Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

Mark Hemingway, “The Sensitivity Apparat,” The Weekly Standard, February 4, 2013


Mark Hemingway has written a  damning piece on “human rights” and “civil rights” commissions.

Most people live in total ignorance of “human rights” or “civil rights” commissions, until they run afoul of them. They began popping up all over the country in the 1960s and ’70s, and now nearly every state and good-sized municipality has one. In theory, they were set up to handle the flood of discrimination cases that was expected to overwhelm the legal system after the flurry of Great Society legislation. Local human rights commissions were expected to resolve these disputes quickly in administrative tribunals. In practice, however, the commissions have never really served enough of a purpose to justify their existence. They’ve devolved into bureaucratic star chambers with the power to ruin your life and run you out of business.

As governmental entities, they are odd ducks. Their Members don’t tend to be elected. Like regulatory bodies, they can issue fines and mete out various punishments.

But here is where things get weird. These commissions, Hemingway reports, often pay their operating costs by collecting fines. And by virtue of their jurisdiction, “civil rights” and “human rights” commissions seek to punish behaviors that often involve individual rights. So, for example, a bar owner in DC made up a name for a drink that the DC Human Rights Commission found racially offensive. The bar owner was given a choice: immediately delete the offending text, or suffer a fine of up to $10,000. The commission also contacted the District’s alcoholic beverages licensing agency, which imperiled the bar’s future renewal of its liquor license.

But wait—it gets more problematic. When these commissions come down on someone, there is no immediate opportunity to appeal to a court for a stay or even a hearing. Instead, says Hemingway, the accused must fight the commission in a quasi-juridical hearing held by….yes, the commission itself. (Which, again, financially benefits from extracting fines from purported malefactors.)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Similar posts
  • Voters Hold Officials Accountable for... Wouldn’t it be nice if voters punished politicians who increase budget deficits? Well, according to one research paper, they do. Adi Brender (Bank of Israel) and Allan Drazen (University of Maryland) crunched data from 23 nations on budgets and the electoral fortunes of chief executives. Their unambiguous finding was that “increased deficits during an incumbent’s [...]
  • Strengthening Congress by Shrinking t... Regulatory reform appears to be gaining traction in Washington, D.C. The White House directed agencies to halt the issuance of new regulations. Congress also got in the act. In its first week in session, the House of Representatives passed three bills to reduce the proliferation and costs of regulations. These are good first steps, but [...]
  • Inventing America My review of Fergus Bordewich’s illuminating tome, The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government, appears in the September 26, 2016 copy of the Weekly Standard. The Constitution they enacted is a remarkable document, but parchment was not enough to meld together the disparate states and peoples. [...]
  • First Among Equals: How George Washin... George Washington was born to middling stock in Virginia in 1732. He was a “conventional Virginia provincial” whose world had a stable social order and agrarian political economy. A planter class led this stratified society. These gentlemen dressed, spoke, and behaved differently from others, and their mores owed much to the English motherland and to [...]
  • Inappropriate Appropriations Congress spent $310 billion last year on some 250 agencies and programs that were no longer — as required under the law and Congress’s own rules — authorized to receive and spend funds. This problem of “expired authorizations” has grown with the ever-expanding size of government; and it contributes to that expansion by undoing long-established [...]