In the radical egalitarian left’s war of attrition on libertarian philosophy, another high value target has been lost. Reason Magazine was once the number one libertarian website on planet Earth. In their constant struggle to remain ahead of LewRockwell.com, they have made some compromises with enemy forces, and like others before them, this led to their infiltration and ultimate demise.
Not that their website is down or anything. In fact, you can go and see exactly what I’m talking about right now. Check out the latest article “Libertarianism Is More Than Opposition To Force“. Obviously a direct response to Lew Rockwell’s piece “What Libertarianism Is, And Isn’t“. Which itself was a greater continuation of a larger discussion which I’m not too modest to think I played a role in starting.
Now, Rockwell, like myself, and Tom Woods, and many others who actually understand and appreciate libertarian philosophy, we acknowledge that libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. That initiatory force and fraud are forbidden, and may be responded to with defensive force, while all else is permissible, and may not have force levied against it. Within this framework, there are a boundless number of possibilities. Peace, free trade, love in all its forms, and all the other wondrous things we all love about liberty. There are also a lot of possibilities that many of us may be uncomfortable with, like racism, homophobia, sexism, drug addiction, religious cults, and other non-violent things we ourselves may not choose to participate in.
While this was once just called libertarianism, the radical egalitarian left wing entryists have dubbed it “thin libertarianism”, and now added to their list of attacks on it, the term “brutalism“. The egalitarians, they call themselves “thick libertarians” or “humanitarians” because they, just like their statist counterparts in the Democratic party, are just so filled with concern about a plethora of issues besides violence. To them, libertarianism must oppose issues like inequality, racism, sexism, and if you listen to them long enough, capitalism. To do anything less, would make you a racist, and you don’t want to be labeled a racist by the radical egalitarian left, do you?
Now, Reason Magazine has been playing this game for quite awhile. They have been known to give Cathy Reisenwitz, and other feminists a platform, they recently supported OKCupid’s call to boycott FireFox (in favor of NSA spy weapons like IE and Chrome), and today, in their response to Rockwell, have made the case that libertarianism must oppose racism.
The case being made will appeal to a lot of libertarians. The article’s author, Sheldon Richman, makes the case that libertarianism is about individualism, and that since racism is a form of collectivism, libertarianism should oppose it.
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.
Is Libertarianism About Individualism?
I would make the case that it is not. Individualism is a tendency of libertarians, but it’s not some core tenet of the philosophy. In fact, there’s quite a bit of group mentality in libertarian circles. We join organizations, we oppose organizations. We identify ourselves as “libertarians” as “we” and as “us”. We identify our opposition as “them” and “they” and “the State”, “the left”, “the Republican and Democratic parties”, all of these terms are identifiers of groups.
We do reject collectivism when it comes in the form of the State’s calls to sacrifice the rights of the individual in favor the greater good, but we oppose these calls because they initiate force.
To oppose “collectivism” in all its forms would be to oppose the family, to oppose religion, to oppose Saint Patrick’s day, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, to oppose hierarchies in business, any group that existed to promote the advancement of ethnic minorities, or women, or homosexuals, to oppose really any sort of group identification whatsoever. While some libertarians may oppose any of these things, libertarianism, does not have any opinion on the matter. I for example, am an anarchist, and an atheist. It is necessary for me to say both things to describe my ideology, because my being an anarchist does not mean I reject the notion of a deity, they are inherently separate things. I do oppose religion, that is because I am an atheist, not because my libertarianism requires the rejection of this collectivism.
Libertarianism is blind to gender and race. If a group of people wish to associate with each other because they have the same skin color, that is the business of those people. Libertarianism has no more to say about this than if they want to associate with each other because they share the same religious ideology, business interests, taste in entertainment, or any other choice they may make.
Surely, the radical egalitarian leftists should be able to understand this. Their economically illiterate friends want to go off and live in communes when the State has been done away with. This is a very severe form of collectivism. Does libertarianism oppose this? No. Does Austrian economics? Yes. It is irrational to think that they will live in a prosperous society if they attempt to do away with property rights, but so long as they aren’t harming anybody not party to that agreement, we all think they should be left to succeed or fail on their own merit. Austrian economics has become very popular among libertarians because it is rational and helps undermine the State, that does not mean every libertarian understands economics, or that they must in order to be a libertarian.
A Potential for Violence
The second part of his case is that racism has a potential for violence that libertarians cannot ignore.
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.
The same could be said again for religion, or drugs, or poverty, or even love, and ironically enough, this so called “anti-racism” folks like Reason Magazine have been promoting. Let’s not forget that the civil war and many other State inflicted wounds have been carried out under the guise of stopping oppression. If Sheldon Richman is concerned that racism may lead to violence, I would suggest he take notice that in present day, a lot more violence is carried out in the name of stopping racism than in the name of promoting it. Lots of things come with a potential for extreme violence, and it’s sort of the whole entire point of libertarianism to not give into knee jerk reactions and start prosecuting pre-crime.
By the same logic that says racism is a precursor to violence so racism must be forbidden, we can say that racism is a precursor to violence so the races must be segregated. Libertarianism proposes neither, nor should it. Libertarianism addresses the problem of initiatory violence with the solution of defensive violence. It does not need to predict that racism leads to violence and forbid racism any more than it predicts that heroin addicts have a tendency to steal and forbid heroin.
The next leap Richman makes is that allowing racism to go unopposed will lead to some sort of a race war.
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.”
“Thin libertarianism” addresses this, initiatory violence is forbidden. If people use violence against one another, we’re already opposed to this. Forced integration on the other hand has already lead to a great deal of racially motivated violence. If people want to be separate from one another, then letting them be separate prevents violence. This is a straw man, and besides the same could be said of wealth or any number of other things. If people rise up and “demand” equality of wealth, then what? Does libertarianism need to oppose the accumulation of capital to prevent this from happening? No. The idea is patently ridiculous.
This Is All Rather Pointless Anyway.
I still have yet to see any of these left sympathetic folks point out a single openly racist libertarian that they are so opposed to. The fact of the matter is, there aren’t any, at least not of any significant prominence. What the left calls racism and bigotry, really stem from three things.
- Demographic disparities that exist for countless reasons aside from skin color or gender or sexual preference
- Harmless humor and observations about things in society
- Opposition to State imposed integration policies and the propaganda that promotes them.
I am not a racist for noticing a pattern developing with Asian drivers and making a joke about that, or for noticing that Martin Luthor King was a black liberal and to celebrate him people take a day off from work. I am not a sexist for saying that women get a little crazy around their periods, or that the presence of women in certain situations can be an unwelcome distraction to men. I am not a homophobe because I oppose leftist bully tactics against Brendan Eich. Trying to associate these kinds of things with bigotry on par with race wars and slavery is just plain ridiculous, and does harm to our far more important efforts to rid the world of initiatory force, leaving folks like myself with the very unpleasant task of standing up for that which we all detest.
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