Libertarianism Is More Than Just Rejecting Force

The "thick" and "thin" of libertarian philosophy.

I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force. According to this view, the philosophy sets out a prohibition on the initiation of force and otherwise has nothing to say about anything else. (Fraud is conceived as an indirect form of force because, say, a deceptive seller obtains money from a buyer on terms other than those to which the buyer agreed.)

How can libertarianism be concerned with nothing but force? This view has been dubbed “thin libertarianism” by Charles W. Johnson, and it strikes me as very thin indeed. (Jeffrey Tucker calls it “libertarian brutalism”; his article explains this perhaps startling term.)

As I see it, the libertarian view is necessarily associated with certain underlying values, and this association seems entirely natural. I can kick a rock, but not a person. What is it about persons that makes it improper for me to kick them (unless it’s in self-defense)? Frankly, I don’t see how to answer that question without reference to some fundamental ideas. Different libertarians will have different answers, but each will appeal to some underlying value.

Let’s get specific. Are there distinctly libertarian grounds for disapproving of racist conduct that does not involve the use of force? Some libertarians say no. They might hasten to add that while libertarians, as human beings, ought to disapprove of racism, they cannot do so as libertarians, because their political philosophy only speaks to the proper and improper uses of force.

On the other hand, libertarians often quote Ayn Rand on the issue, even if they wouldn’t quote her on much else:

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

The freedom philosophy is intimately related to ethical, political, and methodological individualism. Therefore, the philosophy should be expected to detest any kind of collectivism — and particularly its “lowest, most crudely primitive form” — even in its nonviolent manifestations.

To put it more concretely, if a libertarian observed a growing propensity to embrace (nonviolent) racism, that person, qua libertarian, ought to be concerned. Why? Because that attitude and resulting conduct can be expected to eat away at the values conducive to libertarianism. It’s the same sort of reason that a libertarian would be concerned by, say, a growing acceptance of Keynesian ideas, even though merely holding and advocating those ideas does not require the use of force.

It is true that carrying out Keynesian ideas requires the use of force (taxation, monopoly central banking, and state “socialization of investment”), while one can imagine a racist society in which no force is used. But although a society of racist pacifists is not a logical impossibility, it strikes me as highly unlikely. In its denial of dignity to individuals merely by virtue of their membership in a racial group , there is a potential for violence implicit in racism that is too strong for libertarians to ignore. As I’ve written elsewhere,

A libertarian who holds his or her philosophy out of a conviction that all men and women are (or should be) equal in authority and thus none may subordinate another against his or her will (the most common justification) — that libertarian would naturally object to even nonviolent forms of subordination. Racism is just such a form (though not the only one), since existentially it entails at least an obligatory humiliating deference by members of one racial group to members of the dominant racial group. (The obligatory deference need not always be enforced by physical coercion.)

Seeing fellow human beings locked into a servile role — even if that role is not explicitly maintained by force — properly, reflexively summons in libertarians an urge to object. (I’m reminded of what H. L. Mencken said when asked what he thought of slavery: “I don’t like slavery because I don’t like slaves.”)

But it doesn’t end there. I can think of another reason for libertarians to be concerned about racism, namely,

it all too easily metamorphoses from subtle intimidation into outright violence. Even in a culture where racial “places” have long been established by custom and require no coercive enforcement, members of a rising generation will sooner or later defiantly reject their assigned place and demand equality of authority. What happens then? It takes little imagination to envision members of the dominant race — even if they have professed a “thin” libertarianism to that point — turning to physical force to protect their “way of life.”

So I’m puzzled by the pushback whenever someone explicitly associates the libertarian philosophy with values like tolerance and inclusion. We don’t care only about force and its improper uses. We care about individual persons. So we properly have concerns about any preferences that tend to erode the principle that initiating force is wrong.

As one who embraces the principle of charity, I believe the pushback is motivated by an understandable fear that “thick,” or “humanitarian,” libertarianism might have the effect of watering down libertarian ideas about individual rights and property. To be sure, progressives mistakenly believe that the wrongness of racism in itself justifies government edicts against nonviolent forms of racism, such as invidious discrimination in hiring and accommodations. But we should be wary of the principle “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Libertarians should have no trouble condemning racism in terms of their political philosophy while emphasizing that nonviolent racism can and, under appropriate circumstances, should be met only by nonviolent — and specifically, nonstate — countermeasures.

This column originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    OT: "Maryland Cop Pushes and Shoves Videographer, Telling him he has “Lost” his Freedom of Speech"

    http://photographyisnotacrime......om-speech/

  • sarcasmic||

    Did anything else happen?

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    F*MD. Now that every california roll has a camera in it, and even McNasty's has WiFi, everybody gets to see Cambodia on the Chesapeake.

  • Ted S.||

    Thank you Charles Oliver.

  • Hyperion||

    Old story.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    In the sense that MD has been a police state for more than half a century? OK maybe, but I know lots of people who don't seem to get how often this crap goes on there.

  • wwhorton||

    It is an old story, yeah, but it doesn't hurt to remind folks of how much of a statist shithole the People's Republic of Maryland really is. We make NYC look like a libertarian utopia, and we make Chicago look like a model of good governance. I literally cannot wait to get the fuck out.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "[French National Front Party leader Marine] Le Pen reignited a longstanding controversy on Friday when she told a French radio station that in towns won by the party's candidates school cafeterias will no longer serve non-pork substitution meals, which generally go to Muslim and Jewish children.

    ""We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus," Le Pen told RTL radio. "There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.""

    http://www.thelocal.fr/2014040.....-more-pork

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Possible headlines for story:

    Pork barrel politics

    French secularists advocate separation of Church and State

    National Front leader: No Dijon Chicken in school

  • LynchPin1477||

    They've been trying to pushing legislation with a similar underlying theme here in Quebec for the past few months (though the elections tomorrow should kill it). What is it with the French?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    And they have so many non-pork dishes which they're throwing out the window in the name of keeping religion out of the public square.

    Also, whoever the "good" candidates are in Quebec, I pray they win.

  • LynchPin1477||

    From a libertarian perspective there are no good candidates in Quebec that I'm aware of.

  • Christophe||

    You get 4 left to center-left parties to choose from. And that's by Canadian standards.

    The only thing keeping Quebec afloat is that the native/french-speaking population is a lot less willing to uproot itself and move to other provinces than pretty much anyone in North America.

  • ||

    A discussion me and my family have every other day.

    Quebec is an economic sinking ship.

  • ||

    We'll see if the polls are right. The Liberals are in the lead.

    But I won't celebrate because the Liberals dabble in action that amounts to infringing on civil liberties like insanely increasing OLF inspectors. Why would in the world would you bother with that shit in this day and age?

    The biggest, most useless asshole gets hired in the OLF.

  • LynchPin1477||

    My favorite OLF story is when they made some restaurant cover the redial button on their phone with black tape. You can't make this stuff up.

    I arrived in the middle of a McGill worker's strike. That was followed up by the student strikes/protests/riots, the election, the new language law, the "values" charter, and now the second election. All against the backdrop of the corruption trial. Has this been a particularly crazy past few years, or is it par for the course?

  • Atanarjuat||

    "Let them eat bacon."

    Sounds like a good reason to remove what your kids eat from the public sphere entirely.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Ooh la la, le bacon...*le drool*

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Especially as "the public sphere" seems to think your ancestral diet would make everyone die by the age of 8.

  • buybuydandavis||

    The answer - let parents choose the schools for their children.

  • ||

    Or even if not that, at least let them choose the food they eat.

  • pan fried wylie||

    They let midgets in the clan? Seems unusually tolerant.

  • Jerryskids||

    I thought the klan were exclusively mental midgets.

    Excuse me, I guess 'midget' is non-PC, so we'll say 'small-minded'.

  • sarcasmic||

    A midget psychic escapes prison.

    Headline: Small Medium at Large!

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Impressive! You know even older jokes than I do.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Don't be short with me!

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Don't be short? I represent the Lollipop Guild!

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    That is the *height* of arrogance.

    It's just a tall tale.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    I admit it's a stretch.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Nutcase escapes the mental hospital to see his girlfriend.

    "Nut bolts and screws"

    Always fun to tell at a hardware store.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Riveting!

  • buybuydandavis||

    LOL. Literally. Two points for you.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Do gay midgets come out of the cabinet?

