Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Government Discrimination vs. Private Discrimination

[Originally published at LewRockwell.com]

The new religious freedom controversy in Indiana reminds us that discrimination and exclusion are foundational aspects of private property. Without the right to exclude, a right to private property does not exist, since forced inclusion implies coerced action and accommodation under the threat of violence from the regulating state agency in question. The decision to exclude is always based on some type of discrimination, although the type of discrimination can run the gamut from “you’re banned from my store because you groped customers” to “I don’t serve your (racial) kind.” In practice, the excluded party must then seek similar or substitute services elsewhere. Since discrimination of various types must always exist if any measure of private-property rights are to be respected, those who wish to expand the options for those who face discrimination should look to greater ease and freedom in providing more diverse choices for everyone in the marketplace. State efforts to restrict entry by entrepreneurs into markets through regulation and prohibition result in less choice and more monopolistic power for the incumbent firms, increasing the effect of the discrimination on the consumer.
Additionally, the effects of discrimination are magnified when “public” or government property or services are an important factor in the transaction. Government agencies, as monopolists by definition, present a much more grave challenge to groups that face discrimination. We have been told that people who refuse to bake cakes for same-sex couples present some sort of grave threat to civilization (as if the customer could not easily find a willing baker elsewhere), but when faced with no choice but to submit to the local monopolist (i.e., city government) the parties that face discrimination have no alternatives.
To illustrate this, we can look to past cases of government-sector discrimination to illustrate this contrast with private-sector discrimination. The now-infamous Sleepy Lagoon murder case provides a helpful case study, and is of particular interest to me given my own family history within the community at the time.
When my mother was born into a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles in the 1940s, she was born just a few years after the show trial that followed the murder, and in which 12 suspects were quickly tried and convicted of crimes related to the murder of Jose Diaz:
On August 2nd [1942] Jose Diaz was found near what had come to be known as the “Sleepy Lagoon.” He was rushed to a hospital where he died from massive head trauma as well as stabbings. After his body was found, there was a huge police sweep over the whole County, in which over 300 male youths were arrested…twenty-four youths were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, as well as assault with a deadly weapon.
As part of an effort to win a conviction, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department then published a document titled simply “Statistics” that explained the necessity of more harsh enforcement of laws against the Mexican-American population in Los Angeles.
Historian Richard White sums up the document:
The prosecution in the ensuing murder trial put the entire Mexican American community on trial by identifying all “Mexicans” as criminals and gangsters. The Foreign Relations Bureau of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department circulated a report asserting that criminality was an inherent racial trait of Mexicans and thus of Mexican Americans. The report argued that Mexican Americans were partially Indian by descent, Indians were originally “Orientals,” and “Orientals” had no regard for the value of life.
The report’s text states:
Many of these young gangsters have comparatively good jobs, so economics is not a determining factor in their case. In fact, as mentioned above, economics as well as some of the other features are contributing factors, but basically it is biological—one cannot change the spots of a leopard.
The Caucasion [sic], especially the Anglo-Saxon, when engaged in fighting, particularly among youths, resort to fistcuff [sic] and may at times kick each other, which is considered unsportive, but this Mexican element considers all that to be a sign of weakness, and all he knows and feels is a desire to use a knife or some lethal weapon. In other words, his desire is to kill, or at least let blood. That is why it is difficult for the Anglo-Saxon to understand the psychology of the Indian or the Latin to understand the psychology of the Anglo-Saxon or those from Northern Europe. When there is added to this inborn characteristic that has come down through the ages—the use of liquor, then we certainly have crimes of violence.
Ed. Duran Ayres, the author of the report, was employed as an expert witness for the prosecution in the case, apparently as part of an effort to show that the defendants were statistically more likely to be murderers than an ordinary person.
Tax-Funded Discrimination vs. Private-Sector Discrimination
Notable in this is the fact that these views were being promulgated by a government agency for the express purpose of justifying the use of coercive force against persons, and — less explicitly — disregard for due process. All the government agents involved, from the presiding judge, to Duran, to the cop on the street, were paid with taxpayer money. Moreover, these agents exercised a monopoly of force within their jurisdiction. All residents within the jurisdiction, whether Anglo, Mexican, or otherwise, were compelled to financially support the courts and the Sheriff’s Department.
Many scholars, nevertheless, have studied the trial as a case study of ethnic bias at the time within the private sector, with a focus on the local media and the population at large which allegedly demanded the type of show trial that the defendants were given.
Certainly, the press engaged in many outrageous calumnies, regularly referring to the as-yet-not-convicted defendants as “hoodlums” “Mexican goon squads” and so on. Also, there is no doubt that many within the general population were happy to see more Mexican-Americans locked up, but it remains abundantly unclear that a majority of Angelenos at the time subscribed to the Sheriff’s department’s “scientific” theories about certain ethnic groups.
Moreover, of notable importance is the fact that the media, like all private institutions, and all private citizens, does not have the legal authority to arrest, detain, or execute people.  Nor do private citizens who disagree with the local media’s positions or private citizen’s beliefs need support such things financially.
Government agencies, on the other hand, do have the legal authority to arrest, detain, and execute people, and they have the power to force all residents within their jurisdiction to support government institutions financially.
Those private citizens who do use coercion without due process are correctly deemed “criminals,” “thieves,” or “murderers” who must themselves be subject to the local monopolist of law enforcement.
Here we see the fundamental difference between public discrimination and private discrimination. With private discrimination, the person who faces discrimination (for whatever reason, be it ugliness, poor fashion sense, past conflict with the property owner, or membership in some ethnic group) has the freedom to pursue services elsewhere. On the other hand, the party that faces government discrimination (whether based on religious views, political incorrectness, wage rates paid, or membership in some ethnic or racial group) has no choice to seek a competitor or to even stop financially supporting the discriminating agency. As a monopolist, the state agency, necessarily prohibits choice for the discriminated-against party.
So, naturally, we can see how private discrimination is in its basic constitution quite different from government discrimination. For example, in Los Angeles in the 1940s — where it was apparently official policy that Mexican-Americans were to be regarded as especially criminal-minded — were my Mexican-American grandparents and their children more threatened by a baker who might refuse them a cake, or did the real danger lie with the Sheriff’s department?  Obviously, the threat posed by the County of Los Angeles was much, much greater than any “threat” posed by any private merchant, in part because the government agency employs coercion, but also because private-sector firms, unless they enjoy monopoly powers bestowed by government regulators, are forced to compete with other similar firms in the marketplace. In other words, it’s one thing when your grocer thinks you are a blood-thirsty mestizo. It’s another thing entirely when your local police force thinks the same.
My grandfather (second from left) with relatives in the 1940s in East Los Angeles

