight-page section to Buchanan and its impact. “Buchanan was an extremely significant case. While it did not lead to a rollback of Jim Crow legislation, the decision inhibited state and local governments from passing more pervasive and brutal segregation laws akin to those enacted in South Africa.” (82) He also notes that African-Americans lost 22 of 28 cases on the 14th Amendment before 1868 and 1910, but won 25 of 27 cases from 1920 to 1943 (84).

As Bernstein notes, “Giving Buchanan its due does not absolve the Supreme Court of its acquiescence to Jim Crow in other contexts.” (85) Likewise, “Liberty of contract supporters among the legal elite did not often distinguish themselves as advocates for African-American rights. But at least, unlike their Progressive adversaries, their skepticism of statism and their support for constitutional protection for property and contract rights provided one of the few counterweights to overwhelming expert and public opinion that segregation was good social policy.” (85-86)

This sort of racism is deeply troubling today, but was quite acceptable at the time of Buchanan—with the emergence of Evolution, the popularity of “race science,” and a Progressive passion to use government activism to pursue “progress”. Unfortunately, given the prevalence of racism, advocates for segregation found ways around the Buchanan ruling.

Many cities ignored the rulings, differing their laws slightly to avoid direct comparisons with the Supreme Court decision. Other cities respected Buchanan as law, but used zoning by income class (e.g., single-family homes) to reach similar results. This was a catalyst for professionalized zoning efforts which had been rare before World War I.

For example, city officials would change an area’s zoning from residential to industrial if too many African-Americans moved in. They allowed taverns, liquor stores, nightclubs, and brothels in African-American neighborhoods, while prohibiting them in white areas. They allowed houses in industrial areas to be subdivided, leading to the prevalence of apartments and rooming houses.

In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein provides a useful history of government discrimination against African-Americans in the housing market. When the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) later promoted mortgages and home ownership, banks and the FHA made African-Americans ineligible since the neighboring businesses weren’t good for housing values—a form of de facto segregation. The FHA wouldn’t even insure a project if there were too many African-Americans living nearby.

Rothstein argues that the Lochner-influenced reasoning of the Supreme Court was one of the few anti-segregation forces of that time, dampening racial abuse by the government. (In Only One Place of Redress, Bernstein argues the same with respect to labor markets.) But the Supreme Court eventually repudiated its Lochner phase, allowing increasing restrictions on what could be done with property and leading the way to massive, federal economic interventions in the 1930s.

In this context, the courts made zoning laws—and their use to oppress African-Americans—more palatable. Communities used “deed clauses,” “restrictive covenants,” and community association by-laws—with explicitly racist provisions—to some effect. Eventually, the Supreme Court would again explicitly restrict discrimination in buying and selling property—with Jones v. Mayer in 1968—this time, under the 13th Amendment as a Civil Rights ruling.

In Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South, Tracy K'Meyer describes such matters for Louisville from 1945 to 1980. She notes that, as a border city, Louisville would have been expected to have relatively good record, compared to the South. But being a border city also gave Louisville a greater opportunity to rationalize lesser gains and cover for whatever civil rights sins it had. 

On housing, K’Meyer tells the story of the Wades and the Bradens. In 1954, the Carl and Anne Braden bought a house in a white neighborhood in Shively and signed over the deed to the Wades. Despite the violence and threats of their opponents, the only arrest was Andrew Wade and a friend for “breach of the peace,” when the friend showed up without first notifying the police. Carl Braden was charged with sedition and sentenced to 15 years, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Segregated neighborhoods have historically been seen as de facto thru market preferences: consumers in tandem with realtors and banks. As such, “white flight” and economic decline often resulted in a chicken/egg downward spiral for neighborhoods. Rothstein says that this theory has “some truth, but it remains a small part of the truth” within a far larger one: until the last quarter of the 20th century, many cities had “racially explicit policies” with bureaucratic enforcement. These laws were systematic and forceful enough that the racial outcomes are better considered de jure—by law and public policy.

All of this reminds me of Walter Williams' terrific point about Apartheid in South Africa. Anecdotal discrimination is annoying, but it results in modest segregation, as each side largely avoids the other. With moderate levels of discrimination, it's common for separate (and often thriving) markets to arise. Unless discrimination is complete, you'll find some mixing, from people who don't care about race all that much. And that was the role of the law in this context—to enforce the majority (racist) view on people who didn't hold racist views—to prohibit them from engaging in trade and other activities with those of other races. 

One of the beauties of markets is that people engage in mutually beneficial trade. Competition and an interest in greater personal well-being generally encourage people to work with each other cooperatively. But the law can be used to enforce racism and other views by force. History teaches us to be wary of such efforts.