  • sarcasmic||

    Therefore, the philosophy should be expected to detest any kind of collectivism — and particularly its “lowest, most crudely primitive form” — even in its nonviolent manifestations.

    I disagree. What are corporations if not an example of collectivism? You have a group working towards a common goal, do you not? What about religious institutions? You have a group who all share a common set of beliefs. Is that not collectivism? What about families?

    There is a difference between voluntary collectivism and forced collectivism. Examples of forced collectivism include the social contract and compulsory union membership. I would have liked to have put three examples, but it's early and I haven't had any coffee.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Yes, if voters think they have to choose between atomistic individualism and forced togetherness, they'll choose the latter. The social impulse is very strong. Anyone who wants to roll back the leviathan state needs to show how it's arbitrary government, not freedom, which dissolves communities and isolates the individual.

  • sarcasmic||

    There will always be some group of men engaging in organized violence for the purpose of plunder, who will use this violence as a license to steal (taxation). It's unavoidable.
    What was it that Ben Franklin said about death and taxes?
    So yeah, while it would be nice to eliminate government, it's not going to happen. That's why we preach limited government. Though I'm starting to think that that is impossible as well, because once a group of men have the monopoly on organized violence, what limits them except themselves?

  • LynchPin1477||

    In our system, at least in theory, voters really and truly could keep government limited. But that would take a real commitment to a common set of core principles by a majority of the people. Cultures are too fluid and reactionary for such a commitment to be maintained across several generations. My hope is that every now and then we can reset before things get too far gone.

  • sarcasmic||

    I don't share your hope. I think we're well past the point of no return.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I'm a fairly optimistic person in general. Certainly, you have to realistic expectations, but I think progress can be made. We aren't going to replace the welfare state with private charity anytime soon, or maybe ever, but I think reforms that libertarians could support are feasible. That's just an example.

  • Ukrainian||

    I think the key may be not in focusing on rolling back the leviathan, but in promoting liberty. For instance, according to austrian economic thinking, it is difficult to maintain a monopoly in a free market, because when people have a choice, competition will overtake the monopolistic entity. Similarly, if we somehow focus on providing choices to government services, people will prefer those to the monopoly of government. So how do we do that? Provide better alternatives to defense, currency, and social welfare programs. Obviously easier said than done, but there are strides made with things like bitcoin or crowdfunding healthcare charities. And I think those efforts are more fruitful than voting in Libertarian politicians. And of course as individuals we have to lead by example and spread the word that libertarian way IS the right way, because we do not force others to submit to our will.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Government can't go out of business, and it can outlaw its competition. While presenting credible alternatives is important, so is rolling back government from the inside.

  • sarcasmic||

    so is rolling back government from the inside.

    Good luck with that.

    If a program doesn't accomplish its goals, then the solution is to give it more money.

    If a program does accomplish its goals, then it is rewarded with more money.

    Heads they win, tails we lose.

  • Edwin||

    // what limits them except themselves?

    It was supposed to be an armed populace, hence the 2nd amendment (though at the time it was written, the 14th didn't exist and incorporate it against the states, but most states had similar laws in their constitutions)

    So, we can see both the progress and failure on that end (70 million gun owners, and most states with easy gun laws, but on the other hand lots of states with restrictions)

    The other thing that was supposed to keep them in check was democracy. Of course, at some point for no fucking good reason we decided the courts are literally dictators who can overturn even voted-for laws, based either on the federal constitution or twisting the mening of states constitutions.

    For 2 of the really big necessary libertarian reforms, union laws (a la public sector workers) and marriage reform, I can easily see the circuit courts repeatedly overturning any progress in changes laws on the state level based on flimsy reasoning with federal union laws and jurisdiction.

  • sarcasmic||

    Democracy was a pejorative when the constitution was written.

  • Swiss Servator, Frühling!!!||

    The Moose Lodge or the Turners Hall. The VFW or American Legion, Navy Club, Marine Corps League, AMVETS, VIETNOW. The Northern Illinois Food Bank, Wayside Cross or PADS homeless shelter, Community Crisis Center or Habitat for Humanity. The local bowling leagues, Little League, slow or fast pitch softball leagues or Pop Warner Football. The chess club, anime club or Children's Theater of Elgin. The Elgin Youth Symphony. The track teams, soccer clubs, swim teams or rugby club. The Civil War reenactors, the Daughters of the American Revolution, The YMCA.

    These are few off the top of my head within 10 minutes of my house...these all need to go, Sheldon?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Yeah, it is sloppy language on his part, but it is really important. The "anti-social" claim gets leveled against libertarians a lot, and it's effective. We have to be more careful not to walk it.

  • robc||

    Prole made the same mistake in a thread yesterday. Its the objectivist influence screwing them up, IMO.

  • prolefeed||

    I didn't make the same argument Richman is making.

    If a racist is running a bar with a sign by the front door saying "no niggers allowed", it is libertarian to defend his right as a property owner to exclude anyone he wants. It is libertarian to say that so long as that racist doesn't initiate force to implement his views, I'm gonna leave him alone. Really, really alone, as in I will shun him and not do business with him.

    But, his racism isn't remotely libertarian.

  • prolefeed||

    A counter example to what Richman seems to be arguing incoherently:

    Who harms me? The skinhead business owner mentioned above who makes racist and derogatory remarks about my Vietnamese GF but who doesn't vote and diligent avoids using government against me, because he has had a long history of run-ins with the law and thus hates the cops and politicians?

    Or the allegedly tolerant and loving and peaceful prog who diligently goes to the voting booth every election and, with the best of intentions, votes for politicians who rob me and inflict nanny-state laws upon me?

    I will shun the former, and likely be friends with the latter, but the latter is the one who is currently harming me.

  • ||

    Yes to prolofeed.

  • R C Dean||

    It is libertarian to say that so long as that racist doesn't initiate force to implement his views, I'm gonna leave him alone.

    I'm curious: if he exercises his property rights to declare a black person a trespasser, and has him forcibly removed, is that an initiation of force?

    But, his racism isn't remotely libertarian.

    I'm not sure I agree with this. How can you say that any person, exercising their property rights and rights of free association, is doing something that is not remotely libertarian? Isn't the exercise of those rights essentially libertarian.

    I'm reluctant to start down the path of saying people who exercise their rights in ways I approve of are libertarian, but those who exercise their rights in ways I disapprove of are not.

    You aren't free unless you are free to be wrong.

  • prolefeed||

    I'm curious: if he exercises his property rights to declare a black person a trespasser, and has him forcibly removed, is that an initiation of force?

    Some quibbling caveats: If the property owner has prominently posted at all entrances to his or her business that blacks are not allowed, and someone black walks past one of those signs onto the premises, and is then told they must leave, and the black person refuses to leave, then it is not an initiation of force to summon the bouncer and show the intruder the door.

    Just thought I'd pin down the circumstances to remove possibilities such as a lack of signage about not being welcome, and then summarily beating the crap out of the black person who might have been unaware that they are not allowed there, without giving them an opportunity to peacefully leave.

  • prolefeed||

    I'm not sure I agree with this. How can you say that any person, exercising their property rights and rights of free association, is doing something that is not remotely libertarian? Isn't the exercise of those rights essentially libertarian.

    You're conflating actions with views, and saying that dissimilar things must be lumped together.

    It's libertarian to physically defend your property rights. It's libertarian to physically defend your right of free association. If you defend those principles because you hold unlibertarian, collectivist views about race, your actions are libertarian while at least some of your thoughts and values are not.

    As I pointed out to a friend, on any given topic you're either a libertarian or a socialist / collectivist, but almost everyone has a mishmash of both, being libertarian about some things and collectivist about others.

  • ||

    "I'm curious: if he exercises his property rights to declare a black person a trespasser, and has him forcibly removed, is that an initiation of force?"

    No. The initiation of force occurred when the black person walked past the sign that indicated explicitly that the property owner did not want them there.

    By having him removed the property owner is acting defensively. It is reprehensible, but it is in defense.

  • prolefeed||

    No. The initiation of force occurred when the black person walked past the sign that indicated explicitly that the property owner did not want them there.

    Close, but not quite. It is possible to be drunk or distracted or whatever and miss that sign and walk into the business thinking you are a welcome customer. The initiation of force by the trespasser would be when the owner or employees informs the trespasser that they are mistaken about being welcome, and requests they leave, and yet they refuse.