The Reduce the Effects of Discrimination, Reduce Monopoly Power 
The answer to the problem of discrimination in both bases is to seek to enhance discrimination or at least weaken monopolist power as much as possible.  In the case of government agencies, the proper first step would be to decentralize, and to break jurisdictions into smaller pieces. By the 1940s, Los Angeles County was already a large operation by the standards of the day. There is no reason that citizens could not have been given greater choice within the area by limiting local governments to much smaller jurisdictions — jurisdictions that were more likely to reflect the values and ethnic make-up of each community. (One cannot, of course, ignore the role of basic ideology in this. A society that has no regard for private property and due process will not have a decent justice system, regardless of how the institutions are structured.) But other means could be employed as well, including options for third-party arbitration. And within the private sector, we must always be ready to condemn efforts on the part of both government and private agents to limit choice through government regulation.
Indeed, in the years before Sleepy Lagoon, California had employed government regulation to put Japanese-Americans at an economic disadvantage and to limit their ability to competeagainst white merchants:
In California during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, anti-Japanese sentiment ran high, in spite of the fact that they never comprised more than 3 percent of the population. To discourage Japanese immigration to California and to curb the wealth of the immigrants themselves, a large number of major employers agreed among themselves to not hire any Japanese workers. At the same time, politicians at the state legislature passed laws prohibiting Japanese immigrants from working in various occupations. In response, both immigrant and native-born Japanese worked around these laws and employment bans by focusing on industries that were ignored by much of the population due to the hard work required and the slim profit margins involved. Japanese workers and entrepreneurs began to dominate the truck farming and flower and nursery industries. The Japanese, who developed more efficient ways of farming and getting crops to market soon began to put white farmers out of business.  White Californians responded with alien land laws in 1913 and 1920 which banned the sale of land to foreign-born Japanese and also prohibited leasing land to the same for more than three years. The Japanese merely responded by putting the land deals in the names of their native-born children, and the cycle continued, until Roosevelt solved many of the whites’ problems by simply locking the Japanese in concentration camps.
If one wishes to really fight private-sector discrimination and to ensure that no community or ethnic group is forced to submit to terms dictated by any monopolist, it is government regulation that must be opposed, as such regulations restrict choice and impose partial or complete lack of choice for consumers. The higher the bar is placed for entry into the marketplace by regulators, the less choice and competition there will be. With government monopolists, we have a much tougher row to hoe, as most people today accept that government agencies should enjoy a monopoly on a variety of industries, including law enforcement. The solution lies in first accepting that discrimination imposed by government agents is far more dangerous and destructive than anything a private sector actor in an unhampered market could attempt. And finally, it is important to remember that the key factor in understanding the degree to which discrimination can be harmful lies not in the discrimination itself, but in the extent to which the discriminating party enjoys a monopoly over goods and services with the industry in question.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The ‘Plan of San Diego’ and the Legacy of the Mexican War

