Here’s part one again for anyone joining late.
I found the related material to part one a fascinating read, as it essentially went into the discussion point I wanted to explore here – within the self-identifying Libertarian umbrella (under which ‘instinctive liberalism’ probably resides somewhere just to the left of centre) is there a necessity to openly reject prejudice, having defended the right of all individuals to freedom of both expression or association? Or is Libertarianism quite literally about allowing anyone to hold and express any view that they like, without even indicating whether or not one agrees with the sentiment on either a personal or political level? I’ll explain why I think the former view makes far more sense than the latter.
First up, the underpinning values of liberal thought, those of increasing economic and personal freedom, are about as universal and inclusive as you’re going to find in the political sphere. This of course includes the right of any individual to both hold and express any prejudices that they might have on the grounds of religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, whatever, through any private means available to them that does not break the non-aggression principle. In part one, I mentioned the concept of a coffee shop which had a ‘no blacks’ or ‘no gays’ sign above the door, a relic of less enlightened times that would be legally allowed in a Libertarian society.
What’s quite revealing is that, having met and spoken to many self-identifying Libertarians, I very much doubt that any of them would set foot in such an establishment – please someone correct me if I’m wrong. This is because there is a clear distinction to be made here between legally acknowledging one’s right to discriminate at a private level, and actual endorsement of that discrimination, either personally or politically. Discrimination is of course part of life, and will in many ways encroach the freedom of those affected in one form or another, to associate, shop, eat, drink etc.
However, with the obvious exception of one’s sex life (sexuality of course consists of at least some elements which are beyond personal control), when an individual discriminates on the basis of group think rather than individual merit, they can no longer honestly claim to be in possession of liberal instinct – ergo, bigotry and self-identifying Libertarianism are incompatible with each other, since someone who actively discriminates against a law-abiding ‘group’ in society cannot simultaneously believe in the first core value of liberalism, that we are individuals, who belong first and foremost to ourselves and not a ‘group’ defined by colour, religion or any other basis on which it might be identified.
We’re back to Aaron Russo – “there are no groups, we’re individuals – group thinking is no thinking”.
The question of whether individuals of liberal instinct can sympathise in any way with group prejudice (while defending a person’s legal right to hold that prejudice) now becomes much simpler to answer. Can the self-identifying Libertarian do anything but disagree with words or actions fuelled by anti-liberal sentiments? Clearly not. If a Libertarian candidate in an election encounters ‘concern’ about a particular ethnic or racial ‘group’, can he or she offer state action as an inducement for votes? Well, no – those ‘concerns’ are, frankly, misplaced. If people of the same ‘group’ are, for the sake of argument, committing crimes, then the issue is one of bringing those criminals to justice, nothing whatsoever to do with whichever ‘group’ they might belong to.
Libertarianism is misunderstood by some critics as a sort of bigot’s charter, probably due to its hostility towards a myriad of laws governing personal thought , when in reality it is perhaps the only philosophy that naturally deals with people on a purely individual basis. As a general rule, those possessed of liberal instinct are less tribal, more meritocratic in their outlook and therefore not inclined to look for enemies on a personal level – of course we dislike faceless entities like the state and major corporations when they get too big, too mighty and too cosy, but that’s an entirely different conversation. By definition, it is anti-prejudice and group think in what it does, which should be entirely reflected in what it says.
Hey, if I wanted to hang out with a bunch of reactionary old bastards I would have stayed in the Tory Party – don’t let the bastards grind you down.