    I would say, with some exceptions, that the initiation of force requires intent to violate rights, and an assertion of rights followed by a refusal to recognize those rights.

  • MJGreen||

    Considering Richman sometimes prefers to use "free market socialist" over "capitalist," I think it's clear that he not only tolerates but strongly believes these kinds of institutions are necessary for a liberal civil order.

    Sarcasmic quite unfairly ignored the preceding sentence: "The freedom philosophy is intimately related to ethical, political, and methodological individualism." In context, it's clear what Richman means by collectivism. You can be a part of a "collective" like the YMCA, but you should still be judged on your individual merits.

  • ||

    It's not clear at all that is what Richman is saying, and whether the cause of that lack of clarity is his embarrassing dearth of proficiency as a writer or his grade school level of philosophizing is anyone's guess since either one is equally likely.

  • ||

    Conflating voluntary collectivism with the forced kind, or No True Scottsing any sort of communal action or even opinion is idiotic and is the sort of esoteric bullshit that gets libertarianism written off as wacky extremism.

  • wwhorton||

    Agreed. I think a better way to say what I think Richman is getting at is that the core of libertarianism, and, indeed, the underlying principle of the NAP, is that the highest moral value is respect for the individual. That's the squishy moral foundation of the prohibition against the initiation of force and everything that stems from it. So it's perfectly consistent with a libertarian philosophy to detest racism or any kind of bigotry while also detesting the use of force to eliminate it.

    It's also, as you point out, totally consistent to endorse voluntary collective action as a way of bringing about individual benefit. Hell, calling yourself a libertarian is a form of collectivism; you're announcing your membership in an ideological group and by doing so ascribing to yourself the qualities associated with that group.

  • sarcasmic||

    So it's perfectly consistent with a libertarian philosophy to detest racism or any kind of bigotry while also detesting the use of force to eliminate it.

    Exactly. Though some people seem to be physically incapable of comprehending that point of view. I mean, if you detest something, then to them that means you want to use force to eliminate it because that's what they would do.

  • Neoconwatch||

    That is not what collectivism means.

  • AdamIsForGiants||

    No, they aren't necessarily collectivist.

    Figure what concepts words represent before you try to use them.

  • Jensen||

    Feminist 'friend' of mine on Facebook posted this today as complete and utter proof that men and women have the 'same brains'.

    Seriously, I get that the social 'sciences' tend to break your view of what actual science is, but this is literally creationist level argumentation.

    Big surprise, she conveniently leaves out all the fetal/hormonal development studies and infant research that supports a more biologically determined brain chemistry.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I like the way the reporter sought out people with opposing viewpoints instead of simply assuming there's only one side to the debate.

    /sarc

  • Jensen||

    I like the fact that someone dumped a ton of peer-reviewed science journals in the comments that easily discredits the article.

  • sarcasmic||

    Phhht! Everyone knows that consensus is all that matters! I mean, you have an idea, then you only allow people who agree with you to chime in, then you take a vote! Consensus!

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "a focus on gender might highlight the very nature of experimental design. We might question, for instance: invasive dissections; ecological studies which remove vegetation or organisms from a given area; or bombardment of matter with sub-atomic particles. All rely on manipulating--even destroying--nature, rather than observing it merely. Indeed, every interventive experiment in science may emerge from a male-gendered disposition to control. Do such practices exemplify the best science?, a feminist might ask. Do we fail to pursue more complex observations because we are too engaged in controlling our experimental set-ups? Perhaps (a feminist might suggest) we learn something different when we shift our emphasis from experimenting to more inventive or sophisticated observing."

    http://www1.umn.edu/ships/gender/fem-sci.htm

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Feminism reduced to paralyzed passivism.

  • Swiss Servator, Frühling!!!||

    Ah, nice - turning the clock back 2500 years on scientific progress.

  • Jensen||

    Oh yeah, that old 'who needs proof?' hand wave.

    It's truly amazing what people 'observe' when they have no responsibility to justify their positions.

  • ||

    This is why the Sokal Hoax was so successful.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I honestly laughed at this.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    The interesting thing is that I was able to discover it with a brief Google search.

  • pan fried wylie||

    rather than observing it merely

    Someone doesn't understand how seeing things works. Fucking magnets.

  • pan fried wylie||

    also, bombardment with subatomic particles is totally natural. or is the sun just another patriarchal oppressor spreading its solar jizz all over Gaia's unwilling (she'd have left his orbit long ago if it wasn't so dominating) face?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Indeed, every interventive experiment in science may emerge from a male-gendered disposition to control. Do such practices exemplify the best science?, a feminist might ask.

    "Those damn men are practicing interventive control to keep life-threatening viruses from doing God's work!!"

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    What would Schroedinger say about this?

  • ||

    "...every interventive experiment in science may emerge from a male-gendered disposition to control. Do such practices exemplify the best science?, a feminist might ask."

    That is truly stunning.

    1. I don't think 'feminist' is the word she is looking for.

    2. This person has no clue what the word 'science' means.

    3. Quick! Find this person and smash their computer, throw their typewriter in the bayou and then put all of her pens and pencils in a pile and burn them.

  • ||

    or bombardment of matter with sub-atomic particles.

    Madame Curie was a man I guess.

    Also how are men "disposed to control" if men's and women's brains are the same?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    But, it's those mean, nasty, old Republicans who are waging a war on science.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    male and female brains only differ because of the relentless ‘drip, drip, drip’ of gender stereotyping

    More like male and female brains only differ because of the relentless "drip, drip, drip" of hormones. I can't tell you how many feminists have decided to inform me I suffer from testosterone poisoning.
    I even had a t-shirt (long since worn out) made up to say TESTOSTERONE POISONING IN PROGRESS.

  • lap83||

    "Prof Rippon points to earlier studies that showed the brains of London black cab drivers physically changed after they had acquired The Knowledge – an encyclopaedic recall of the capital’s streets."

    So how is this comparison even relevant to her point? Do black cab drivers only develop this knowledge due to bias? Also, is she saying there's no REAL difference between the brain of a cab driver and anyone else because the "physical change" wasn't biological?

  • Jensen||

    She's pointing to entirely reasonable proof that environment and your own experiences does influence brain chemistry. I don't think any neuroscientist reject this notion, and the studies done on, for example, child abuse victims are pretty conclusive.

    This, however does not suddenly validate feminist views on how brain chemistry is affected by environment. Yet she makes that leap with no evidence whatsoever. Hence 'creationist level argumentation'.

  • lap83||

    I know about brain chemistry. I'm talking about her logic. She's conflating deliberate learning with imposed gender stereotypes to the detriment of her own argument. If men and women embrace the effects of cultural stereotypes as fully as a cab driver tries to memorize the streets of NYC, to the extent that it changes their neurology, they're pretty much changing themselves. Except she all but says that the changes aren't valid. Well, would she say that the brain difference of an experienced cab driver isn't valid either? She sounds like a crappy neuroscientist to me.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    Why they gotta be black cab drivers?

  • ||

    This shit gets boring quickly.

    Yes, research conducted over the past decade or two suggests the brain is very plastic...

    ...but the only thing you can take away from that is that observed systematic sex differences in brain struture are not necessarily inborn.

    The idea that we can say based on the current crop of research that such differences are not inborn is unsupported by anything stated in the article. It's not much supported by anything in this press release of hers from a few years ago.

    As an aside, though all you need to know is that this is yet another boring nature vs. nurture debate (hint: the consensus answer is usually "probably both") sloppily played out by politically motivated actors in the popular press, it's notable that if you look at her CV she has performed little or no research of her own on sex differences, or even published a goddamn lit review.

  • ArbutusJoe||

    "So we properly have concerns about any preferences that tend to erode the principle that initiating force is wrong."

    One might also say that the "preference" for tolerance and beneficence has led (when unabated by reason) to the very statism we suffer from today. At its core, was the Progressive movement not motivated by exactly this desire to embrace the needs of the individual through an aggressive transformation of society, which in large part depended on tearing down classical liberal institutions such as the rule of law and property rights?

    I'm comfortable with a clear separation between moral reasoning (per se) and libertarianism. When most of the members of my society are making the same distinctions routinely, I'd have less concern over the blurring of the lines that Mr. Richman is engaging in.