[First published at LewRockwell.com]

A century ago, in 1915, Southern Texas was the site of numerous massacres perpetrated against Mexican-Americans by the Texas Rangers and hastily-assembled private militias of Anglo Texans. Their stated purpose was retribution against the perpetrators of the “Plan of San Diego” which was allegedly orchestrated by the Carranza government in Mexico to foment ethnic conflict between Mexican-Americans and Anglos in Texas. The move was part of an effort to end American interference in the Mexican Revolution and — far less realistically — to reclaim some portions of the United States that had been seized by the United States in 1848.
The Plan of San Diego, named after the small Texas town it was devised in, prompted small numbers of young Mexican men — mostly disgruntled, and unemployed men on the margins of society — to execute the plan, which had the stated purpose of the execution of all Anglos over the age of 16. It is estimated that about 21 Anglo Texans were killed in the operation.
Far more violent than the initial plan was the response to it on the part of the Anglos. In response, the Texas Rangers and local informal militias engaged in “a systematic manhunt” that made few efforts to target the actual perpetrators of the killings, but was geared more toward executing a campaign of terror against Mexican-Americans. Observers at the time estimated that the number of those killed numbered anywhere from 150 to 1,500 people, although the consensus today appears to come in around 300.
Benjamin Herber Johnson, in his book Revolution in Texas recounts some of the details from the time:
By early fall, the signs of the vigilantism were inescapable. It was not just that Tejanos [i.e., Mexican-Americans] knew of friends and relatives who were dealt summary justice and could speculate about the changes of meeting such a fate themselves. The violence directed at them had clear public manifestations in the piles of bodies left to rot in public. ..
Yet those who yearned to bury their loved ones were often too afraid to do so. The Rangers and vigilantes targeted relative of alleged bandits, and so to bury a friend or relative was to court death…
The ongoing sights were enough to convince any Tejano that there was no refuge in South Texas. In mid-September, for example, someone traveling from San Benito to Edinburg might have seen what a New York reporter witness “The bodies of three of the twenty or more Mexicans that were locked up overnight in the small frame jail at San Benito were found lying beside the road two miles east of the town this afternoon. All three of them were shot in the back.”
Tejanos also knew that their persecutors made deliberate efforts to terrorize those whom they did not kill outright … Others also recalled burnings. Interviewed by his grandson nearly sixty years later, Francisco Sandoval emphasized that the Rangers killed people simply for the pleasure of it, adding that “they burnt them, they burnt them alive…”
After awhile [sic] the sheer number of lynchings may have inured residents, especially Anglos; terror and fear had become part of daily life.
Nevertheless, this historical episode had been all but forgotten.  But thanks to new scholarship by historians such as Johnson, over the past 15 years, new books have begun to appear on the topic. Now, with the 100th anniversary, the New York Times has started to notice as well, with last month’s article “When Americans Lynched Mexicans” which mentions the episode in the larger context of lynchings perpetrated against Mexican-Americans since the 19th century. The article also notes that the violence did not end in 1915:
On Jan. 28, 1918, a band of Texas Rangers and ranchers arrived in the village of Porvenir in Presidio County, Tex. Mexican outlaws had recently attacked a nearby ranch, and the posse presumed that the locals were acting as spies and informants for Mexican raiders on the other side of the border. The group rounded up nearly two dozen men, searched their houses, and marched 15 of them to a rock bluff near the village and executed them. The Porvenir massacre, as it has become known, was the climactic event in what Mexican-Americans remember as the Hora de Sangre (Hour of Blood). It led, the following year, to an investigation by the Texas Legislature and reform of the Rangers.
These recent mentions add to a growing body of research on the topic including 2009’s article “The Law of the Noose: A History of Latino Lynching” from 2009, and summarized in this 2014 article.
Even those who are descended from Mexican-Americans of the Texas borderlands (including myself, on my mother’s side) grew up blissfully unaware that any such horrors had ever occurred. It was never mentioned explicitly to me in my youth, but my own grandparents, born in 1911 and 1912 into middle-class Mexican-American families, had moved from the Texas borderlands to southern California during the late 1920s to escape the pall that continued to hang over the region years afterward. The American capacity for moving on from grave injustices, and all but forgetting them, is truly impressive.
My great-grandfather José Galindo (standing, far left) in a 1913 photo taken near El Paso, Texas)
My great-grandfather José Galindo (standing, far left) in a 1913 photo taken near El Paso, Texas
The Legacy of Conquest
The larger issue of the borderlands that continues to be relevant today, however, is how the conquest of Mexico in the Mexican war set the stage for the century of bitter conflict that followed. American apologists for the Mexican war — a war of conquest driven by ethnic bias and nationalist expansionism — still exist, as evidenced by this recent article from the John Birch Society. The author, a historian named Steve Byas, takes the position that although Mexico and Texas had never resolved their border disputes, the annexation of Texas forced the hand of DC politicians who just had to invade and occupy Mexico City in response. Byas’s article is only more evidence as to why the annexation of Texas was a grave error, but his overall position is that the US Constitution trumps basic morality.
