“What is the role, if any, of the Federal Government in enforcing individual Civil Rights?”
Civil rights do not exist. Natural rights do. The government’s only legitimate function is to protect natural rights.
And this is where it all starts to go horribly wrong. Once more, justice, equality, freedom etc. are all human social inventions to regulate human societies. Nature has no analogs. What, are the gazelles going to file a class action suite against the lions for systematic oppression? Yeah, right.
Calls for “natural rights” are a problem because they don’t exist, hence anyone can claim their pet idea is a natural right. Think about it. One example is a women’s rights. This is the ethical position that ideas are to be judged on their merits, not on the speaker coupled with the ethical position that all humans are worthwhile and should be treated as valuable. Claims about natural rights of women usually end up in bizarre conspiracy theories about idyllic pre-historic matriarchies and patriarchal plots. No. We are a sexually dimorphic species (females smaller than males) just like every other primate and the universal splits in women doing the child-rearing found in traditional societies reflect this. That we have machines and a service sector economy – which is about as artificial a situation as possible – lets Western societies realize their ethical position on equality.
Now here I go being a liberal, viz., that there must be limited government, equality before the law and a well-defined set of rights to ensure that the government keeps its place. This admits that one cannot get full justice from the law (you are tried for break laws, not for being a bad person in the US, e.g.), but that the judicial system will be used with restraint and circumspection, so that its behavior is predictable and we can plan our lives around it. No secret police kicking in the door at 2 am, for instance, nor appropriation of property without lengthy deliberation.
It has failed miserably because is has been distracted by the red herring, civil rights.
We cannot make people equal with legislation which is what civil rights attempt to do. In the end this has caused more problems than it has helped to cure – specifically, by taking away the natural rights of individuals with the hope of creating equality.
We need equality before the law with regard to natural rights not equal opportunity for all.[/quote]
Civil rights was the mass movement to try and really apply the nascent social ideals of equality to everyone. In that sense, it was timely. However, the problem as I see it was that the way that the Civil Rights movements tended to promote their agendas was by the negative politics of delegitimization of the legal and political system. It was not that the system was able to change, albeit slowly, and would be able to accommodate this (what other polity can claim this?), but that the whole system was just rotten and had to go. After all, once the government agreed to redress past wrongs, the fact it couldn’t do it overnight was just proof of hypocrisy, wasn’t it? This led to bureaucratized attempts to show progress, such as quotas. Now the problem is that this is the public metric for being “good”, i.e., in order to function, any state agency (and now private organization) has to jump up and support systems that are considered at best highly flawed. Any attempt to back off from them is going to give fuel to your opponents to call you a sexist, racist, etc.
This delegitimization worked very well for a long time (remember the 60’s? then you weren’t there ;D) , but was getting in the way. The Democrats used it again at a fever pitch with Bush (there were valid criticism of him and some quite damning, but they never saw the light of day in the press) and it worked well. Then there was a problem: if you wish to govern, how do you recover after trashing the system you want to run? This is why Obama came in the way he did, I think. The last election, from my perspective, was mostly about trying to be legitimate again. The Republicans will have a hard time delegitimizing him, so I suspect they will go for someone pretty easy like Pelosi and other Dems. They will probably front a minority candidate in the next election. An ugly, despicable business to be happening in a Republic…
And as always, I might just be full of shit…