  • Christophe||

    Given how profoundly racist and socially intolerant the early progressives were, I don't think it's an accurate comparaison.

    What is true is that the "ick" factor was a big driver of oppressive policies, and it's still the best predictor in our days:

    - Progressives embraced the minimum wage as a way to drive women and minorities out of the labor force.
    - Progressives and Teetotalers joined forces to put Prohibition in place.
    - The ever-more aggressive treatment of smokers (tax, prohibitions, e-cig panics), and fast food consumers (as a proxy for fat people).
    - Attacks on the religious liberties of people (for holding icky moral positions).

    You want to know who will be crushed ruthlessly under the state's heel? Find those people polite society won't defend.

  • rickl7069||

    Are you seriously suggesting that government should be used against the racist because their viewpoint could be become violent? Libertarianism is a political viewpoint, not personal. Just because government should not use force to enforce a non-racist viewpoint does not mean that I or my neighbors should accept the racist person. If the government can be used to enforce a certain view because the opposing "could" become violent then what stops those in power from claiming that Libertarians "could" become violent?

  • LynchPin1477||

    I don't think that is what he is saying at all. He's arguing against libertarians who say that racism isn't wrong unless it involves the initiation of force (I think). But I've never heard of such a libertarian.

  • robc||

    Ive never heard that either. I didnt read the article, duh, but the blurb sounds like he is attacking comments I made yesterday. Specifically, that there is nothing inherently anti-libertarian about racism.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Define "wrong".

    Is wrong only the initiation of force?

    OR

    Is wrong that which does not coincide with your beliefs?

    I define wrong as initiation of force. You may believe whatever you want and it's really none of my business (i.e I cannot respond with force).

  • LynchPin1477||

    Thinking the initiation of force is wrong is one of your beliefs. Your second statement (or at least its sentiment) includes your first.

    Strictly speaking, someone using force against another isn't your business unless you're the one on the receiving end. But you are interested in ways to prevent or punish that behavior anyway. In other words, you make it your business. I don't see anything inconsistent about trying to prevent other, non-violent acts that you consider ot be wrong, so long as you don't use force to do so. Two wrongs don't make a right, and all that.

  • AdamJ||

    Read the end of the article, that's not what he's saying at all.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    I read the article twice now and I can't seem to pull out anything beyond "Racism is really bad, folks, for real."

    I don't know any libertarians that are ok with racists. Maybe they are out there somewhere. Maybe it's a misunderstanding of some libertarians not being desirous of throwing open boarders til the issues with state coerced welfare payments are addressed. Or the UKIP in England. Or something.

    He starts off with racism is un-libertarian, seems to be building up some rational for state action in this just this one case, ya' know (I know a lot of libertarians like that. Libertarian in everything except X because.. feelz.) Then, at the end reaffirms non-state action which makes it seem like the whole article is an exercise in moral posturing.

    What am I missing here?

  • prolefeed||

    I think you nailed this incoherent mess of an article.

  • Ray Eston Smith Jr||

    Immigration restrictions are an initiation of force. So people who don't want open borders may or may not be racist, but they are not libertarian.

    Immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out in welfare. However, if immigrants did use welfare, they would not be initiating force. The force is initiated by all the American citizens who vote to support tax collection.

    If immigrants used welfare, then open borders would be the quickest way to collapse the welfare system.

  • ||

    Immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out in welfare.

    True for only subsets of "immigrants", and then only in the United States.

    Irrelevant anyway if your view is a moral one rather than a practical one.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    I'm confused. Should I now stop shopping at the Asian grocery store here around the corner?

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Should I stop eating at the North Carolina barbecue restaurant in town? IOW my take is Asia's a place, not a race.

  • ||

    Yeah but he he is appropriating their culture, which I learned recently is an unacceptable aggressive encroachment....or something.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Of course I posted that and it immediate occurs to me...

    "Can you buy real Asians there?"

  • Hyperion||

    No, but you can buy their former pets, with choice of a nice teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    General Tso's Cujo. YUM!

  • lizzylib||

    "...one can imagine a racist society in which no force is used."

    Actually, I find it extremely hard to imagine a (successful) racist society in which no force is used. As with the earlier example of fraud or the application of Keynesian principles, racism DOES use force, if sometimes indirectly: Laws force people of color to sit in the back of the bus; laws force people of color to use separate bathroom facilities from the general public; and so on. These are historical, non-violent examples of a racist society that existed in the U.S. Has the author of this work forgotten history? Long after the forcible subjugation of slaves, "passive force" was used to promote racism.

    But here's the crux of my argument: "Non-violent" racism historically has always led to the use of physical force. If anyone can name a single society in which completely non-violent racism survived for more than 50 years, I'll give you a lollipop.

    Personally, I get very concerned when talk of "values" gets interwoven with discussions of libertarian philosophy because "values" vary widely from person to person. There is no single set of underlying "human values." Interjecting values into a political philosophy, in particular, leads down a very dangerous slope.

    Libertarianism really does begin and end with a bias against the initiation of force. This alone will sustain against evil in the world, such as racism.

  • ||

    Sheldon,

    Are you familiar with the Oklahoma and Florida race riots of the 1920s?

    American war veterans of WW1 attempted to prevent the lynching of a wrongly accused man. The State Government used force to perpetrate a massacre. - http://bit.ly/statesrights1921

  • LynchPin1477||

    They might hasten to add that while libertarians, as human beings, ought to disapprove of racism, they cannot do so as libertarians

    I'm not entirely sure just what this means, but who actually makes this claim? It seems to me that Rickman is arguing with the demons in his head here.

  • x4rqcks3f||

    I'll make that claim. Racism is not equal to force, and principled libertarianism is only concerned with the proper use of force. I abhor racism, but I can only argue against it on utilitarian and personal moral grounds.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I get what you're saying, but the belief that using force is wrong is inherintly a moral judgement. Whatever moral code libertarianism is based at least might have implications beyond when force is or isn't justified. I don't think one can dismiss a libertarian argument against certain non-coerced action so easily.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I abhor racism, but I can only argue against it on utilitarian and personal moral grounds.

    this

  • John Ashman||

    So you're not allowed as a libertarian to have any other thoughts except principled libertarian thoughts? That's buuuuulshit.

  • MJGreen||

    Plenty of people do. This is not a new debate that Richman just created (though it is a debate limited to a pretty narrow set of libertarians). The argument is that, as a libertarian, a person has no reason to object to non-violent racism. You can do so for other reasons, but not for reasons having to do with libertarianism. In fairness to Richman, some of the people who make this argument have tenuous connections to actual racists (though I'm not convinced that the libertarians I've seen make this argument are themselves racist).

    Ultimately it seems like a pretty useless debate, kept alive mostly so that one side can feel smart (we're properly defining libertarianism, unlike you!), and the other side can feel morally superior. I don't see how it has any practical application, even in an established libertarian society.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    MJG

    You are exactly correct. Libertarianism is ONLY concerned with the proper use of force. Everything else is a personal belief.

    I'd like to add, that conflating the two, by people who do not understand the difference, is where the ridiculous terms "cosmotarian" and "paleotarian" come from.

  • prolefeed||

    You are exactly correct. Libertarianism is ONLY concerned with the proper use of force. Everything else is a personal belief.

    Except, the proper use of force is predicated upon beliefs about what is objective reality. Let me walk you through it:

    Is it an initiation of force to kill and eat a plant, because you are violating the plant's rights? Not if you believe the plant has no natural rights.

    How about eating bugs, which are at best marginally sentient?

    How about eating pigs, which are sentient creatures? What if those pigs are bred to be as smart as people?

    What about shutting down and destroying a super fast computer ten or twenty years from now that displays behavior that borders on appearing sentient?

    What if you believe, because you are a racist, that brown-skinned people are subhumans and have the same rights as pigs?

    So, there are libertarian and unlibertarian beliefs about race, and those beliefs affect which acts are considered an unlibertarian initiation of force.

    If you are a racist who believes blacks are subhuman creatures with no natural rights, but abstain from acting on those beliefs from fear of being thrown in a cage -- because you think you can't get away with it -- your overt acts are libertarian but the underlying beliefs are not.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Yes, there need to be some underlying assumptions made. Who has rights, what are rights...

