September 27, 2016

More anti-libertarian nonsense: libertarianism failed African-Americans

TAMPA, April 6, 2013 ― If my colleague Chris Ladd had written the usual, libertarians-are-racists screed, it would be unworthy of a response. But he didn’t. In fact, his piece “How Libertarianism failed African Americans” is a thoughtful and philosophically consistent argument that clearly disclaims any accusation that libertarianism is inherently racist.

But it’s still nonsense. That it is eloquently stated makes it all the more harmful.

Ladd’s premise is that racism and Jim Crow presented libertarianism with a dilemma. Libertarians oppose all government interference with freedom of association and free markets, but blacks were being “oppressed” by the voluntary choices of white people not to serve them. Therefore, libertarians had to choose between staying true to their principles or supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which meant granting the federal government the power to override private decisions.

Most libertarians don’t oppose most sections of the Act, which prohibit governments from discriminating. They oppose those sections which allow the federal government to prohibit private decisions based upon race. Ladd recognizes this distinction, claiming “African Americans repression rose not only from government, but from the culture and personal choices of their white neighbors.”

First, Ladd’s history is completely wrong. Like many conservatives and liberals, Ladd sees libertarianism as a subset of conservatism, an “extreme” version of the conservative philosophy which supposedly advocates a market economy. For him, libertarianism traces back only as far as Barry Goldwater and became an independent movement in the early 1970’s when anti-war conservatives formed the Libertarian Party.

Libertarianism does not follow at all from conservatism. It is the philosophical child of classical liberalism, which struck an uneasy alliance with conservatism during a few, short periods in the 20th century, after the liberal movement completely abandoned individual liberty. The so-called “Old Right” should really be called the “Middle Right,” because conservatism has meant bigger, more interventionist government for most of American (and world) history.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Comments

  1. Phil Peer says:

    Without critiquing this whole article, I’m commenting on one of the article’s key statements:

    “To refuse to sell your product to someone is not aggression”.

    I ask myself how this could be.
    Think about what the libertarian conception of “aggression” means.
    The “aggression” means one person gets their way against the wishes of an opposing person.
    The whole point of non-aggression is that transactions may be allowed, as long as every party consents (which, if you actually think about it, would make most transactions impossible).

    The libertarian definition of aggression is fine, as long as we accept the conclusion that all political ideologies are coercive.
    (BTW, the whole point of having a political party is to support that party’s coercion, in addition to its freedoms, which all parties have, even if they’re irrational).

    Of course, a libertarian might try to reduce the definition of aggression to say that “it’s only aggression if you challenge property that actually belongs to a person”.
    Saying this actually creates a huge problem – how can you measure what goods belong to person, and which ones don’t? Actually there is a standard that works perfectly – the utilitarian one – “Resources should be distributed in whatever way will do the most good”.

    You can’t actually imagine the utilitarian standard ever being wrong. What would be the rationality in spreading resources in a way that they’re not best used?

    • Tom Mullen says:

      Thanks for the comments. You don’t understand the difference between force and aggression.

      Libertarianism doesn’t mean “no force.” It means “no initiation of force.” That’s a crucial distinction.

      “The “aggression” means one person gets their way against the wishes of an opposing person.” Wrong. Aggression means one person initiates violence or threatens to initiate violence against another person. Who gets their way is incidental.

      “I do agree that dictators (for instance) are immoral, BUT they aren’t immoral because of coercion – they’re immoral because they produce mediocre outcomes.” Wrong again. Morality confines itself to the way human beings interact with others. Outcomes are affected by morality, they don’t define it. Thus, when people act morally in not killing each other, the outcome of less people dying occurs because of it. Earthquakes are not immoral. Murder is.

      ” how can you measure what goods belong to person, and which ones don’t?” Answer: those things a person has produced himself or acquired with the consent of the previous owner are his.

      Overall, I suggest that you ask yourself why you have to invent all of this psychobabble to refute what is a very simple concept: It is wrong to threaten other people with violence, whether to get their stuff or to interfere with their peaceful actions.

      • Phil Peer says:

        Tom:
        Libertarianism doesn’t mean “no force.” It means “no initiation of force”.

        Reply:
        If force isn’t initiated, how could it exist? How could an ideology support force without initiating it?

        The interesting thing is… you often don’t need to hold people at gunpoint in order to threaten them, because there are much tamer alternatives to guns (such as money). Nevertheless, people force each other to do things against their will, and the things people are being forced to do could still lead to incredibly negative consequences.
        __________________________________________

        Tom:
        Aggression means one person initiates violence or threatens to initiate violence against another person.