Few will be convinced by such craven efforts at latter-day apologetics for Manifest Destiny, so rather than re-debate the justification for the Mexican War, we should look instead to the legacy of the war, which very much included the Plan of San Diego and the ensuing massacres.
Indeed, the Plan of San Diego incident was simply one of the more recent episodes in a long string of episodes involving conflict between the existing Mexican-American population and the Anglo conquerors. Such conflicts are illustrated by the exploits of guerrilla fighters Juan Cortina and Gregorio Cortez, both of whom became outlaws and Robin Hood-type figures in response to the systematic theft and abuse of Mexican-Americans at the hands of Anglo government officials in Texas during the 19th century.
Much of this conflict dates back to the border dispute between the Mexican government and the Republic of Texas. Texas maintained the the border was at the Rio Grande, but the Mexicans maintained the border was at the Nueces river. Much of the reason that the Mexican government stipulated the Nueces River as the border was because there was a sizable population of Mexicans south and southwest of the river. The areas north of the river, the Mexican government knew, had already been largely overwhelmed by the influx of Anglos. Moreover, secessionist sentiment among Texans in 1836 was largely confined to areas north of the Nueces River as well.
Had the Texans — and later the Americans — settled on a border slightly to the north, the ethnic conflict of the next two or three generations would have been greatly reduced. However, Manifest Destiny, and the likely belief that ethnic cleansing would eventually solve the problem, impelled the conquerors forward, and more southerly borders were insisted upon and eventually obtained.
Intermittent and largely predictable violence ensured.  This isn’t to say that ethnic conflict would have never materialized had a different border been selected. Such things are to be expected along an extremely long and porous border. On the other hand, wars of conquest accelerate and exacerbate conflict. All of this discussion of Mexico-Texas borders may remind many of the immigration debate, but immigrants are qualitatively different from a conquered population. The former voluntary adopts a new location and new set of laws, while the latter have a new legal system and new government imposed on them. Naturally, a prudent state would seek to minimize such a situation, through decentralization and self-government for the conquered territories, but “prudent” would not be the best descriptor of mid-19th century American foreign policy.
Ludwig von Mises himself noted the risks of such a policy when he wrote in Nation, State, and Economy:
Liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated.
Likely having come to the same conclusions as Mises, the Anglo ruling class of Texas, post-1848, feared that their own population might be “overwhelmed by the subjugated” and set to work using the courts and legislatures to slowly chip away at the property rights of the former Mexicans who now found themselves on the northern side of a new border.
For much of the 19th century, those Mexican-American farmers in more rural and western parts of the Texas were able to avoid conflict with the Anglos, but as large-scale farming moved westward, the efforts at seizing lands from the established non-Anglo orchards and farms intensified. Richard White writes:
The expansion of commercial farming into South Texas amounted to an invasion of a pastoral paternalistic society by an agrarian, capitalistic society. Racial differences compounded the economic and social differences … Incoming Anglo farmers gained a foothold as some ranchers, Anglo and Mexican Texan, willingly sold their land at large profits. The newcomers expanded their hold when they took control of local government and increased taxes to pay for public improvements. By taxing undeveloped land at the same rate as developed land land, they put ranchers at a disadvantage, for an acre of rangeland yielded far less income than an acre of cropland. More ranchers sold their land to escape the increasing tax burdens.
As the newcomers stripped Mexican Texans of their votes and began to strip them of their lands, the Mexican Texans resisted. The result was virtual civil war in Texas between 1915 and 1917.
That White uses the term “civil war” is significant. We are often told that centralization and conquest brings stability; that a central state can impose solutions on diverse populations that would otherwise engage in international warfare if left to decentralization and independence. The actual historical record is quite a bit less convincing, and the American history of internal civil wars, wars of pacification against different racial and ethnic groups, and ethnic strife in general, suggests otherwise. In fact, bringing multiple diverse groups under a single government, whether it’s the unitary state known as Texas, or the increasingly unitary union of states known as “the United States,” requires an immense amount of decentralization and laissez-faire to be workable. Alas, Texas, whether as an independent republic, or as one of many American states, and the US itself, like most sovereign states, have never come close to achieving such a state of affairs.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New discovery in the family archives: 1926 funeral card

My mother recently found the old funeral card for my great-grandfather:

Jose R Galindo, full middle name unknown, died in 1926, aged 53, which places his birth probably in 1873. Buried in Calvary cemetary in Los Angeles, and the funeral was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe. I looked up the church and it has since moved from its 1926 location on Fisher St.