  • LynchPin1477||

    That isn't a minor point though. Those assumptions may very well have implications that go beyond when force is or isn't justified. Are those implications then not libertarian, if the underlying moral foundations are? Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe there is no such thing as a libertarian moral foundation, only libertarian implications of a moral foundation. I haven't given these types of issues much thought yet, so I'm honestly not sure what my answer would be. But I suspect this is where the crux of the argument lies.

  • ||

    Defining rights is inherently an exercise in subjectivity, but the NAP comes as close to universalism as there possibly can be by the nature of the principle. See http://www.ncpa.org/pub/what-i.....liberalism for an easy primer on negative vs positive rights - all the implications of libertarian philosophy are contained therein.

  • RishJoMo||

    Dude that makes a lot of sense man.

    www.GotzAnon.tk

  • x4rqcks3f||

    According to the modern perverted definition of racism, refraining from forcing others to help minorities, libertarianism is fundamentally racist.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    The Death of Libertarianism
    The comments are particularly illuminating.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I just don’t hear any mainstream libertarians pointing out that regulation is massively corrupt and dysfunctional.

    What planet is this guy from?

  • Hyperion||

    What planet is all of the idiots on that site from? I read maybe 6 comments on there, and I stopped, because not one of them was outside of the bizzaro realm.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I'm thinking Planet Mom's Basement

  • Hyperion||

    What planet are all of the idiots...

    I'm not going to say edit feature, I'm not going to say edit features, I'm not going to ...

  • ||

    The planet where libertarian opinions are kept out of MSM so people don't actually know what libertarian opinions are.

  • Christophe||

    He's a reactionnary. They're a strange, somewhat terrifying creature.

    They understand the evil wrought by the progressive movement and the advance of the Total State.

    From there, they assume that the problem isn't so much the state as it is the values embraced by it. So they basically advocate for the opposite of what progressives love: Racial segregation, autocracy, extreme punishment of any crime, bring back slavery or feudalism. I wouldn't be surprised if they want to bring back the draft, too.

    On the one hand this is probably the group I'd least like to see in power, out of all the alternatives. On the other, as long as they're as marginal as they currently are, they're more of a curiosity than a threat.

  • Hyperion||

    You must have set your derp detector on ultra before you found that link.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Libertarians begin by talking (and it’s only talk) about limiting government and ends by legislating their morality and compelling obedience. Libertarianism easily elides into fascism and a morals police because the need for hierarchy, conformity, and obedience is greater than the desire not only for one’s own freedom, but the desire to allow others to be free.

    Ahhhh, the "I'm the only true libertarian" approach. Guy has quite the ego.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    Rather an odd thing to say, given that he doesn't call himself a libertarian at all. And if Richman's article isn't an example of exactly the kind of mission creep being discussed, I don't know what would be.

  • MJGreen||

    Yeah, he doesn't sound like a libertarian. It's more likely that we've found Tony's blog.

  • Calidissident||

    Hawk Spitui is a neoreactionary. It's basically bland, old right-wing authoritarianism dressed up as something radically different and insightful.

  • ||

    Now see, that is the trouble with freedom of speech combined with an almost unlimited ability for everyone to make themselves heard. I wouldn't have it any other way, but my god, the oceans of stupid. It makes a sharp pain shoot through my temples now and then and I just have to look away.

  • Adam Acuo||

    There already exists a comprehensive philosophical foundation for freedom, Limited government and individualism. It's called Objectivism. While some libertarians recoil from it (and vice versa) Rand was correct in her view that the foundation for freedom has a moral root and that focusing on the effects of freedom without justifying the cause was improper. The sad fact I'd that the various supporters of freedom generally fight against each other.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Do you endorse the orthodox view of the Prophet Peikoff or the deviationist, heretical Kelley-ites?

    http://bit.ly/1imLNEu

    (from Wikipedia)

  • Adam Acuo||

    I'm with neither. Rand laid out the moral foundation of freedom and capitalism and I find her views compelling. Picking between competing sycophants is a waste of time. We can debate the things in which we disagree (abortion, God, whatever) but we should all be in the same side on the 95% that we have in common. Listening to'objectivists' reasons for choosing Romney over Paul (for example) in the primaries was absurd. Ron Paul has done more to change the debate in the last 20 years than PPeikoff, Kelly or Brooke (sic?) Combined. Call a truce and let's push the country significantly towarda freedom agenda... then, once we're in a free market economy with no income taxes, a currency backed by gold we can debate the residuals.

  • Jensen||

    Seriously, the pissing contest between some Objectivists and libertarians is the dumbest shit. Let's get rid of Wesley Mouch, then bitch about each other's moral/philosophical bankruptcy.

  • Hyperion||

    It's like libertarians arguing about abortion.

    We all pretty much agree on the core principles, we fall within the same camp, you just can't shove us all into the same small box with a 'team approved' stamp on it.

  • Jensen||

    I get that, I'm just saying, aim for actually achieving at least SOME of the core principles, THEN collapse into infighting about Rand's Cool Kids being mean to Rothbard (extreme sarcasm).

  • ||

    The NAP is, itself, a moral principle that inherently values the individual, and only really differentiates itself from Rand's rational egoism by degree, if at all. The Objectivist/libertarian schism is about as stupid as the theological debate among modern catholics and protestants. "Sure, we believe exactly the same things about the fundamental issue of spiritual salvation, but unless your reasoning flows from this particular interpretation of this particular chapter and verse, your salvation is invalid!"

  • Protagoronus||

    Libertarians should have no trouble condemning racism in terms of their political philosophy while emphasizing that nonviolent racism can and, under appropriate circumstances, should be met only by nonviolent — and specifically, nonstate — countermeasures.


    If you are only advocating nonviolent/non state countermeasures, then you are not advocating a political philosophy.

  • OldMexican||

    The political philosophy of libertarianism holds that the greatest political goal there should be is the maximum possible liberty for man and woman. Preferring non-violent countermeasures over violence (especially the violence by the state) is derived from such philosophy.

  • AdamJ||

    The only hope for long-lasting limited government in our country was the courts, but they failed in that. Now we are subject to cultural whims.

  • ArbutusJoe||

    The courts in the US are organs of the state. They have less to do with justice than preserving the institutions of the state than making political control possible. Allowing the citizens to speak, bear arms, assemble, be free from searches without warrant etc. are all granted conditionally, and were so from the beginning. The first ten amendments table scraps to appease the radical elements in post-Revolutionary America.

    I think it was Murray Rothbard who identified the courts as the most conservative or reactionary institution devised by the Constitution. Through this design, the old pre-Revolutionary oligarchy was able to reassert its statist control by means of judicial fiat, and to do so in a very cost-effective manner. When I look at the American judiciary today, I find it hard to dispute that characterization.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    The courts in the US are organs of the state. They have less to do with justice than preserving the institutions of the state than making political control possible.

    The failing of the separation of powers is in not realizing all three legs are still "government".

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

  • Matthias||

    Thank you for this very insightful article.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    To put it more concretely, if a libertarian observed a growing propensity to embrace (nonviolent) racism, that person, qua libertarian, ought to be concerned. Why? Because that attitude and resulting conduct can be expected to eat away at the values conducive to libertarianism.

    But of course, that doesn't apply to opening the borders to a distinctly non-libertarian voting population, because that could result in political environment where libertarianism is impossible. No libertarian should ever, ever worry about that!

    It seems to me that Richman is pretty arbitrarily selective about when libertarianism is entitled to make a preemptive strike against threats to it's values.

  • Christophe||

    Being concerned about the consequences of opening the borders isn't unlibertarian.

    The very act of having closed borders is what is unlibertarian.

    If Richman was advocating breaking the NAP against racists, you'd have a point.

  • ||

    If Richman was advocating breaking the NAP against racists, you'd have a point.

    Which is precisely what Richman did by calling for state involvement in the suppression of racism because it is inherently prone to violence, and must be preemptively stopped from violating the NAP.

  • OldMexican||

    They [libertarians] might hasten to add that while libertarians, as human beings, ought to disapprove of racism, they cannot do so as libertarians, because their political philosophy only speaks to the proper and improper uses of force.


    The best way to show your disapproval of racism, Sheldon, is by not being one. You don't need to be vocal or flamboyant about it; in other words, you don't have to demonstrate your enlightenment to everybody by becoming pedantic.

    Jeffrey Tucker calls it “libertarian brutalism”; his article explains this perhaps startling term.