        Reply:
        Here’s a thought experiment:

        SCENARIO A) Bill shoots Kurt (against Kurt’s will).
        SCENARIO B) Bill persuades Kurt to shoot himself.

        Scenario A has aggression and B doesn’t. And yet, A and B produce the same outcomes.
        Libertarianism has to explain why B is morally superior to A.

        If holding someone at gunpoint is immoral because it goes against someone’s will (and not because of the outcomes it will produce) then what is significant about the will?
        A person’s will simply indicates what their preferred pleasure is, and Scenarios A and B contain the same levels of pleasure and pain (or almost the same).
        __________________________________________

        Tom:
        Morality confines itself to the way human beings interact with others.
        Earthquakes are not immoral. Murder is.

        Reply:
        My definition of “morality” does not imply that earthquakes are immoral. I am suggesting that the mediocrity of beings is inherently bad (and not coercion), but you have to factor in physical limits. If a being can’t prevent an earthquake, there is still always some “best” action that the individual can commit.
        __________________________________________

        Tom:
        Those things a person has produced himself or acquired with the consent of the previous owner are his.

        Reply:
        What is the basis for this? If the previous owner’s consent matters, why not the consent of other affected individuals? I don’t know how you could justify not distributing resources based on where they’ll do the most good.
        __________________________________________

        Tom:
        It is wrong to threaten other people with violence, whether to get their stuff or to interfere with their peaceful actions.

        Reply:
        I can very easily think of a counterexample (this one’s inflated to make my point).

        If Earth were in danger of being wiped out by a UFO, and the only way to stop the UFO were to demolish a person’s house (and that person doesn’t want their property demolished) then demolishing it would still be justified.

        • Tom Mullen says:

          “If force isn’t initiated, how could it exist? How could an ideology support force without initiating it?”

          Really? Are you being deliberately obtuse? Force used in self defense is not “initiating force.” It is the appropriate response to the initiation of force (aggression).

          “The interesting thing is… you often don’t need to hold people at gunpoint in order to threaten them, because there are much tamer alternatives to guns (such as money). Nevertheless, people force each other to do things against their will, and the things people are being forced to do could still lead to incredibly negative consequences.”

          This is so nonsensical it’s hard to respond to at all. No, offering someone money to get them to do something is not “forcing them.” They are making a choice to accept the money in exchange for whatever you want them to do. That’s not the same thing as giving them a choice between doing what you want them to do and having violence committed against them.

          Ok, I have to assume that the rest is deliberately stupid. Can’t muster the energy for further reply…

          • Phil Peer says:

            Yes, I am being “deliberately obtuse”, but you have not demonstrated any mistakes with my consequential utilitarian approach. Does my (very extreme) UFO analogy work?

            Let me work with your definition of aggression.
            The real difference between “force” and “aggression” (for the libertarian) depends on property meeting the condition of “belonging to a person”.

            Now, let’s use an example.

            – On one day, I work 8 hours a day. Someone in Papua New Guinea also works 8 hours.

            – I (the American) am paid $100 a day. The Papuan is paid $1 a day.

            A = 100
            P = 1

            – Is there an absolute basis for the money being distributed this way? If $1 belongs to the Papuan, why not 2 or 3?

            – Without using taxes (and instead having the employers change the next day’s wages) suppose the wage rate were changed to:

            A = 95
            P = 6

            – Now, is this change “aggressive”? We’re not pulling money away from A, we’re simply changing the future wages. The libertarian has to explain why taxes meet the definition of “aggression” / “theft”, but not wage losses (even if the amount lost is the same).

            – You could contend that P should equal 1 because if P is too high, it will create needless waste (or wreck an economy) but that kind of libertarianism is consequential, not deontological.

          • Phil Peer says:

            Tom:
            “Offering someone money to get them to do something is not forcing them. They are making a choice to accept the money in exchange for whatever you want them to do”.

            Reply:
            I hear that a lot from libertarians.
            Here’s the problem – the fact that a worker is (in a sense) “choosing” is superficial.

            Suppose a person can choose between a job that…

            A) Hurts a lot
            or
            B) Hurts even more

            …there is STILL a sense in which they are forced.
            If the person can only choose between A or B, then they are not free to choose between a job that:

            A) Hurts a lot
            B) Hurts even more
            C) Hurts very little
            D) Hardly ever hurts
            E) Hardly ever hurts, and allows for creativity

            While it is true that a particular employer does not force the person, society (as a whole) forces the individual through the range of choices.

            (Maybe we actually agree on this one). ; )

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