So Much for Diversity

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Linda Chavez’s undocumented housemate wasn’t the real reason the Left ate her for dinner, but let’s look at the case a moment. Cheering her departure, the New York Times cites the supposed crime that the woman was not receiving the minimum wage for the odd jobs she did around the house. The idea here is that no one should be allowed to work without obeying the government and without contributing to public coffers.

But the Times advances a false choice. Because the woman was in the country illegally she couldn’t have been employed legally. The only choice would have been to turn her out onto the street or call the INS. Maybe the Times wants to round up all illegals, but I don’t recall them making that point during the Florida election debacle, when Haitian and other illegals cast many votes for Gore.

And even if she were legal, would Linda have kept the woman on board if she had to pay her regulation wages and take out Social Security? Not likely. Therein lies a case against minimum wage laws: when enforced, they dis-employ people who would otherwise be employed. That is precisely why the unions like minimum wages so much: they shrink the available job pool and diminish competition.

Another sector of the radical Left believes that immigrants need not bother to get work. Rather, they should just go on the dole, join pressure groups, and vote for the Democrats. They are supposed to be political pawns, not make themselves beholden to the private household charity of Republican pundits!

Now to the issue of "diversity." Think for a moment what would happen if the Republicans attacked a Clinton appointee, a Hispanic woman who acted charitably toward a refugee from Guatemala. The Republicans would have been accused of the basest form of racism, straining a gnat to destroy an uppity double minority.

Though the Left heralds a policy of diversity now and forever, Chavez’s status made no difference. The lead spokesman for a group called the National Council of La Raza (which means "The Race") explains that Chavez doesn’t count as a member.

"The point of having a diverse Cabinet is to have someone who represents the views of that community," she says, meaning the collective views of that race as defined by its official leadership. "But Chavez has made a career of saying, ‘I’m opposed to what most Latinos think and want.’"

And so the grand council of The Race sought to destroy her, not because she is against Hispanics but because she believes no group should get special treatment under the law-a view not held by the approved Hispanic leadership, which, as Linda has shown in her writings, has been drafted into accepting victim status as a means of gaining political power.

The real meaning of diversity is thus out of the bag: political homogeneity. If you are black, female, gay, or anything else, but hold the wrong political views, you can count on the Left to hate you as much as it hates conservative straight white males. When the Left demands diversity, it is demanding not women and minorities as such, but more leftism, more government, more politics by pressure group.

If the appointee is a white male, the Left attacks him for his blindness to the needs of women and minorities. If it is a woman or minority, attack on grounds that the person in question doesn’t reflect the views of the "community." You see what this does? It poisons the well for any sensible nominee for any post.

Keep in mind, too, that these are the same standards the Left wants to use in judging whom you hire, fire, and interact with in every other area of life. For that reason, much of the opposition to Chavez’s appointment masks a totalitarian agenda.

In any case, the controversy was only superficially about whether Chavez hired an illegal immigrant to work in her house or was just giving gifts independent of any services provided. It was just an excuse to shoot down a nominee hated for her mostly sensible views on politics.

Chavez is against affirmative action, skeptical of the welfare state, doubtful about the agendas of major leftist lobbying groups, solidly against tax-funded bilingualism, and generally adheres to a range of positions that destructionist special interests find intolerable.

By tradition, the head of the Department of Labor is not supposed to be independently minded. He is supposed to be a captive of the labor unions and do their bidding, which includes leading stupid crusades for a higher minimum wage and against teen labor, unreported domestic work, failure to adhere to every labor regulation, and anything else that may pop up. Even under Republican administrations, this has been the case.

As the New York Times further says, "There are plenty of solid Republicans who have good relations with organized labor and are sensitive to the concerns of their wage-earning constituents. A good appointment would reassure citizens that the Department of Labor will not be unfair to those who do the nation’s work."

Chavez is in print opposing a whole range of labor-union demands for more government controls. She also seems to have at least a modicum of understanding that too much government harms, not helps, working people. Her ratification would have meant that for the first time in 97 years, the department would have been headed by someone not beholden to labor unions. And so opposition to her was inevitable.

The Labor Department itself was created in a fit of central-planning hysteria during the Progressive Era. What a time! Congress and the president also gave us the income tax and all its pomps, the Federal Reserve, the FTC, anti-trust persecutions, World War I, war socialism, and the direct election of Senatorsu2014all of which conspired to expand government power and curb our traditional freedoms.

The alleged idea behind the Labor Department’s creation was: "to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment." But it has never done that. It has done the opposite. We owe the improvement of working conditions and worker prosperity to the free market and private capital investment, not government planning.

It was during the New Deal that the Labor Department became truly menacing. It was a complete captive of FDR’s political machine, and a tool for prolonging the depression by keeping wages high when they most needed to fall. Union bosses benefitted from its interventions and regimentation of the labor market, but everyone else suffered as job opportunities shriveled and unemployment stayed high. In FDR’s war, the department became positively Soviet-like. No wonder US ally Stalin was able to plant so many spies in the Labor Department.

It’s long past time for the model to be tossed out. If we had the kinds of changes we really need, the entire city block taken up by this monstrous department’s headquarters would be privatized. Maybe it could be a private art museum. Or condos. How about a huge fast-food court?

Working people don’t need a bureaucracy in Washington to manage their affairs. But so long as one exists, it will be used to control people. If you think people shouldn’t be controlled, it’s better to get rid of the agency than to attempt to take it over. If the Republican Congress and presidency want to pay back the Left for their victory over Chavez, they will defund the entire Department of Labor to make sure no labor-union captive ever heads it again.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also edits a daily news site, LewRockwell.com.

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