    And explain he does, except not convincingly. What he calls "brutalist" is merely uncompromising libertarianism. Tucker argues for a more acceptable brand of libertarianism for people who couldn't care less about the principles on which libertarianism stands. Tucker creates this passive/aggressive argument that surreptitiously admonishes the more principled libertarian for not showing a nicer face to people that hates his guts anyway.

  • cavalier973||

    Eh...he's not talking about Racism; this is really about the "same-sex marriage" issue.

    If he were really writing about Racism, then he would have a picture of a gaggle of Progs instead of the KKK.

  • cavalier973||

    Which reminds me. Woman writes on Facebook: “Yes, of course a business owner should have the right to refuse service to gay people.”

    She, of course, wouldn't do anything so racist bigoted, but the fact that she would actually be comfortable with allowing other business owners to do so has resulted in her grocery store being boycotted before it has even opened.

  • Calidissident||

    Wut?

  • SlV||

    Sheldon Richman conveniently fails to define "racism". First define "race" and then explain "what beliefs and/or actions constitute racism"?. One could always start with the definition of race and discriminatory action under current US unemployment law but then we have defined "liberty" and libertarianism as inherently racist by the inevitable disparate impact of their realization.

  • Calidissident||

    Derp

  • ||

    A typically salient rebuttal. Certainly no need to define terms when things like, say, the 2nd Amendment are branded with the term.

  • SlV||

    I gave up on responding to it long ago after observing it constantly contradicting itself in offering contrarian comments. When it realizes you're ignoring it it goes all ad hom.
    It's like a little retarded version of "Blue Tulpa".

  • Free Society||

    Sheldon Richman conveniently fails to define "racism". First define "race" and then explain "what beliefs and/or actions constitute racism"?.

    Exactly. Racism as popularly defined would encompass every person who picked their sexual partners at least partially on the basis of good-looks. You think Asian women are particularly good-looking? Well then you're a racist. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    Richman fails to recognize that there are perfectly socially acceptable degrees of racism, like the one I mentioned here.

  • toolkien||

    Yet another point missed in differentiating between non-aggression as an unthoughtful default mode versus understanding that the use of Force causes more harm than good, unless that Force is in the form of organic resistance to clear and present aggression from others. The difference is well portrayed by Lysander Spooner who wrote how slavery was unconstitutional and slaves had perfect right to rise up, along with anyone else who cared to fight along side them. But he was completely against the War of Northern Aggression, of which slavery was no small part, but not the entirety. THAT is the problem with the use of generalized, broadcast Force. It brings out the profiteers and zealots (e.g. Lincoln's cabinet) and general opportunists to enrich themselves or take advantage of the acceptance of broadcast Force as a proper tool. Once "good" is to be done by the blase use of perpetual Force for perpetual betterment we are certainly on the road to destruction. Tens of Trillions of debt, prisons filled to capacity, and troops and special ops seeded around the world is an indicator that the use of Force is not perfectly actuated by our betters (i.e. have a really hard time differentiating between proper and improper use of offensive Force in the name of "good").

  • toolkien||

    cont.

    With a handle like "toolkien" I obviously have read a lot of Tolkien in my day (and listened to a lot of TOOL). He disliked allegory but expounded on "applicability". His stories around that One Ring was all about the intelligent and powerful eschewing the use of the ring to cow others by Force because they knew their good works would inevitably lead to ruin. So while I myself am an atheist, I can admire Tolkien's anarcho-catholic approach, which made for an entertaining mythos.

    So maybe SOME libertarians' views are thin, but show me a political philosophy that doesn't have its share of mouthers and posers who don't care to delve more deeply into the tenets. But to label all who are doctrinaire when it comes to a thorough rejection of Force as "thin" is itself "thin".

    Another angle, a "libertarian" who would gain power and be fairly compromising when it comes to the use of broadcast Force would pretty definitely be another Robespierre, in my opinion.

  • OldMexican||

    A libertarian who holds his or her philosophy out of a conviction that all men and women are (or should be) equal in authority and thus none may subordinate another against his or her will (the most common justification) — that libertarian would naturally object to even nonviolent forms of subordination.


    Sheldon, what the hell are you talking about? What "non-violent" form of subordination can there be except a voluntary one? So why should a libertarian be concerned about voluntary arrangements?

  • cavalier973||

    He's talking about restauranteurs who won't serve women and minorities. It's apparently an ongoing problem.

  • cavalier973||

  • OldMexican||

    While that may be true [and I know you're being facetious ;-) ] Mr. Richman is suggestion that voluntary (i.e. non-violent) forms of subordination (subordination: placing someone below others) should be detested. I don't see justification for that at all.

  • Calidissident||

    One can detest something without supporting the use of force against it. Why is that difficult for you to comprehend?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Calidissident,

    One can detest something without supporting the use of force against it. Why is that difficult for you to comprehend?


    Yes, one can, C. But should one? Sheldon seems to suggest one should lest be called a "light" libertarian by Richman or a "brutalist" by Tucker.

  • cavalier973||

    "light brutalist" would be a good name for a rock'n'roll band.

  • SlV||

    I would not be surprised if accused Ron Paul newsletter author/editor Jeffrey A. Tucker implicates Rand Paul as a co-writer during a most opportune moment in the campaign.

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah, I think there are plenty of things that should be detested, even if they should not be illegal.

  • ||

    Yeah, I think there are plenty of things that should be detested, even if they should not be illegal.

    Voluntary hierarchical associations among them?

  • Free Society||

    Sometimes a hierarchy is the best organizational model. But hierarchies are not unlibertarian or even un-anarchist in and of themselves.

  • ||

    My point exactly. There's no libertarian reason to oppose voluntary unequal-power relationships, but grudgingly keep the state away from them anyway.

  • cavalier973||

    If I'm on your land, then I do what you say, or leave at the earliest opportunity.

  • R C Dean||

    I think Sheldon's basic problem here is that, as a denizen of the Total State, he is insensitive to the distinction between the State and civil society.

    Libertarians are concerned with keeping the State from interfering in voluntary interactions, which includes people exercising their property rights and rights of free association.

    In civil society, where those rights are exercised, libertarians are free to express (non-violently!) their displeasure with their fellow citizens, because they disagree with how they are exercising their rights, whether they are exercising them by trading with blacks, gays, whoever, or because they refuse to do so.

    If he had framed his argument by stating that "The State has no business dictating who you do business with. However, don't be surprised if your fellow citizens criticize you. Further, libertarians should perhaps be aware of the propensity for bigoted beliefs to justify violence, and be particularly vigilant and critical of those beliefs." I wouldn't have much to criticize him for.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    I was taken with the racism = collectivists bit, which I've heard before. In practice I'd agree it's mostly true to me because of how I define collectivist. That is someone willing to initiate force against others for non-violent behavior outside of what they find desirous or acceptable. My experience with racists bears out that most of them will use force at some point to enforce their bigotry, however, if someone is a racist and somehow walks the NAP line it's easy to make the case they are a reprehensible human being, but harder then to make the case that they are politically collectivist.

    Maybe the issue here is thoughtcrime vs. actions, with a dash of prior restraint.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    We don’t care only about force and its improper uses.

    Respectfully Sheldon, bullshit.

    When we talk about force it is with respect to WHEN force is justified. What has to happen before I can use it? The answer is, force is justified ONLY when it is initiated by another. This holds true for individuals, groups or governments.

    That is what being a libertarian is.

    Definitions:

    Moral- anything that doesn't infringe upon the rights of another is moral.

    Beliefs- ideas individuals possess on how they choose to live their lives. They can come from anywhere, upbringing, religion, culture... These fall short of morals. You may apply them in your life as you see fit. You may not force them on another.

    So, with these definitions in mind, a person may be a racist, and a libertarian must be tolerant of this (note I didn't say accept), regardless of whether his beliefs tell him it's wrong, PROVIDED the racist doesn't infringe upon the rights of others. If he does infringe, THEN you may apply force.

    You may shun a racist, based on your beliefs. You may choose not to associate with him. You can call him names and say he's a bad person based upon your beliefs, but you may not apply force until he has.

    This construct allows libertarians the ability to hold a wide range of different beliefs (religion, abortion, circumcision, pizza, mayo...) that have nothing to do with libertarianism.

    Libertarianism IS ONLY concerned with force.

  • Free Society||

    I agree with you about the philosophical boundaries of libertarianism. However...

    Moral- anything that doesn't infringe upon the rights of another is moral.

    That's a great oversimplification. There are categories of immorality and amorality that you completely ignore. Intentionally killing a worm for no valid reason has a negative moral value even though the worm has no claim to universal rights. And whatever the value may be, perhaps minuscule, it's certainly more immoral than smashing a rock with a hammer which is purely amoral, lacking any moral value at all.

    Libertarianism is a moral philosophy concerned about human interaction and I don't think we disagree on that. I would also agree emphatically that it's totally possible to be a racist pacifist or racist libertarian since pretty much everyone is a racist to some extent. Everyone who's not "racist" is a liar. It's a matter of semantics and negative connotations that come with the label.

    This is especially visible in sexual attraction, where almost everyone could be described as a "racist" based on their selection. If you think Asian women are hot, you're a racist. I for one prefer fair skin and blonde hair which of course makes me just the worst kind of racist. Not a KKK communazi necessarily, but also not devoid of irrational racial preference or opinion, however limited.

  • OldMexican||

    Thick Libertarians Leave Less Room in the Tent

    by Bionic Mosquito

    Is there something in the water? Are there an inordinate amount of articles recently slicing and dicing what it means to be a libertarian, or is it just that I am now noticing these?
    [...]
    Apparently it is not enough to simply embrace the non-aggression principle; to be libertarian requires much, much more. Who knew?
    [...]
    Why are so many libertarians placing qualifications on what it means to be a libertarian?
    · In order to come into the libertarian tent, you must be tolerant.
    · In order to come into the libertarian tent, you must be inclusive.
    · In order to come into the libertarian tent, you must be humanitarian.
    · In order to come into the libertarian tent, you must be a holist.

    This is what it means to be a thick libertarian. Pretty soon, these libertarians are going to disqualify pretty much all of the human race from entry into the club.

    Keep in mind, thin libertarians leave more room in the tent for a larger party; the thicker the libertarian, the less room there is for others to join us.

    Be a thin libertarian. I prefer to have room for more under the tent.
  • ||

    In the non-aggression principle libertarian?

    I thought I was more for the Anarchist wing.

  • OldMexican||

    What's the difference?

  • Free Society||

    In the non-aggression principle libertarian?

    I thought I was more for the Anarchist wing.

    Yes and no. I think most libertarians hold the NAP in high regard, it's just the anarcho-capitalists that apply it consistently.

  • ||

    "Thick" libertarianism seems to qualify as thick-headed, or maybe the water definition of "thick" as "murky" or blinding. One loses sight of the libertarianism because racism or whatever is in the way.
    One can be grossly racist [and/or guilty of a host of other socially disapproved of thoughts or actions] and still be fully libertarian. One just can't try to force the other guy. Our Chinese t and our white racists can both look down on each other and both can be fully libertarian. It's when either tries to make laws against the other that libertarians as libertarians have a position.
    We have to remember that racism, within rather limited circumstances, is correct. Try setting a movie in Africa without thinking that the color of an actor's skin marks him as inferior or superior.
    And no, we can't demand the racist justify his racism. He doesn't need to even know the reason, much less explain it. It is up to us to show why it is harmful.
    And we have long known that the harms of racism, as with many other things, are rather small, absent government or other agent of force. A business refuses to sell to you? You go next door and buy there, meaning the racist loses a lot more than you do. You don't hire women? They are hired by your competition and you lose money and may end up broke [unless the ladies actually are inferior, in which case we are better off being sexist.] If we follow the thin libertarian position, we end up with the best result.

  • spchunk06||

    There are two places Sheldon goes wrong: One is the assumption that there is some moral imperative among libertarians to intervene in cases of injustice or anti-libertarianism; the other is confusing "racism" with "classism" in several instances.

    To address Sheldon's first fallacy, when it comes to injustice, the answer for objectivist libertarians is that every man (and woman) is responsible for his own self-interest above all else. In theory, the libertarian would say that it is not society's job to police racism, but it is the job of each individual to decide. Prejudice itself, an idea that has become so stigmatized in our society, would not inherently be considered a bad thing as much of it is rooted in reality and common-sense judgments. It is not the race that one would be judging, though, but the individual.

    The problem here is that due to the limited availability of resources some are bound not to succeed under the libertarian model, and those who fail will resort to moral turpitude to gain some advantage or sense of empowerment that flies in the face of libertarian principals. Thus, it is not racism but classism that would be at the heart of the issue.

    [continued below]

  • spchunk06||

    Inevitably, as those with the fewest resources to start, along with an inherent sense of “otherness,” blacks may easily constitute the bulk of these outlaws, leading to a self-fulfilling prophesy of racism for its own sake. The greater the danger they posed, the greater the need to oppose it, with force ultimately becoming a necessity.

    Of course, for the libertarian, the ability to back up threats with force, is not inherently wrong but for the fact that it ultimately results in another form of collectivism (strength by numbers). The purely libertarian thinker here would be faced with a dilemma: join the majority in using violence to police their principles, actively oppose the collectivist majority, or remain neutral. Unfortunately, the bystander who remains neutral might also be seen as complicit in the misdeeds of the majority (think back to Nazi Germany).

    It's hard to see a purely libertarian form ever succeeding because it would require everyone to buy in, even those who would not succeed under it. Yet we must also be careful not to project non-libertarian values onto the libertarian model. As a philosophy, it is still far better than most alternatives. Collectivism, of course, also requires a buy-in from everyone, but with much less personal empowerment.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "So I’m puzzled by the pushback whenever someone explicitly associates the libertarian philosophy with values like tolerance and inclusion."

    If you are perfectly tolerant and inclusive, don't you have to include and tolerate the racist who is not harming any one?

  • ||

    I am confused as to why being tolerant requires one to be inclusive?

    You can keep the damn kids off your lawn and still be tolerant.

  • Winston||

    I am confused as to why being tolerant requires one to be inclusive?

    You can keep the damn kids off your lawn and still be tolerant.

    Because "tolerance" and "inclusiveness" have become Orwellian Prog buzzwords? Pretty much any opposition is ipso facto intolerant and exclusive and should be repressed, and that includes libertarians.

  • Free Society||

    Tolerance Nazis they're called.

  • Neoconwatch||

    If you don't want racism to grow, then attack and expose the Straussians. They are the ones trying to gin up racism on the Right by means of subtle stories and "research." They were behind the immigrant IQ studies and just recently waged media war on behalf of stop-and-frisk. The conservative base doesn't get these idea by themselves. They accept what they are exposed to. The Straussians are their thinkers.

  • ||

  • Sam Cru||

    Libertarians - the new statists. It takes some incredible mental gymnastics to claim that the initiation of force is immoral, but that force should be initiated against those who nonviolently act contrary to your personal preferences and opinions on how others should be treated (e.g. discriminate based on race).

  • jones6||

    Oh, relax. There's nothing like a call to the initiation of force here.

  • ||

    ...there is a potential for violence implicit in racism that is too strong for libertarians to ignore.

    Nah, certainly nothing like a call to initiation of force.

  • jones6||

    I can only hope you were in reality NOT being sarcastic and actually really DID mean that to "no longer ignore" is not "a call to the initiation of force." I don't think people should ignore racism as much as many people not-left-aligned typically do, but as a libertarian I'm against the initiation of force to prevent people feeling or thinking anything they want. But don't ignore it. Sadly, I'm assuming you think yourself to have pointed out something in the original essay that I missed or did not understand when it's the other way around.

  • Free Society||

    . It takes some incredible mental gymnastics to claim that the initiation of force is immoral

    I shouldn't punch a baby in the face because it's unjust and therefore immoral.

    This concludes my mental gymnastics.

  • ||

    Way to cut off the sentence and completely the meaning.

    It takes some incredible mental gymnastics to claim that the initiation of force is immoral, but that force should be initiated against those who nonviolently act contrary to your personal preferences and opinions on how others should be treated (e.g. discriminate based on race).

    The "mental gymnastics" is in arguing against the initiation of force whilst simultaneously arguing in favor of initiating force against racists who are nevertheless peaceful, not in arguing against the initiation of force by itself.

  • ||

    *completely ignore the meaning.

  • jones6||

    I don't find this terribly convincing. As both a black person and a Jew, I am more than familiar with the history of ugly treatment at the hands of others, yet I do not find here a particularly compelling argument that the libertarian viewpoint requires one take a position (for or against) on the thoughts or feelings of others, only on whether and what they elect to do about those thoughts or feelings (i.e., denying freedom to myself or others). I'd like to think a libertarian cannot be a racist, but the argument is not made here, at least not convincingly. Certainly it is plausible that anyone in a Klan outfit or wearing a swastika seems a good candidate to WANT to deny others their freedom, but there is nothing in the above essay to demonstrate anything like a compelling reason to object to that on libertarian grounds.

  • ||

    "I'd like to think a libertarian cannot be a racist, but the argument is not made here,"

    Maybe I misinterpret your comment but should there be? I'm not naive to believe (I'm of Italian origin have been called 'wop' many times so I kinda get how this record plays out) there are no libertarian racists. The issue for me is which philosophical and principled outlook is best suited to deal with racism.

    Libertarianism is clearly the best option in my view.

  • Ray Eston Smith Jr||

    If racism motivates somebody to initiate force, I will oppose him, with force if necessary.

    If anti-racism motivates somebody to initiate force, I will oppose him, with force if necessary.

    "I will not initiate force or fraud."
    That's what libertarianism is, nothing more and nothing less.

    Libertarianism is not everything that I am, and everything that I am is not libertarianism.

    Libertarianism is not some kind of catch-all word for all that's good in the world, nor should it become a tribal label for some kind of self-righteous gang.

  • buybuydandavis||

    No, Libertarianism is not a Total Solution for all moral values. That's a *feature*, not a bug. That's what allows people with *different* values to live together peacefully.

    Fundamentally, Libertarianism is the alternative to Theocracy, enforcing the Good and punishing Evil. That's not what we do. Libertarians hold that everyone has the right to go to Hell in a manner of their own choosing, as long as they don't initiate force against others.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Further, *collectivists* should be Libertarians as well.

    If Progressives actually cared about helping the poor, they'd best be able to do this in a free society, where their efforts would be entirely unhampered by force from others; where everyone's efforts to produce more value would be unhindered.

    Almost any human value that people will fess up to is best achieved in a libertarian society.

    Of course, Progressives don't give a shit about the poor, that's just rationalization for pointing guns at their neighbors, which they care a great deal about.

  • Free Society||

    It’s the same sort of reason that a libertarian would be concerned by, say, a growing acceptance of Keynesian ideas, even though merely holding and advocating those ideas does not require the use of force.

    Promoting Nazism is morally wrong, even though advocating genocide isn't the same thing as tossing the baby into the mass grave. An opinion's moral repugnance is directly proportional to it's content. Vociferous ignorance may be negligence, but misrepresentation of truth in order to manipulate the actions of others is a great moral crime.

  • ||

    A libertarian who holds his or her philosophy out of a conviction that all men and women are (or should be) equal in authority and thus none may subordinate another against his or her will (the most common justification) — that libertarian would naturally object to even nonviolent forms of subordination.

    Richman hits it out of the park here. Based on a belief in the moral wrongness of coercion and slavery, one must naturally find that, say, parenting is non-libertarian. Hierarchical business structures are non-libertarian. Religion is non-libertarian. Unegalitarian marriages are non-libertarian. If you believe the feminists about the inherence of male power, sex may very well be non-libertarian. It's not the force that makes it wrong. It's the subordination of one individual to another - even on a voluntary basis.

    Jesus fuck. Why does Reason syndicate anything from this shallow thinking twat?

  • Free Society||

    He's basically endorsing a large portion of the underlying assumptions of Marxism and other totalitarian groups that wrongly call themselves anarchists.

  • ||

    Mind you, contrary to his own reasoning, he's perfectly entitled to do so and call himself a libertarian so long as he doesn't initiate force against anybody else, but it's defining libertarianism down to make into "whatever my personal belief system happens to be".

  • nicmart||

    Thanks for this one, Sheldon. The toleration of racism by some libertarians is disgusting. As you say, their claim rests on the notion that libertarianism has nothing to say about matters not related to the non-aggression axiom.

  • buybuydandavis||

    What initiation of force against racists are you disappointed that libertarians won't engage in?

    Yes, Libertarians will *tolerate* people with different values than they have, as long as they don't initiate force against others.

    That allows for people with different values to live peacefully side by side.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    "Are there distinctly libertarian grounds for disapproving of racist conduct that does not involve the use of force?"

    What racist 'conduct' exists that isn't backed by some form of implied force?

  • ibcbet||

    I won't celebrate because the Liberals dabble in action that amounts to infringing on civil liberties like insanely increasing OLF inspectors.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Richman's (and others') demands for a "thick" libertarianism are a poison pill to libertarianism. When you elevate non-coercive behaviors to the level of force of fraud, you implicitly accept the assumption that the use of force or fraud to counter those behaviors may be okay. Then, liberty becomes just one of a myriad of competing political values to be addressed by the ever-expanding state.

  • Tony||

    So the argument is that libertarians should also attempt to be decent human beings? Why am I not surprised that there is a bunch of pushback on that idea?

  • Dr Fallout||

    You infer pushback because being a "decent" human being is not required to follow a libertarian philosophy, or any philosophy for that matter. Was Stalin a "decent" human being?

    Also, define "decent." I know plenty of decent human beings that are the way they are NOT because the law compels them to be that way, but because they have a moral compass (golden/silver rule).

    Tell me; to what authority do you want libertarians to appeal?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Despite your idiotic presumptions, being a decent human being does not follow from one's political philosophy. The nature of one's actions define one as a decent human being. Or not. For example, that you want to rob others to provide charity does not substitute for your doing so out of your own pocket.

  • JFree||

    Libertarians tie themselves in knots because they forget the FIRST principle. The first principle of libertarian or classical liberal thought is -

    Advocate for the OTHER individuals liberty. That is the core part of 'negative' rights/liberties.

    Advocating for your own liberty is nothing more than self-interest. That's not a bad thing but it doesn't distinguish libertarianism from any other ism including any/all isms that are completely contrary to libertarian ideas. Of course, Randians get completely stuck here - but then again they aren't actually libertarians or classical liberals. They are immoral plutocrat worshippers.

    Advocating for the other individuals liberty automatically encompasses NAP (without the need for philosophical masturbation with pacifism). It undermines 'racism' (pretty much the demographic definition of 'attempt to repress the 'other' merely because they are 'other'). It undermines collectivism (because the focus is on the other individual).

    And it is not altruism because it contains a clear quid pro quo. You advocate for the others liberty. And they will advocate for yours. Which means YOUR and THEIR liberty will be secured by both your own self-interests and both your own advocacies.

  • ||

    Keyboards have an apostrophe key, by the way.

  • Andrea Ostrov Letania||

    Ayn Rand denouncing racism as “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”

    Yeah, except when it came to racial solidarity of her own tribe:

    http://youtu.be/2uHSv1asFvU

    She says Arabs are 'almost totally primitive savages' who should be put in their place. Sounds like the KKK on the blacks.

  • Andrea Ostrov Letania||

    http://takimag.com/article/the.....z2yOgG7Ryi

    "I’m not really sure what “inclusion” has to do with libertarianism. On the contrary, I side with Hoppe: Private property is, by its very nature, discriminatory. You own it, not everyone. When the anarchist café in Portland decided to throw a cop out, I thought they were dumb for doing so, but I subscribe to the principle “your house, your rules.” Similarly, I think companies have the right to refuse business to people for wearing roller skates, speaking Swedish, or skipping leg day at the gym. But let’s talk for a second about the 900-pound gorilla in the room: I have never heard of anyone being fired for being too politically correct. A recent article (that I will most certainly not link to) calling for jailing anthropocentric global warming skeptics did not, so far as I can tell, result in any lost wages. Even telling white male students to commit suicide doesn’t get you fired—it gets you a standing ovation on your last day as a tenured academic. If Brendan Eich had been donating money to Howard Dean instead of Pat Buchanan, he’d still have a job."

    It's the neocon-ization of libertarianism.

  • Libertopian||

    It seems to me that so-called 'thick' libertarians are uncomfortable with the non-aggression principle because it may lead to a non-egalitarian social order. Egalitarianism is what's most important to them, not restriction of the use of force. And to them of course 'racism' exclusively means white people hating blacks and 'sexism' exclusively means men hating women. They're basically just like any other leftists.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement