Economics, Libertarianism

MacLean on Nutter and Buchanan on Universal Education

Finding examples of misleading, incorrect, and outright butchered quotes and citations in Nancy MacLean’s new book about James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, has become the academic version of Pokemon Go this week. I now offer one small contribution of my own, plus a few other thoughts about one piece of her argument.

For those unfamiliar, MacLean argues that Buchanan’s work, and public choice, more broadly, emerged in highly segregated Virginia in the shadow of Brown v. Board of Education as a way to attack the expansion of federal government power and defend the elitist Southern Agrarian privileges of a white plutocracy. Their program of limiting absolute democracy and majority rule through constitutional provisions (a truly bizarre and radical idea, I realize) was grown in the soil of segregation. She paints Buchanan and the whole public choice tradition as enemies of democracy who have now joined forces with the Koch brothers in a stealth, fifth column attack on American democracy in particular. Putting aside that there is no documented connection between Buchanan and the Southern Agrarians, a connection that makes no sense anyway given Buchanan’s commitment to analytical egalitarianism, is there any truth to the claim that the Brown v. Board context was even relevant?

MacLean argues there is, and bases that on a 1959 paper by G. Warren Nutter and Buchanan titled “The Economics of Universal Education” in which they lay out a number of ways that universal education could be provided, including via a Friedman-style voucher system. They describe the different characteristics of the alternative systems, and clearly conclude that “the public must choose which characteristics it prefers” (9). They add “As economists we do not presume to make a choice of one system over another…Our purpose is to lay bare the facts as we see them, so that they will receive their due weight in any decisions that will be made through the democratic process” (11).

Hardly enemies of democracy in the paper, Nutter and Buchanan see their task (as Buchanan did for his whole career) as offering analyses that could inform the deliberations of the democratic process, both at the level of the constitutional rules and the games that take place within those rules. Nutter and Buchanan also reject, as Buchanan always did, any privileged role for the economist in that process: “Each citizen speaks for himself on such matters, and each citizen’s opinion weights as heavily as any other’s, no matter what his position in society – whether farmer, lawyer, educator, or minister” (1). Hardly the words of an anti-democratic elitist plutocrat.

MacLean sees this paper as an attempt by the two scholars to undermine public education in Virginia in order to keep the effects of pre-Brown segregation while still complying with the law. That is, she sees it as evidence of the racism at the core of arguments for free markets and public choice analyses of the failures of government. This is despite the fact that Nutter and Buchanan explicitly defend a role for government in education, including “compelling attendance, fixing minimum standards, and financing cost” (3). They also never mention race in the paper, as she acknowledges, but their use of the technical language of economics and their race-neutrality is seen by her as evidence of their attempt to generate racist outcomes by stealth. (As is often the case with conspiracy theory-style thinking, the evidence against the conspiracy is actually evidence for it.)

One might also note that supporting Brown also means that one is thwarting the desires of democratic majorities, at least at the state and local level. For all of MacLean’s ringing defenses of majority rule and the importance of the democratic process, it’s fascinating that she sees the foundation of the arguments of democracy’s supposed opponents as a rejection of a Supreme Court decision that told local and state majorities that they couldn’t have the segregated schools they wanted.

One might also note that the argument Nutter and Buchanan make is nearly identical to that of J. S. Mill in On Liberty. Is Mill, who was arguably among the 19th century’s great opponents of racism and supporters of analytical egalitarianism, now also to be seen as a secret racist with a plan to subvert democracy?

Toward the end of the paper, Nutter and Buchanan respond to numerous objections to a voucher plan. One criticism at the time was that it would harm education and drive employers out of the state. In MacLean’s summary of their response, she writes (67):

Corporations would not care who ran the schools, they said, as long as good education was available. “All that matters” for the economy, the two scholars maintained, was that the state government support some school system “cheaply and efficiently.” How that schooling was provided was immaterial.

Note the way in which the quoted material makes it appear as though what Nutter and Buchanan were saying was that it would be good if governments supported school systems “cheaply and efficiently,” nicely fitting her narrative (and that of many on the left) that libertarians just want to reduce spending on education. They don’t care much about kids actually getting educated. (She says as much in the book in several places.)

Here’s the actual passage from the Nutter and Buchanan paper (17-18), which is more subtle and has a different meaning than MacLean suggests:

Other things equal, communities with good, efficiently run schools will be more attractive to employees, actual and prospective, than other communities. But we fail to see what this has to do with who runs the schools, whether a state agency or private parties. We doubt that there is a strong attachment to state schools, as such. If a mixed system of private and state schools provides universal education at least as cheaply and efficiently as a pure system of state schools, this would seem to be all that matters.

MacLean takes “cheaply and efficiently” to refer to the level of state support provided. Nutter and Buchanan clearly use that phrase to refer not to the level of state support per se, but to the ability of any system to use resources wisely to produce a given quality of education. Her reading makes it seem like Nutter and Buchanan think that “all that matters” is that state support be “cheap and efficient.” But what they are clearly arguing is “all that matters” is which system delivers the desired level of universal education using the fewest resources.

Nutter and Buchanan are using the economist’s notion of efficiency – how to generate a desired outcome at least cost – whereas MacLean can only think in terms of a supposed desire to spend a little as possible in and of itself. The “least cost” and therefore most efficient system might be one that spends more in absolute terms if it generates a higher level of a highly desired output. A system that spent twice as much on education but got three times the quality/quantity of education as the next best system might be “cheaper and more efficient” if we value education highly enough as compared to other uses of those resources. Again, Nutter and Buchanan are not saying to use as few resources as possible in and of itself; they are asking which alternative system of education gives us the most bang for the buck. And they want “the democratic process” to decide which one we should adopt. MacLean’s selective quoting does not allow the reader to see the full context of Nutter and Buchanan’s argument.

Is the idea that we should provide a given quality and quantity of a valuable good or service using the least valuable resources possible really that shocking or hard to understand?

This is an example of a running problem with the book. MacLean has, by her own admission, very little knowledge of economics. In addition, her knowledge of Buchanan’s system of thought comes mostly from his autobiography Better than Plowing, The Calculus of Consent, and two secondary sources that are highly critical and have their own problems of good faith interpretation. In the most generous reading, she is misunderstanding arguments and chopping up quotes because she simply doesn’t understand what Buchanan and his collaborators are up to. In the least generous reading, she has a theory and she’s going to cut up the evidence to fit that theory. If one believes that modern libertarians are the enemies of democracy, progress, equality, and all that’s good in the world, and MacLean clearly does, then the evidence will always be read, and sometimes constructed, in ways that support the argument on the side of the angels.

Unfortunately, anyone who takes the time to read the actual sources she’s working from, or who understands public choice theory, can see this exercise for what it is: a travesty of scholarly standards (no, Charles Dickens’ novels do not count as data about the economic conditions of the 19th century) and a smear job on one of the great minds of the 20th century.

  • Jason Brennan

    She is a contemptible liar.

  • Sean II

    “Finding examples of misleading, incorrect, and outright butchered quotes and citations in Nancy MacLean’s new book about James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, has become the academic version of Pokemon Go this week.”


  • urstoff

    I need to know how racist Kenneth Arrow and Mancur Olson were before I decide if public choice is evil or not.

    • Sean II

      Gordon Tullock is an anagram for Cook Troll Dung.

      Sounds like an alt right shitlord to me.

  • For those unfamiliar, MacLean argues that Buchanan’s work, and public choice, more broadly, emerged in highly segregated Virginia in the shadow of Brown v. Board of Education as a way to attack the expansion of federal government power and defend the elitist Southern Agrarian privileges of a white plutocracy. Their program of limiting absolute democracy and majority rule through constitutional provisions (a truly bizarre and radical idea, I realize) was grown in the soil of segregation.

    Boy, oh boy this passage reminded me of another time in libertarian history when somebody’s work got smeared as an attempt to advance a white racialist cause.

    • King Goat

      Was it when Ron Paul’s newsletters were publicized, which had things like “I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in [DC] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal,” “Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist philanderer, Martin Luther King” and “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks?”

      Or when Southern defenders of Jim Crow rallied to Barry Goldwater’s opposition to federal civil rights action, historically flipping Deep South Jim Crow states for Goldwater?

      Or when LP Presidential candidate Barr was the keynote speaker at a Council of Conservative Citizens event?

      Heck, on this site, called *Bleeding Heart Libertarians,* a fairly open racialist who has stated to me that ‘Sub-Saharan’ blacks are genetically disposed to crime and therefore racially based stop and frisk policy is justified and that ‘MENA’ (Middle Eastern North African) populations are genetically predisposed to be anti-democratic and therefore should be restricted in immigration is regularly the most upvoted commenter.

      Where in the world do people get this idea libertarianism is connected to racism? Where indeed?


        Um, I often upvote Sean II because I find his humor and wit refreshing. This doesn’t imply that I agree with all his opinions or theories. I generally ignore your comments because you are a pretentious twit. I suspect others on this site feel similarly. That doesn’t make us racists, just discerning consumers of internet content.

        • King Goat

          You generally ignore yet here you are replying. Autism is tough I guess.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Right, “generally.” Being a boring, pretentious twit is tough I guess.

          • Rob Gressis

            I have a question for you, King Goat. Just what do you take the epistemic status of biologically based racial IQ differences to be? Personally, I don’t feel like I know enough to take a stand. And I don’t want to know enough, because if I do, I might conclude, like 95% of psychometricians do, there some of the disparity between blacks and whites on IQ tests is due to genetics. But it seems like you think not only that (1) any IQ differences between whites and blacks are wholly environmental, but also that (2) the case for (1) is so strong that anyone who denies (1) is, ipso facto, a racist. Am I wrong about that? Assuming I’m not wrong, can you point me to what you think makes the best case for (1) and (2)?

          • Theresa Klein

            Rob, the problem is that even if IQ differences are real, they will certainly be used by overt racists to justify systematic unequal treatment of blacks both by the government and by individuals within society.
            Which means that even if an individual black guy and an individual white guy are exactly equal in intelligence and all other attributes – the black guy will be treated more poorly by the government, by police, and by others in society. Because people are going to judge him by his race, and not by his actual intelligence.
            For every person who attempts to carefully distinguish between group differences and individual merit, there are 50 who will simply take it as license to descend into total racial tribalism.

          • Rob Gressis

            So is the thought that, regardless of whether it’s true or false, it shouldn’t be asserted because of the negative consequences? Because I hear it put differently: I usually hear that it’s pseudoscientific and/or known to be false. In your view, are the people who say that usually just putting on a performance for reasons of the sort you’re giving?

            Here are worries I have about your response:
            1. Regardless of whether the view is true, your position requires people not to assert it.
            2. Even more, I think you’re asking them to assert that it’s false.
            3. Even more, you’re asking people to condemn others who may know more than them.
            4. If the view is true, but most think it’s false, then we’ll pursue unattainable policy goals. When we don’t attain them, we’ll look for someone to blame who’s innocent.

            1-4 seem to me to be quite pernicious. As pernicious as the obvious alternative? Probably not. But maybe there are some unobvious alternatives?

          • Theresa Klein

            If we were all angels, we would say “maybe it’s true, but even so, people deserve to be treated as individuals and not judged by what other members of their group are like.” But, not only are we not angels, but a lot of people saying it’s true, are saying that it’s okay to treat blacks as inferior, en masse, as a group. Charles Murray is pretty explicit about saying that there should be no impact on policy because in a libertarian society, everyone should be treated equally anyway. But not everyone who holds those views actually supports Charles Murray’s position on that. So whose policy goals are going to be worse ? We’re not really going to get to choose the libertarian option where everyone gets treated equally anyway.

          • Rob Gressis

            I don’t think we’re disagreeing. I think people have a very hard time with any subtle distinction. For instance, it seems to me that there’s a big, obvious difference between: “Heidegger is smarter than Gandhi” and “Heidegger is a better person than Gandhi”, but I think you’re right that if someone were to say “on average, Asians are smarter than Hispanics”, then most people would hear that as “every Asian is overall better than every Hispanic”.

            So, given this weakness of critical thinking among people, what should we do? The policy we’ve arrived at is not “we don’t know whether there are genetic differences in intelligence among races”; it’s “we know there are no genetic differences in intelligence among races, and if you say there are, or even if you say you’re agnostic, then that is indefeasible evidence that you are a seriously bad person, such that many forms of social sanction are morally obligatory.” And the policy we had before that was “there are genetic differences among the races in intelligence, which means that it’s OK to treat some of the races as literally subhuman.”

            If there’s no middle ground (given the weaknesses of people’s critical thinking), then our current policy is the best policy out of the two available alternatives. But do we know there’s no middle ground?

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Anti-Semites tend to be capable, at least in many instances, of recognizing Jewish intelligence while holding Jews in contempt and loathing. most folks are adept at coming up with reasons for disliking other groups that are in no way linked to intelligence.

          • Rob Gressis

            That’s true, but does it go the other way? How often do people say, “that group is dumber, but that doesn’t mean mine is better.”

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Point taken. I have, however, been on some alt right comment boards where posters admitted that both East Asian and Ashkenazi Jews have higher IQs than gentile Whites, but still argued that Whites were the “best” group (they pointed to such attributes as inventiveness, creativity, and the ability to focus on the real, as opposed to the abstract, to buttress their argument).

          • Rob Gressis

            Well, arguably the group we’d have more to worry about if genetically based racial IQ differences were widely believed would be the group with the higher IQ. I think that was the point of Theresa’s comment.

          • Sean II

            I just replied to Rob with the same observation. Hadn’t noticed you said it first.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            You said it far more eloquently.

          • Sean II

            Actually happens all the time. A whole strain of European anti-semitism up to and including the Nazis reeked with resentment of Jewish intellectual superiority.

            Likewise for the alt-right, many of whose members will gladly tell you that Jews and East Asians are smarter, but that it’s better to be white Euro for some other reason.

          • Rob Gressis

            Wait … I could be wrong, but I think you misunderstood me.

            I agree that dumb mass hates smart elite is very common — that’s what World on Fire is all about.

            I was just saying this: imagine that you had a smart majority elite and a dumb minority; now, imagine that the smart elite thinks not only that it’s smarter than the dumb minority but that it’s OK to announce this. In that case, I think the consequences would likely be very bad for the dumb minority.

          • Sean II

            Yes, I’m sorry, I did misunderstand.

            Here’s my response: compared to what?

            The consequences of admitting cognitive differences must be weighed against the consequences of denying them. And denial in this case means massive institutionalized lying, corruption of science, and bad policy,

            Consider a case:

            The Stripes and the Plaids are neighbors, but the Stripes are smarter than the Plaids.

            For the good of all it is decided to make this fact taboo.

            However, it can’t be hidden that the Stripes end up performing much better than the Plaids. So resentment develops and people demand an explanation.

            Being barred from offering the truth, a legend grows. It says the Stripes only succeed because they are ruthless and hoard the tools of education, or because they have some capital legacy advantage, or because some outside party conspires to help them, etc.

            Now policies are enacted to level the playing field.

            But one after another, they fail. Because none addresses the true cause of the disparity. Over time anger increases, and social trust declines, and violent conflict develops.

            Question: does it matter if the Stripes outnumber the Plaids, or the Plaids outnumber the Stripes?

          • This happens. In America, we call it an “urban-rural divide,” but it has other names in other countries.

          • Sean II

            You’ve hit upon three reasons why I can’t hang with the alt-right:

            1) Half the time they end up as IQ pseudo-deniers because they can’t abide the Ashkenazi lead in that area. So they sooth themselves with fairy tales about how intelligence doesn’t matter very much.

            2) They like to blame the Jews for Western cultural suicide, but ignore the obvious falsification: this problem is worst where Ashkenazi are few – Sweden, Germany, France, UK – and least bad where Ashkenazi are many – the United States and Israel.

            3) They also ignore the glaring internal contradiction. If the West is so enfeebled that 18,000 Jews can magically mind-fuck 10,000,000 Swedes into surrendering their birthright, this would have to mean those Swedes weren’t very healthy to begin with.

          • Theresa Klein

            The thing is that we really need strong social norms against racism because people are innately tribal, and that tribal instinct has to be suppressed in a modern pluralistic society, in order for society to function with any kind of social harmony. The people saying “it’s indefensible to suggest that some races are inferior” are really just trying to enforce a social norm against racism. They aren’t just being unjust or hysterical. Many of them may just be following the tribe and engaging in moral signalling, but that’s just part of how society works to enforce norms. A century ago a woman who had a baby out of wedlock was subjected to similar treatment. Back then we shamed people severely for engaging in adultery, now we do it for expressing racist sentiments. I’m ok with that.

          • The thing is that we really need strong social norms against racism because people are innately tribal, and that tribal instinct has to be suppressed in a modern pluralistic society, in order for society to function with any kind of social harmony.

            Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the way we’re doing it. We’re replacing racial tribes with political ones, and in the process politicizing every minor facet of our lives, turning even the most innocuous situation into a reason to hate each other. The drive toward “strong social norms against racism” has backfired completely.

          • Sean II

            Not just against racism either. The LGBT example afford a similar lesson.

            The first phase of the movement sought freedom for gay people to live their lives, by such sensible means as creating enclaves, spreading awareness, making outright persecution taboo, It Gets Better, etc. These were clearly good things.

            What happened next was not good. Having utterly defeated homophobia on all the commanding heights in our culture, it was decided that the next phase should consist of cultural search and destroy, actively hunting down recalcitrant hicks out in the countryside, provoking them until they spat out a few doubts, then freaking the hell out.

            The key question is: where did the actual positive returns for LGBT people come from? Almost all came from phase one. That’s what got folks the freedom to live and pursue happiness. Phase two doesn’t seem to benefit anyone but the scum of our particular earth: pundits, politicians, media hacks, and career activists.

            Anti-racism looks like this, but worse and further down the path. The kind of racism the original cause set out to fight was crushed and marginalized down to a sliver decades ago.

            Now, in this case, hunting whole hicks out in the countryside is not enough. It’s become necessary to dig for evil spirits within the minds even of those who most enthusiastically agree. Hence the absurd things now being fought: undefined privilege, micro-aggression, cultural appropriation, stereotype threat/implicit bias (see also: replication crisis).

            How any of this benefits actual black people is not clear.

            How anyone could look at it and say “what we need is more…more pearl clutching, more taboo enforcement, more denouncing, more Red Guarding on college campuses, more micro-aggression Munchausening, more making tech executives in Palo Alto sit through Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes, etc” is quite beyond me.

          • King Goat

            What ‘phase’ would Ogberfell, which, was, what, a year or two ago fall into? Most people see marriage as one of the most important things in their lives, a pretty big ‘positive return.’

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            If we accept that East Asians are, on average, more intelligent that gentile Whites, does that mean that this difference will be used by overt racist to justify systemic unequal treatment of Whites both by the government and by individuals within society? And is it justifiable to cover up or suppress certain truths if there exist the possibility/probability that recognition of said truths will lead to undesirable behaviors on the part of some individuals or institutions?

          • King Goat

            What an odd reply to my comment about the draw of actual, standard issue racists to libertarian movements *historically.*

            But to your question: I think one should be very cautious about conclusions in this area because 1. ‘psychometricians’ have been so spectacularly wrong about so many groups and 2. that wrongness has usually been used to justify treatment that resulted in environments that played a large part in causing the ‘findings’ of the psychometricians. Psychometricians told us Jews, the Irish, Italians, etc., were genetically disposed to be less intelligent, more criminal, etc., and, as Theresa describes, those ‘findings’ led to different treatment of them which resulted in crappy environments. Interestingly, when society for various reasons began to more and more ignore the ‘findings’ and treat people from these groups a little less differently conditions improved for these groups and the ‘findings’ went away.

            I’m sure there are some genetic differences between people and groups. I don’t think their existence and degree are known enough to be the basis for much policy though. And there are all kinds of sloppy reasoning mistakes, even if one accepts purely consequential criteria in judging, which I do not, about what could be justified based on these differences. The entire area of differences between groups, whether the origin is genetic or not, (you should note that a person that thinks group differences are due to something to other than genetics can still hold that the differences can be incredibly ‘set’ in individuals at a very young age, and something close to impossible to change-at least for those individuals) is an area fraught with ‘motivated thinking,’ susceptible to so much error, that I’m suspicious of anyone confidently calling for policy negatively impacting traditionally mistreated groups on the basis of it.

            I don’t take looking into the subject to be suspicious. For example, I don’t think Charles Murray is a racist by any means.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Autism can be tough, I speak from personal experience. Yet I wonder in the absence of us aspies and auties if there would be a libertarian movement worthy of the name. You don’t have to be autistic to find libertarianism attractive- but it does seem to help.

          • King Goat

            For perhaps different reasons, I totally agree.

        • Sean II

          Voting integrity is one of the more delicate things in a comment section. I’ve always felt the community here tended to do it right more often than anywhere else, upvoting for humor, originality, quality of argument, turn of phrase, etc., but not always or only for mere agreement.

          A couple recent incidents – the Jeff Tucker-Richard Spencer Inn at the Crossroads showdown, and the Rebecca Duvel foam fest – show how easily overwhelmed the local like market can be. Those quickly collapsed into the standard, Atlantic style of “my side is saying something, UP!” It got to the point where one could post “I know you are but what am I?” and get a dozen votes, so long as it was obvious who you were for or against with that childish retort.

          I don’t think the down-vote system ever worked quite so well. For whatever reason, people tended to use that only for disagreement, and if anything good arguments were targeted more energetically than bad. Feels like those were often coming from a place of “fuck you for sowing doubt in my mind”. Maybe that’s why Disqus obscured the feature?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Little ole racist me just upvoted you. I am overwhelmed with shame.

          • Sean II

            Don’t despair. There is a way out.

            Step 1) Go take the IAT five times. You’ll get five different results. Screencap your best one and post it here. Let that be your ‘hood card.

            Step 2) Pick a heterodox position, and tell people you did it on racial equity grounds. “Though a libertarian, I support single payer in the U.S. because it’s the most direct path for bringing reparations to black bodies.” Something like that.

            Step 3) Be a little more pro-active in your denunciation. If the 2010s have taught us anything, it’s that constantly accusing other people of racism is the best way to avoid being racist. Where possible try to focus on speech rather than behavior, and target plain-speaking whites outside your social class. Peasant Oblige is the way healing begins.

            Step 4) When talking to a suspected racist (and one can never be too careful), be sure to disagree with ALL their statements. If a racist says Rushmore was Wes Anderson’s best movie, you must be prepared to endorse and defend Darjeeling Express. No one said this would be easy.

            Step 5) Be flexible. The greatest trick racism ever pulled was convincing you it had a definition. Don’t let it get away with that. In the fight against racism, equivocation is not just permitted, it’s necessary.

            Step 6) Burn this message.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            The Tucker-Spencer brouhaha threw me for a loop. I am closer to Tucker philosophically, but I felt Spencer comported himself more impressively during that confrontation. It’s kind of sad when the universalist libertarian is having a meltdown, and the philo-Nazi is acting as the voice of reason.

      • No, none of those. I had another situation in mind, far more apropos to this post.

        But I take your point: you think libertarians are racists. You must love MacLean’s book.

        • King Goat

          No, the book seems fatally flawed to me. And I don’t take libertarians in general to be racists, just that, as an empirical matter, racists often feel it’s a comfortable home for them and many libertarians don’t seem to mind that too much.

          • This might come as a surprise to you, but not every comment on a public facing discussion forum is intended for you and your various hobby horses.

          • James Taylor

            I actually mind that an *awful* lot! Libertarianism should be the *least* comfortable “home” for racists.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Why? Many on the left want to criminalize discussions that would fall under the rubric of “race realism”. I would hope that even the most egalitarian and universalist minded libertarians wouldn’t go that far. Therefore, as long as we have an authoritarian left in the this country, libertarianism will not be the least comfortable home for those who meet an often arbitrary and meaningless definition of “racist”.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Look, issues like IQ and intractable/immutable group differences are issues which both the left and the more establishment oriented right refuse to touch with the proverbial ten foot pole. It’s not hard to see why folks who at least want to explore these matter look to non mainstream political formations- and on of those formations happens to be libertarianism.

        • Theresa Klein

          I don’t think libertarians in general are racists. It saddens me that libertarians do welcome racists in our midst. I think we need to do better at making it clear that we don’t support racism.

          • It’s not that I disagree, it’s that this is a statement that can and should be applied to literally every sub-category of human being. Racism is a rampant problem that exists in every kind of community and group. By saying, “Purple People need to do better at distancing themselves from racists!” the implication is that all non-Purple people do not necessarily need to do this.

            But that’s not true. Just this morning I read two separate MSM news stories. One was about rampant, endemic racism among leftists, and the other was about rampant, endemic racism among rightists. This morning was not a particularly unique day as far as that goes.

            Racism is a problem everywhere. By making it a uniquely libertarian issue, as goat attempts to do here, we give a false picture of the essence of the problem. It’s not that libertarians are too warm with racists, it’s that most people, period, are racist.

            Now back to my initial comment. Wouldn’t it be terribly ironic if someone who once accused others of hiding a white supremacist agenda in their academic work suddenly found him- or herself in the awkward position of having to mount a defense against the very same charge?

            This is just like the Cultural Revolution as described by Liang Heng in Son of the Revolution. The first person who can make an accusation of capitalsim—oops, I mean racism—stick wins the war.

            This can only ever end badly. It’s a race to the bottom.

          • Theresa Klein

            Of course racists are everywhere, but I think libertarianism has been MORE welcoming of overt racists than other groups. Maybe not conservatives, but definitely progressives/liberals. There might be racism on the left, but it’s not the straight up “black people are inferior and should be treated as such” type of racism that you get from (say) neo-confederate groups and patriot militia types. It’s more of the subtle aversion to interaction kind.

          • Disagree. If I said that left-liberals are disproportionately anti-Semitic, I would not be the first to have levied that charge.

            I also think that the left preempts the charge by taking on the mantle of Guardians of Racial Equality, and the subsequently engages in immediate and invidious racism of a particularly inhuman kind.

            As a white man married to a woman of color, I have unique insight into the way this unfolds, as I watch whites smile and distill my wife’s cultural identity down into a handful of foods and religious gestures. Not to put too fine a point on it: Anyone who thinks that their ability to eat my wife’s favorite foods gives them unique insight into her cultural perspective is a condescending bastard.

            And another particularly cruel example: The whole concept of “exoticization,” where I can’t be too vocal about how beautiful my wife looks in the fashions that are popular in her country of origin without having to defend myself against the charge that I’ve sexually colonized her. This is absolute cruelty of a kind that racist conservatives, in all their ignorance, have never shown themselves capable of.

          • Theresa Klein

            How would you feel if someone came out ask asked you how you could possibly marry someone of an inferior race, and aren’t you worried that your children will be mentally stunted as a result?

            I mean, which do you think is worse? Someone being overly obsequious because they like your wife’s cooking, or someone flat out annoucing that they think you married a sub-human?

          • You don’t mean “How would you feel?” You mean, “How did you feel?” You’re not asking me a hypothetical question. This has actually happened to me. I don’t consider one worse than the other. They both made me feel equally bad.

          • Theresa Klein

            Which person do you think you wife would rather hang out with?

          • This question is bizarre. Would you rather hang out with someone who robbed your brother or someone who robbed your sister?

            We talk about this stuff. It’s not who I “think” my wife would rather hang out with, it’s who she encounters in what context and what she expresses to me about her feelings on the topic. Sure enough, she voices about equal dissatisfaction with liberal racists and conservative ones. Did you expect some other answer?

          • Theresa Klein

            I find it implausible that someone would rather support a party which contains people who think they are genetically inferior, than one which contains people that are overly presumtuous and obsequious. Sorry.

          • So how did you get from “Who would your wife rather hang out with?” to “Which party does your wife support?” That seems like a non sequitur AFAIC.

            The answer to your latter question is: My wife doesn’t support political parties, she abhors them.

          • Theresa Klein

            It seems like you are really really trying desperately hard not to admit that most minorities would rather vote democrat, because at least the democrats don’t think they are genetically inferior.

          • Theresa, with respect, I really and truly believe you somehow got your wires crossed while discussing this with me.

            My initial claim was that racism appears to me to be equally rampant across all ideologies. This says nothing about who votes what. I have made no comment about voting whatsoever. Your discussion about voting is being had with Sean II, not myself.

            To buttress my claim, I cited three examples: The first was that many people have observed that leftists have an anti-Semite problem. The second was that leftist racists are condescending to my wife and I. The third was that leftist race theory has a name for why I can’t think my wife is sexy in clothing that is popular in the country in which she was born.

            You went from this to asking me about who my wife would rather hang out with, and now you’re talking to me about voting. I honestly have no idea how you got from A to B on this. Can you help me understand?

          • Theresa Klein

            Well the origin of this conversation if essentially your exchange with King Goat, in which you object to anyone suggesting that libertarianism might be associated with racism in some way. King Goat then goes on to point out some of the more egregious examples of when libertarians have (shamefully) allied with racists in the past. I think both of us are trying to point out that it’s hardly crazy that some people think libertarians might, just maybe, be sympathetic to racism. And then we get into why most minorities vote Democratic. Are they all just insane people, or born socialists, or maybe that has something to do with, I dunno, more overt racism on the right? Just maybe, you think?

          • Theresa, no.

            This conversation started with my first comment, which pointed out that Steve Horwitz is now in the awkward position of defending Buchanan against a charge that he, Horwitz, has unfairly levied against Tom Woods. The fact that King Troll Goat decided to use my comment as a springboard to grind his personal axe has nothing to do with me or any of my points.

            My point is simply this: You wanna play Spot-the-Racist, this is what you get. You call one guy a racist one day, and the next day somebody calls you a racist, and it just goes on and on until we’ve salted the Earth. This is obvious enough to me, and should be obvious to everyone except milennials like Goat who are too young to have experienced the full cycle one or two times before.

            Things I said about voting: Nothing.

            Things I said about racism: All ideologies are racist because all people are racist. I gave you specific examples of liberal racism and your response has been to ignore it, minimize it, and then marginalize my position because it doesn’t fit your narrative.

            To use the language of milennial political discourse, “This. Is. Not. Okay.”

          • King Goat

            “The fact that King Troll Goat decided to use my comment as a springboard to grind his personal axe”

            This thread is about the alleged connection of libertarianism to racism. It’s what Horowitz wrote about, what Maclean alleges, what you talked about and what I talked about. Personal axe indeed. Who’s trolling?

            “milennials like Goat who are too young”

            Lol, I have kids that are ‘milennials.’

          • Theresa Klein

            Ryan, some people ARE racists. People who say that blacks are inherently intellectually inferior, are racist. That’s a literal description of them based on the commonly understood definition of the word “racist”. This is NOT like someone saying “you’re racist because you support policies which disparately impact black people”, or “you’re racist because you are culturally appropriating hoop earrings from women of color”. This is racism by the most basic, literal definition of the word.
            If we can’t call people who literally think black people are inferior racist, then you’re doing exactly what the left likes to do with language – control the debate by denying people the terms they need to talk about the issue. There are actual literal racists out there. A lot of the “alt-right” is made up of actual, literal racists. We should be allowed to say that.

          • I feel like you’re having a phantom argument with someone who is posting messages in another dimension that appear in place of the messages I post in this dimension.

            What I said: Almost everyone is a racist. We shouldn’t make it seem like a disproportionately libertarian issue because it’s not.

            What you say: Black people overwhelmingly vote Democrat and people like the alt-right are real racists.

            I don’t know why you’re arguing with me anymore. The whole reason I started arguing with you in the first place was that you seemed to deny that liberal racism is a problem. You haven’t even responded to me on that point yet. Now you’re just getting shrill about the fact that racists exist. Yeah, well, welcome to my comment #2.

          • Octavian

            “because at least the democrats don’t think they are genetically inferior.”
            If you think Republicans generally believe minorities are genetically inferior, then there’s probably not much point in discussing this with you.

            In any case, the most obvious reason why minorities vote Democrat is because Democrats offer them special treatment. That doesn’t make them less racist; quite the opposite. In fact, if Republicans are completely non-racist, minorities would still vote Democrat because who doesn’t prefer special treatment to equality?

            I find your reasoning pretty ironic; progressives routinely claim that white people being disproportionately Republican is evidence that Republicans are racist; in fact it’s also equally plausible that it’s because Republicans aren’t racist *against white people* (while obviously not all Democrats have anti-white biases, the fact that the party still treats Al Sharpton like a VIP is pretty unsettling), while the other party is racist in favor of ethnic minorities.

            And even all that doesn’t really matter, as reality isn’t as important as perceived reality. I don’t doubt that many black people believe, like you, that Republicans are largely motivated by latent white supremacy. This probably does influence their voting habits. But does it vindicate this belief? No. Not at all. >80% of Republicans’ political motivations, in my experience, comes down to wanting lower taxes. (or at least that’s how it was a few years ago; I haven’t spent significant time around Republicans since the 2000s).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            What do you call those people who fight to the death against school choice or the relaxation of licensing and zoning laws, which disproportionately harm blacks and other minorities?

          • Theresa Klein

            I wouldn’t call them racist because I don’t buy the notion that advocating any policy that disparately impacts any group is racist against that group.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            My point is this. A person who does not perpetrate violence against minorities or urge violence against them, but regards them as intellectual and moral inferiors and thus wishes to disassociate from them is a bad person. A person who, whatever their subjective feelings, votes for and supports policies that actually harm these groups is a worse person. So, you need to invent a term that carries more opprobrium than “racist” for the second group. See

          • Theresa Klein

            Your question is, is it better to be a racist libertarian, or a non-racist socialist?
            The problem with racist libertarians is that by believing that they can systematically treat minorities unjustly they are creating more socialists by associating libertarianism with injustice. They are basically proving to non-libertarians that a “free market” would result in systematic discrimination against minorities. And that turns more people into opponents of the free market, because most people (including myself) do not wish to live in a society where minorities (or anyone really) are systematically treated unjustly. Most people, being decent at heart, want a society where everyone isn’t just legally equal, but also treated fairly and equally by others. And here we have racists running around saying “we should have a free market, because then we’ll get to be mean to black people!”

            So in a sense, racist libertarians are worse than socialists. Because socialists eventually prove themselves wrong, but racist libertarians are like recruiters for socialists.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Okay, that is insanely speculative and illogical. First, libertarians do NOT believe they can treat minorities unjustly. Where the hell did you get that idea? Bad thoughts alone are not unjust. Second, Johnson/Weld got 3.3% of the presidential vote, without any appeal to racism. So, I see no evidence that “racist libertarians” are more than a tiny fraction of the total movement, or that whatever their percentage, outsiders are going to associate libertarians with racism. Third, it is illogical to assume that outsiders would believe that free markets will become oppressive, unless you think that some great percentage of the 96.7% who DIDN’T vote LP are racists, since they have all the political power. and will determine how markets function. Finally, unless you believe that evil thoughts are worse than evil deeds, there is no (rational) sense in which non-violent racist libertarians are worse than those who support the policies outlined in my link, which btw is a WAY larger group than “socialists.” You are welcome to the last word.

          • Theresa Klein

            I’m referring to those people sometimes calling themselves libertarians, whose primary motivation is being free to discriminate against blacks. Not actual libertarians. I’m a libertarian, and I’m disgusted by racism and appalled that racists sometimes get treated like allies by other libertarians. Fortunately for us a lot of those people have reidentified as “alt-right” recently, but there’s still the lingering stain of having been associated with such people in the past.
            Now, so-called non-violent racist libertarians do NOT merely advocate non-violence, they explicitly state that they want a society in which it is considered socially acceptable to act in racist ways. In other words, they don’t just want to quietly think racist tghoughts, they want to be afree to discriminate against blacks, and not have anyone dare suggest there is anything wrong with that. That’s why they are always screeching about political correctness and “social justice warriors”. They can’t stomach other people in society calling them out as racist, they want to be free to express racist thoughts, say racist things to black people, treat black people as inferiors, and be personally be protected from any social consequences for that. They are, in essence attempting to undermine social norms prohibiting racism and establish an alternate norm in which racism is considered normal and socially acceptable.

          • Rob Gressis

            Wait … shouldn’t you distinguish between being a bad person and being a harmful person? If I am completely paralyzed but want to commit genocide with every fiber of my being, it seems like I’m a very bad person. By contrast, if all the evidence I have available to me says policy P will help people, but P ends up causing more harm than good, then I’m a harmful person. But it seems like the first person, though harmless, is much worse than the second, more harmful person.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I said the racist is a “bad person,” but merely wants to disassociate. I said that person didn’t use or advocate violence. I will now specify, “doesn’t want to kill all black people.”

          • Rob Gressis

            Well, I’m just putting pressure on the difference between being morally bad and being harmful. Let me change the example:

            Person P thinks group X is subhuman, but doesn’t do anything about it, only because he is prevented from doing so by his paralysis.

            Person Q thinks all groups are morally equal, and pursues a policy in light of this, but he bungles the policy and ends up causing slightly more bad than good.

            All things considered, P seems to me to be a worse person than Q. Do you disagree?

            I’m guessing you don’t; is your response, then, that the reason P is worse than Q that P would actually try to do something? So let’s compare these two people:

            S thinks that blacks are subhuman, but he wouldn’t ever do anything about it.
            R thinks that blacks and whites are morally equal, and he tries to help the plight of black people, but he’s kind of a bungler, and so he ends up slightly worsening their plight.

            Who’s a worse person: S or R? I think S is worse, but less harmful, and that R is better, but more harmful. What do you think?

          • Theresa Klein

            I think you’re making a mistake in thinking non-violent racists are harmless.
            The non-violent racists today aren’t just saying “I want to think racist thoughts in the privacy of my own home!” they are saying “I want to be free to discriminate against black people and join other racists in systematically discriminating against black people throughout society.” That might not be as bad as putting black people in concentration camps, but it’s certainly harmful.

          • Rob Gressis

            Well, it was just a thought-experiment. All I’m getting at is this:

            It’s conceptually possible that someone is evil but can’t cause harm, and it’s conceptually possible that someone can cause harm but isn’t evil. Given that, what makes you evil is not that you cause harm; it’s that you have certain character traits or intentions.

            I take it you’re denying that someone can be evil but not harmful? Or perhaps better: you’re denying that someone can be evil but not prone to harming others?

          • Theresa Klein

            Well, i think it’s possible to be evil but not harmful. If the position of the alt-right was “blacks are inferior, but it doesn’t matter because we think they should be treated equally anyway” they would be harmless. But that’s not their position.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I think…interesting question. With respect to S vs. R, I believe you might be omitting a relevant consideration. I believe it is clear, for the reasons adduced here:, that such things as the public school monopoly, the $15 min wage, zoning, and occupational licensing violate the rights of and/or harm the least advantaged. Thus, arguably at least, those well-meaning voters who support them are either morally obtuse or culpably ignorant of the evidence. S obviously holds morally repulsive views about blacks, possibly out of profound ignorance, but has apparently adopted a “do no harm” ethic. R is well-meaning but culpably actually does harm. Perhaps a person who culpably harms another is a worse person than one who holds more odious opinions, but doesn’t. So, depending on how you fill in all the facts of your hypothetical, it might well be true that R is both worse and more harmful.

          • Rob Gressis

            Huh. While I’m against public schools, the minimum wage, and occupational licensing (I don’t really know anything about zoning), you seem to think that the only explanation for why people disagree with you is that they are ignorant or wicked. Am I right about that? If so, then, yes, I can see why you think that R is worse and more harmful than S.

            Regardless of those issues, though, don’t you think there are *some* issues where there is a fact of the matter, but there is also reasonable disagreement? If so, just pick one of those and then run the R vs. S experiment again.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Well, in fairness, I said “arguably at least” …they are either morally obtuse or culpably ignorant, and I didn’t say “wicked,” which implies malevolence. I agree there are important public policy issues affecting blacks where there is reasonable disagreement, but an “R” taking a reasonable position on one, while supporting the school monopoly and the other policies I named that harm blacks, still makes her plausibly worse and more culpable in my book. Note, in the conclusion of my last comment, I said “depending on how you fill in all the facts of your hypothetical,” so I’m not sure what you are arguing with me about at this point.

          • Sean II

            1) There seems to be an important character missing:

            Person L says all groups are equal, but a consistent pattern of behavior suggests she actually thinks something else.


            S is guilty of racism
            L is guilty of racism and hypocrisy.

            Feels like L must be at least as bad, and arguably worse.

            2) Also your picture of Person R may be incomplete.

            Let’s say we know from other sources (general knowledge of human behavior, specific psych research) that R’s attempts to “help” were in fact motivated by a desire to make himself look good.

            Given the harm done by his policies, and especially given the fact that his selfish motive probably had much to do with the lack of care and study that made those policies harmful, shouldn’t he be thought worse too?

          • j_m_h

            Maybe we shouldn’t even call the person who simply wants to separate from others — and via personal choices and not by imposting general constraints on the others — something other than “bad”.
            I think this is largely where much discussion about racism goes wrong — the personal preferences regarding race and association should have no more interest for us than those same prefences about hair or eye color, hight or other external characteristics in who anyone finds more or less enjoyable to be associated with and at what level intimacy or setting that association reaches. The problem of racism comes in when it starts impacting broader social interactions and the social institutions (formal and informal).
            My view is tha one need to have some concep of public and private interactions here but that is a complicated and somewhat moving target as both socieities and technolgies change.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Honestly, I’m not sure. A non-violent person who “simply wishes to separate” from blacks because he regards them as subhuman, holds some really “icky” beliefs. If that person declines to employ or hire blacks as contractors, and refuses to shop at their stores, then he may also incrementally harm them financially, even if we think as libertarians he has a right to do so. Thus, there may be few racists who don’t “impact broader social institutions” in some way.

          • Octavian

            Given that progressives largely and unabashedly support institutional discrimination against whites and Asians (no mainstream conservatives don’t support institutional discrimination against blacks anymore), I don’t think they can claim to be less racist than libertarians or even conservatives. Racist in the opposite direction is not less racist.

      • Rob Gressis

        I think King Goat is right that there is a connection between libertarianism and white racism. Here it is:

        First, in the 1960s, libertarians were against the civil rights acts, on the ground that they infringed upon freedom of association. Obviously, some white people who thought that discrimination against black people was good because blacks are inferior to whites would find the libertarian conclusion, as well as some of the reasons in favor it, compelling.

        Second, at least some libertarians, myself included, find Grover Norquist’s “Leave Us Alone Coalition” attractive. One reason is that we have a lot of confidence, either that people know how to live their own lives better than the state does, or that, even if we don’t, we should be free to make our own mistakes, or that we feel that people will use the state to stamp out, or at least make harder, things we like to do, like be religious in a certain way, or not decorate cakes in a way we find antithetical to our own principles. That said, white racists will also like this idea, at least for now, because white racists want to openly assert things without having to worry about the state or social sanction doing something to them.

        Third, there has been an anti-majoritarian or, if you prefer, anti-democratic sentiment among libertarians for a while now. When white racists were more powerful, they wouldn’t have liked this, but now that they’re less powerful, they like it. So they’ll glom on to this part of libertarianism.

        Fourth, a lot of libertarians are strange people, at least by American standards. A lot of them don’t seem to care about fairness, or honor, or anything except rights or utility. So they won’t be particularly judgmental about racists, at least no more so than they are about, say, religious people.

        Fifth, white people as a group are doing pretty well in this country. So, a lot of them have wealth and property and live in fairly functional communities. Some of these white people are white racists. White people in general won’t want their stuff taken away, and white racists in particular won’t want their stuff taken away to support people they think are of a lesser biological status.

        Put these five factors together, and white racists will find libertarianism appealing.

        • Sean II

          Worth noting: it also runs the other way.

          The alt-right is full of people who self identify as former libertarians. No reason to think they’re lying. Like Sean Connery said: “Who would claim to be that, who was not?”

          Not coincidentally, there is a case to be made for blacks and libertarians being what the commies used to call “objective” political antagonists.

          Libertarianism is popular nowhere, and the only group which even comes close to taking it seriously (tune of whopping 5%) is NWE whites.

          Statistically speaking, there are no black libertarians. The number is below rounding and measurement error. An LP candidate standing for election in a black district would get more votes by mistake than on purpose. And it’s not just the overall ideology. Most libertarian policies would poll about as well even if you listed them out individually.

          On the flip side, whenever SSA populations dwell in the Anglo-sphere, they end up forming an underclass whose plight helps convince median voter whites that intervention and social engineering are urgently necessary.

          So if you consider Scott Alexander’s recent post, and the idea that one definition of “racism” might be simply “inimical to black goals and interests”, libertarianism doesn’t need to attract racists, because it already is racist.

          • Theresa Klein

            I don’t support the idea that anything which is inimical to the interests of group X implies a racism (or whatever ism applies) against group X.

            If there are no black libertarians, that is almost certainly because the libertarian movement has historically opposed civil rights laws including anti-discrimination laws, and has frequently welcomed and allied with overt racists.

          • Sean II

            “If there are no black libertarians, that is almost certainly because the libertarian movement has historically opposed civil rights laws…”

            Nonsense. Blacks had no trouble joining the Democratic Party in massive numbers despite its history of slavery and ongoing support of Jim Crow.

            Also, as I said, you get the same result for individual policies as for parties and people. Black people don’t like small government ideology in whole or in part.

            Your argument is falsified. Try something else.

          • Theresa Klein

            They switched sides when the Democratic Party switched sides. And black people are definitely sympathetic to libertarian causes on thing the the War on Drugs, and criminal justice reform, police abuse, and other civil liberties issues. There are black gun-rights advocates as well. So yes, they do support small government ideology at least “in part”.

          • Sean II

            “They switched sides when the Democratic Party switched sides”

            You’re dead wrong. Blacks were already half Dem by 1936. FDR got 70% of their vote. By 1948 they were overwhelmingly Dem, 60% by stated affiliation and even more in major elections.

            The best any Republican ever got from the black vote was Eisenhower, in 1956. Despite winning with a 58% landslide, he got 32% of the black vote. This at a time when nearly every high profile Democrat office holder was either supporting segregation or remaining silent in the face of it.

            I’m sorry to be blunt, but you have no idea what you’re talking about here.

          • Theresa Klein

            it’s really hard to get good estimates of black political views in the 1930s given that they couldn’t vote in much of the South. And irregardless of whether black people currently support libertarianism, there’s no reason we can’t persuade them or at least try to.
            So what’s you point? Black people are congenital socialists who can’t possibly understand libertarianism, so we should just write them off and embrace racists because that’s the only place we’re going to get support? You know what, there’s probably a lot fewer racists in America today than there are black people, and there’s a lot of white people who aren’t going to support anything they view to be supporting racism in any way. So by embracing racists, we’re going to wreck any chance we might have of changing black people’s minds and simultaneously alienate half of the white population, nevermind other non-black minority groups.
            Great strategy!
            Whether you like it or not, we’re not going to win elections by getting all the white people together into a tribal race-based identity group and get them to vote libertarian because its white people stuff that benefits white people. Which is pretty much the platform of the alt-right. And incidentally, if there are a lot of alt-right people who are former libertarian, GOOD. We don’t need or want them contaminating the movement. It might take a while to rebuild libertarianism as a credibly philosophy that appeals to non-racist white people, but we’ll be much better off in the long run.

          • Rob Gressis

            “Whether you like it or not, we’re not going to win elections by getting all the white people together into a tribal race-based identity group and get them to vote libertarian because its white people stuff that benefits white people.”

            Isn’t that literally how Trump won the election? Maybe I misunderstood what you meant.

            Of course, it won’t work for libertarians because our views are anathema to almost everyone, and I don’t want to try, either, but I’m just saying that this strategy, assuming I understood what you meant by it, has worked in the short term.

          • Sean II

            More importantly: the other strategy has not worked.

            We’ve run many experiments where nice-guy racial egalitarian minarchists run for office, and they don’t capture any more of the black vote than David Duke.

            Meanwhile racist comments or actions by Democrats go unpunished by black voters. Somehow Joe Biden can say “clean…with no Negro dialect” and it fails to trigger the Theresa Effect.

            Finally, even black minarchists can’t poll well among black voters.

            The whole theory is busted. Nothing supports it but the hope it might be true. Every observable piece of evidence runs the other way.

          • Theresa Klein

            Trump is NOT a libertarian. It might be that trump won because he got enough white people together to support white identity politics, but he did it by basically going left on trade and government spending and thereby winning over midwestern union guys.
            Libertarians aren’t going to get UAW guys to vote for them. The only path is through persuasion, and being assholes to non-whites isn’t going to help with that.

          • Rob Gressis

            I know Trump’s not a libertarian. I thought you were making a general point that anyone trying to appeal to whites as a group would not succeed. But I gather you were making the more specific point that libertarians in particular wouldn’t succeed with that strategy.

            I think Murray Rothbard was pushing for that strategy in 1992, right?

            Regardless, I don’t think that that’s something libertarians should try, because, like you, I think identity politics are extremely unappealing and make civil society harder. I’d use stronger adjectives if I saw it in practice.

          • Sean II

            That’s your fallback? You’re not impressed by 85 years of data showing black voters expressing a consistent preference, because you think there must have been a bunch of secret classical liberals among the suppressed voters of the Jim Crow south? Because of course it makes sense that illiterate sharecroppers in Alabama would harbor more liberal ideas than blacks living in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. It’s just that they all conveniently switched before anyone anywhere could measure them believing the things you imagine they believed? That’s not even worthy of being called bullshit.

            To make matters worse, you haven’t even thought through the implications of your own view. Here’s what libertarians of your brand have to believe:

            1) Economic intervention and social engineering of the kind embodied by the Democratic Party are on net harmful to black people.*

            2) Any day now blacks could wake up to this, and start supporting free markets, minimal states, deregulation, etc

            3) The reason why any day now never arrives is because the white jerks who believe in minarchist ideas otherwise offend blacks by sometimes blaming them for things. So black voters naturally ignore the massive material harm being done to them, focus on the psychic insult, and then go punch straight Democrat every time. Because that’s the party which never strays from reassuring them: “No problem you have is your own. Everything bad in your community is caused by someone else, and must be solved by someone else”.

            First of all, think what that theory is really saying about the mindset of black voters. It’s not very nice. To fit this scenario they’d have to be the most myopic single-issue voters ever recorded. It implies an electorate of pure superficial emotion, wholly impervious to rational self-interest even on repeated trials. An electorate that can see nothing wrong with Kamala Harris, and nothing right with Rand Paul. More irrational even than the most irrational white segments. So whatever one can say about this view, it is certainly not one which avoids insulting blacks.

            Second and more importantly, no libertarian can ever clone that appeal. The nature of minarchism precludes a message of: “Vote for me, and I’ll make sure someone else solves your problems”. We can’t say that and expect anyone to believe it. It stands in obvious contradiction to everything else we say and believe.

            * – Your mistake is here, by the way. Premise 1) is what’s false in that argument. Our version of the mixed economy and welfare state is NOT on net harmful to blacks.

          • Rob Gressis

            Sean II, do you think that libertarian economic policies are, broadly speaking, better for the country (or, if you prefer, the world) than mixed market policies? If so, then aren’t they better for blacks in the long run?

            Not that it matters, because most people can’t think that far ahead. I’m just curious.

          • Sean II

            Better for the country, yes. Better for the relative social status and absolute economic fortune of black Americans specifically, no.

            The black middle class is largely a product of intervention, with direct government employment and anti-discrimination law being key. Many people in this group would have mere fractions of their current income, if made to compete on a freed market.

            The black lower class is substantially dependent on transfer payments, and I don’t think any serious person looking at our present and future economy can say: “Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of jobs available for people at this skill level any day now”.

            Maybe, maybe, in the very long run, we’ll all be UBI farmers living off of robot largesse, but I doubt it. I’m a bit of an AI skeptic, for the rather Buchananite reason that I think progress will mysteriously halt or be halted when we get anywhere close to automating the work of people like Peter Orszag.

          • Rob Gressis

            Jeez, that’s bleak.

            How much of an impact do you think slavery, segregation, etc. had on black folks’ prospects?

          • Sean II

            So the control group there has to be: populations of the same ancestry group which did not suffer slavery. You look at how they’re doing and measure the difference.

            Except that difference cuts the wrong way. The people in the home country fare less well than those in the diaspora, while facing a similar set of problems: low human capital, low educational attaintment, low outgroup empathy, low paternal investment, low future orientation, low trust, high birth rate, high interpersonal violence, etc.

            All these problems exist on both sides of the control line. Slavery is this not a good candidate for what caused them.

            Now I suppose one could try to say colonialism was as bad or worse than chattel slavery. But that’s absurd on its face. Plus we have a control group for that too, in Asia, and colonialism clearly did no such harm there.

            As for segregation, harder to say since it never really ended. You want bleak? Look at the racial dot maps.

            One case to consider here is Brazil, arguable less segregated in terms of culture at least. No one drop theory, no Lost Cause narrative, etc.

            But guess what? SSA people in Brazil do about as well as they do anywhere else: prominent in sport and music, overrepresented in crime and punishment, underrepresented in science and the professions, etc.

            And there are other control groups to consider. Other groups which have been horrible oppressed and then escaped from it. Jews, Asians, and Armenians have done this in various well-studied cases. The usual result is: one generation removed from the insult, and they’re flying so high that jealoud majorities conspire to throw up quotas against them.

            No one has ever told a coherent story about why this didn’t happen with blacks post-1964.

          • Theresa Klein

            So, in your preferred society, I suppose one in which white people all get together and vote for libertarianism, becuase it’s a white thing, (after we miraculously convince all the socialists and non-racist white people to join the cause), what happens?

            According to you, white people should be free to discriminate against blacks, so not only will black people’s socioeconomic position decline, but it will be EVEN WORSE than what might be justified by ability, because white people will systematically assume that all black people are inferior.
            Do you think black people are just going to quietly accept being treated like third class citizens? I wouldn’t.
            Nevermind that a whole hell of a lot of whites aren’t going to like it either, because lots of us actually kind of want to you know, live in a more socially harmonious society, and not just accept a perpetual racial caste system, with all of the violence and conflict that would entail. Do you like get off on the thought of having heavily armed police squadrons patrolling black neighborhoods to keep the darkies from demanding to be treated like (gasp) equals? Just wondering.

          • Sean II

            This is non-responsive, and I’m gonna non-respond to it.

          • Theresa Klein

            I’m asking you to think about what the sort of policies you advocate would actually look like in practice.

          • Sean II

            I haven’t advocated any policy in this discussion.

          • I like your comment, but I’ll disagree with you here:

            Plus we have a control group for that too, in Asia, and colonialism clearly did no such harm there.

            You’re definitely underestimating the impact colonialism had on Asia, especially South Asia. We have the historical record of genocides to prove it.

          • Sean II

            I haven’t said anything here about the acute nastiness of colonialism. The fact that it can be murderous and brutal is absolutely not in dispute. Why, the wars alone give enough reason to shudder.

            I’m just noting that past experience of colonialism isn’t a good explanation for current poverty, because the nations which suffered from colonialism fare so differently in modern economic competition.

            Some are among the richest nations on earth.
            Some are emerging economies (of the kind that are actually emerging).
            Some are among the poorest nations on earth.

            And things don’t match up as to degree. Some places which were colonized only briefly and lightly are among the worst on earth. Others which were colonized long and heavily are among the success stories.

            The independent variable (colonization) fails to explain the dependent (present day economic outcomes). That’s all I’m saying.

          • Ah, gotcha. I get it now.

          • Theresa Klein

            Sean, I think the situation is far more complex than you assert. I think a free market would lift all boats, but I also support powerful social norms against racism. I support having a social movement that seeks to genuinely include and integrate black people, and all other minorites into one society. I abhor and detest identity politics. I’m perfectly fine with universities engaging in affirmatic action, and I’m perfectly fine with a *certain amount* of political correctness as essentially anti-racist norm enforcement. People *should* get subjected to abuse if they go around making racist jokes.
            Now, absent such social norms you might be right that a free market would NOT be helpful to black people, but that’s because many white, left to themselves would quickly revert to sytematic discrimination. That’s why a free market demands anti-racist norms. ANd no, black aren’t going to wake up and start supporting free markets, unless they think they are going to get a fair shake in that market. Again, reinforcing my point that we absolutely have to work on creating a society where blacks ARE treated fairly.

            Also, I think you are neglecting the fact that black voters are hyper-aware of their minority status and as such they strongly support block voting as a way to enhance their electoral power. It’s a form of identity politics, but it’s also a product of black people’s history – they have been victimized and treated as outsiders for so long, its pretty understandable why they would think that black people need to vote as a block to enhance black people’s welfare. And contiinuing to treat them as if they were the enemy isn’t going to help with that either. The only way that’s going to change is if they feel like they don’t need to circle the wagons and defend black people’s interests, because white people aren’t out to get them anymore. That’s going to take a long, long time.

          • Sean II

            I’m sorry, but that’s even weaker than the sauce you served before.

            From the early 1970s to about five minutes ago, the exact thing you recommend was tried. Racism was made taboo, and punishments to discourage it were steadily escalated.

            At the peak of the wave, racists were regarded as unfit for polite society on both left and right. So much so that it became necessary to massively expand the definition, and indeed to invent causes of action, because too few were being produced organically.

            It didn’t work. None of the promised changes materialized. All the old gaps remain intact.

            Both the recent escalation of and the emerging backlash against political correctness are products of that failure.

            The left has responded by doubling down, and they now change the definition of bigotry almost daily, punishing it with hysterical outbursts.

            (Some small part of) the right has responded by threatening to stop playing along with the charade.

            Many people in the middle are simply exhausted with the endless drama.

            We can’t do what you’re proposing, because we already did it, and everyone knows how the story ends.

            From this point we can only roll back PC, or we can start suppressing speech in earnest, with state coercion, hate codes, human right tribunals, etc. Those are the options.

          • Theresa Klein

            At the peak of the wave, racists were regarded as unfit for polite society on both left and right. So much so that it became necessary to massively expand the definition, and indeed to invent causes of action, because too few were being produced organically.

            That’s not what happened. The left, as always tried to hitch a wagon to other social causes. Basically going “hey, as long as we’re developing some new social norms, let’s try to smuggle some anti-market social norms in” .
            Nobody was attempting to “expand” the definition of racism because there was still racism. This was totally something that the left came up with to pursue an agenda that is not racism related.

            And here you are saying “hey, we waited a whole generation and blacks still aren’t equal to whites!” Well, why did you think the gaps would be corrected in a single generation? And moreover, who cares? Because blacks still aren’t equal to whites in economic welfare, we should give up on treating them like equals? How does that follow?

            EVEN if gaps in economic success existed FOREVER, we should still have norms treating people as equals because that’s the only way individuals can get a fair chance. Because of course, as you yourself will admit, there is a distribution. Not every white person is smarter than every black person. In a society where everyone was treated perfectly equally, some people would succeed and some would fail, on the basis of individual merit, because individual merit is not equally distributed, and that’s FINE. But a precondition for success and failure being determined by merit, and not belonging to the right racial group, is that people actually judge one-another by individual merit and not by racial group.
            We may end up with unequal distributions, but I certainly don’t want that inequality to be caused by racial prejudice and discrimination. I want it to be solely attributable to merit. That isn’t going to happen if we just throw up our hands and say “okay everyone, feel free to be as racist as you want!”

          • Sean II

            1) “Nobody was attempting to “expand” the definition of racism because there was still racism.”

            False. If you asked the people in the original civil rights movement to write down what racism was in 1964, and then came back to measure that thing in 2004, it was gone. The number of 1964-definition racists left in America was by then a rounding error.

            The predicted thing happened, without producing the promised result.

            2) “Well, why did you think the gaps would be corrected in a single generation?”

            Because they usually are. Take a Jew out of the shtetl, or a Han out of the tin mine, or an Issei away from the plantation, or an Armenian out of the whatever, and the result is: immediate progress, with outright bourgeois success in one generation.

            Hell, some of those groups managed not just to close the gap, but to open a new one above their former betters.

            3) This might be the 10th time I’ve done this with you alone, but here goes:

            b) The fact that some people can’t understand overlapping distributions is not a good reason to pretend they don’t exist. You’re very concerned with how the truth might be misused, but you never pose the same challenge to falsehood. You never ask what harms might come from pretending the truth does not exist. Yet those harms are all around us now.

            Also, I’m pretty sure the stats won’t go away even if we ignore them with all our might.

            b) “Treat people as individuals” is not a way out of this. It’s a fantasy, as long as scarcity is a fact. Individual assessment is cost-prohibitive. People can’t afford it. That’s why they use statistical discrimination.

            Classic example: a black cab driver approaches a group of ride seekers. Pulling up he’ll have about 15 seconds to match with a fare. He will know only what he can see: black guy, old guy, fat guy, short guy, rich girl. Assuming his personal min-max utility is “don’t get robbed” vs “earn a nice tip”, he will NOT choose the black male, for that double category is the single best predictor of violence in our society.

            What’s your idea, that this cab driver should stop and carefully interview all five people until he knows them as individuals? How? In what universe? And wouldn’t that take the number of satisfied passengers from 1/5 to 0/5?

            And so it goes for every other kind of transaction. Ever conducted a job interview? People don’t even get in until they’ve cleared some categories: college, experience, criminal background, etc. No individual assessment there, just cold-hearted grouping.

            “Not everyone who finishes college is smart, and not everyone who’s smart finishes college” – that’s every bit the same argument you used above, but for some reason you’re not willing to suppress knowledge of this particular average for fear that fools might misuse it.

            c) Of course I know why from previous conversations. Confronted with the same challenge in the past, you said: the problem is not using categories to discriminate, it’s using innate categories.

            Okay, first: that’s not even close to the same argument as “judge people individually”. So at a minimum you should stop opening with that.

            Second, it won’t wash. People end up in these other categories because of innate characteristics. “Finished college” has as a necessary condition “born with above average intelligence”. “Good work record” has as a necessary condition “born with normal impulse control”. And so on.

            So what you’re really saying is: don’t judge people by innate characteristics until those have been laundered by some downstream marker of proxy!

            Not very inspiring, plus your preferred measures end up excluding the same people who would have lost out if you’d used the innate characteristics themselves.

            d) Again I’ve said this to you before.: from here you could pivot to make a good argument along the following lines: “Okay, statistical discrimination is inevitable and necessary. Okay, innate characteristics can’t really be ruled out. Okay, judging people as individuals isn’t possible. BUT…given their proven history of horrors, we should enact a keyhole ban on certain categories of statistical discrimination, like race, sex, religion, orientation, etc.”

            That’s a reasonable, responsible argument. For god sake’s, just say that, and have done with the “judge as individuals” nonsense.

          • Lacunaria

            But they are laundered through voluntary choices regarding criteria more apt to each situation than race itself. Race is the proxy. Statistically, the difference may seem minor, but it matters a great deal to the individuals who defy expectations or who can benefit or lose from that.

            This doesn’t mean that it is wrong to discriminate by group as a matter of real cost-benefit, but it does mean that judging people as individuals is the ideal (as I think you’d agree).

            And in a free market where “real cost-benefit” defines success, a natural balance is found because group discrimination creates opportunities to lower the cost of identifying apt matches which defy stereotypes.

            I mention this primarily because Theresa doesn’t quite reflect back what you actually say, but rather what she hears you saying, so I thought it might help to sand down a rough edge.

          • Sean II

            “Statistically, the difference may seem minor, but it matters a great deal to the individuals who defy expectations or who can benefit or lose from that.”

            Right, but of course everything we know about stereotype accuracy suggests people already do this without needing to be threatened by scold-enforced taboos of the kind Theresa has in mind.

            Simple example: you’re playing 10-20 hold-em at a table with one open seat. After a while you see a casino usher guiding a middle-aged white female in your direction.

            First thought: “Tourist.”

            She gets a little closer, and you notice she’s carrying one of those souvenir sipper cups with the nasty-ass reusable straws.

            2nd thought: “Lady, don’t MAKE me take your money.”

            Then she sits down and removes her shawl to reveal a t-shirt reading “No NP-Hard Feelings”.

            3rd thought: “Oh shit. Maybe now I break for dinner.”

            But you see it’s stereotypes all the way down. You used broad ones (age-race-sex) when you had nothing else to go on, you refined that a bit when you got a little more information, and then you refined a lot when you got a whole new category (computer scientist) to play with.

            Now in this case the first two impressions turned out to be wrong, but so what? Go back to T1 and T2 and ask a simple question: if I repeat this experiment 100 times, how often would I be right in my early impression?

            A lot. You’d be right a lot. Often enough to keep all your money and some of theirs.

          • D Hampton


            don’t judge people by innate traits until those have been laundered by some downstream marker or proxy!

            With “innate traits” do you mean purely inherited biological traits, or do you think that deep-seated cultural differences between ethnic groups could be relevant?

            I say: “The world looks like this…”

            You say: “Oh, so what you want…”

            Out of interest, do you have any normative opinions on this matter?

          • Sean II

            1) “With “innate traits” do you mean purely inherited biological traits, or do you think that deep-seated cultural differences between ethnic groups could be relevant?”

            I don’t think culture is ever really deep-seated. Much more likely: the traits are deep seated, and they broadly determine the culture, variation being mostly in the details.

            Example: the middle east is probably not just some area that got super unlucky by having Islam come to visit. You probably couldn’t hop a time machine back to the 7th century, bring Pennsylvanian Quakerism to the Arabian peninsula, and expect it take root.

            The people living there wouldn’t have liked those ideas. They would have discarded them, and found something they did like, some more lively creed that let them do all their favorite things, like waging clan war, keeping slaves, taking plural wives from among nieces and cousins, maybe even swearing oaths, etc.

            A lot of people treat culture like some sort of magic primary. They use it to explain things, but never ask where it came from.
            2) Out of interest, do you have any normative opinions on this matter?

            I’ll answer that, but first a disclaimer: over the last few years I have grown very skeptical of normative opinion making. What triggered this for me was the painful experience of being wrong, on a whole bunch of issues. And of these many errors it turns out most were hiding under normative beliefs.

            Examples: I like choice, so despite being well aware of education as signaling, I thought school choice must be good policy.

            Let me state my mistake more cruelly: I simultaneously believed schools don’t do anything, AND that giving parents the power to choose schools would change everything.

            There’s a whole series like that, but you get the idea. The common strain being: I blinded me with normative non-science!

            And of course it’s not just my mistakes I was learning from. Recent history is replete with cases where facts got in the way of normative undertakings, and what followed was not re-assessment, but mass human sacrifice.

            So, with the greatest reluctance, and with caveats growing upon caveats, I will confess…

            Yes, it seems like a world without statistical discrimination would be morally preferable to what we have now. I see the appeal of “just treat everyone as an individual”, and I share the fantasy.

            But I embrace this only with the same part of my mind which dreams of frivolous things like: a world without jealousy, or a life freed from the need for sleep, cheap talk daydreams like that.

          • Lacunaria

            Have you looked at modern definitions of racism, including sociological ones? I suggest you look them up and quote them.

            They typically focus upon racial disparities and “power imbalance” as interpreted selectively by race. Rational bases are ignored as just more subterfuge, so anything which correlates with race is also racist.

            Implicitly, they define justice by proportionate ratios across all classifications, as matches the nation or state or town or school, whichever suits their needs.

            While modern definitions subsume original ones, that is not their primary focus anymore because original examples are so rare and insignificant.

          • Octavian

            “I abhor and detest identity politics.”
            Everything you just said suggests otherwise. Anti-white/Asian racism (affirmative action) is identity politics par excellence. I’m guessing you’re also thoroughly indignant about Trumpian “white identity politics” (it’s worth noting that Trump relied on race far less than his predecessor did to generate cohesion).

          • ABCD

            Theresa, I think you should read “Against Murderism”, by Scott Alexander. He makes an allusion to “racism” as “murderism”, and paints it as mostly a simplistic framework which obfuscate the real motives that drives people in their social interactions. The overwhelming majority of mafia bosses do not murder as an end in itself, but as a means to something else. Most murderers are not “murderists”. Likewise, most people who engage in “racism” have more rational and transparent motives to “act racist” than simple “racism”. There are a lot of intuitively appealing examples in Alexander’s post:

          • Rob Gressis

            Against Murderism is the piece on race that I’ve most agreed with.

          • King Goat

            “Blacks were already half Dem by 1936”

            And Democrats were already ‘switching sides’ at that point. Sure, Strom Thurmond was a Democrat then, but so was Henry Wallace.

          • Octavian

            But in 1936, anti-black racism was still more a Democratic than Republican thing.

            What this suggests is that perceived economic interests trump racial politics. This, I think, is why blacks remain overwhelmingly on the left. Theresa Klein seems to imagine that a perfectly empathetic Libertarian (hell, why not Republican) politician without a racist bone in his body would do much better among blacks. In truth, the comparison between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump’s performance among minorities suggests that it doesn’t really matter how ‘nice’ you are to a group of people. The nicest, most moderate Republican still wouldn’t get 15% of the black vote running against a white agrarian populist Democrat who supported the typical Dem economic platform, imo.

            Black people will only begin to trickle away from the Democrats *after* they begin to integrate culturally and economically, as happened with the Italians and Irish (also use to be overwhelmingly Democrats). But that’s not going to happen any time soon, especially as long as the conventional wisdom is that blacks are being held back primarily by racism, rather than dysfunction in their own communities, higher rates of criminality, and bad housing and education policy.

          • King Goat

            “But in 1936, anti-black racism was still more a Democratic than Republican thing.”

            The mistake you’re making is that parties weren’t as ‘national’ as they are now. Anti-black racism was common for many Southern Democrats, but at the same time the most meaningful, radical anti-racism was coming from many Northern Democrats (again, think Eleanor Roosevelt or Henry Wallace). The switch to Democrats came at the Presidential level first, for example.

          • Octavian

            IOW, because people (including black people) tend to put their own interests ahead of other people’s rights.

            In the end, the unavoidable problem is: if you have groups A and B, and group A wants policies that are pro-A, and you want policies that are agnostic to what group one belongs to, when group A is in power, of course group B supremacists are going to agree with you and maybe even join your party.

            At this point, we need to dispense with the myth that the left is the side of equality. Affirmative action is not equality. Considering that, of course white supremacists are going to tend to agree with libertarian criticism of statist aff. action, and walk hand in hand with them. We absolutely should not disavow such opposition on that basis. To employ an exteme analogy, a Tutsi who hates Hutus can be expected to support and join opponents of the Rwandan genocide. Does that imply opponents of the Rwandan genocide are racist against Hutus?

          • Rob Gressis

            What are NWE whites?

          • Sean II

            North-West Europeans. For evil people like me who believe in studying humans with the methods we use for everything else, the distinction is considered very important.

            What we think of as the West is really the product of two specific people: North-West Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews.

            Southern Europeans with lots of non-Euro admixture produce very different cultures. Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece all show lower trust and lower time preference, with clear regional differences that neatly track population admixture.

            It’s so evil. Not the thing itself, of course. Just the mentioning of it.

          • Jeff R.

            The West owes a lot to Ancient Greece and Rome and more recently to medieval Italy. Don’t write off Southern Europe completely.

          • Sean II

            Different populations, of course. Greece and the Southern parts of Italy and Spain were transformed by introgression starting 1,200 years ago.

            Future historians will call it the First Islamic Expansion, to distinguish it from the one happening now.

            As always, there are a dozen ways to see this and one big reason to play blind. Spain, Italy, and Greece all have visible sub-groups, where some people look and act North Euro, while others look and act kinda halfway house between Europe and MENA. Almost as though…

          • Jeff R.

            I understand that; I just wanted to dispute your “product of two peoples” line as something of an oversimplification. “Western Civilization” is big, and NWE really did not emerge as the key players until probably 18th century or so.

          • Sean II

            Well that’s fair…but remember: Western Civilization itself didn’t really stop sucking until about the 18th Century.

            What’s the usual estimate? World GDP per capita hardly moved between 10,000 BC and 1750. There are things to admire before that, like the Renaissance, but we mustn’t forget: such cultural triumphs look amazing when lined up in a history book, but most of the people alive in those ages derived zero benefit from them, because they were far too busy hoeing barley and dying in childbirth. The advent of a society livable for most people came later.

            I mean, hey…there’s a reason why I have a Barry Lyndon avatar up in here. I knew this would come up eventually.

          • Jeff R.

            I saw that movie in college and I remember virtually nothing about it except that it was long. Over long, I thought. I might have to give it another chance, though, now that I’m older and somewhat less impulsive.

          • Sean II

            Well you just gotta embrace the longueur. Think of it as accurately capturing the absence of dynamism in early modern class systems.

            Or you could try being grateful it isn’t longer. Because if Netflix Original made it into a series today, the shit would be 10 hours.

          • ABCD

            The historically most dynamic part of Europe, even today, is not the Northeast, but “The Blue Banana” from Tuscany through the Rhine (Lothair’s vengeance), across the channel, and ending in the Southern half of Great Britain:

          • Sean II

            Never seen that before. Very interesting.

            I would have called it the Bluemmerang.

          • Jeff R.

            It could keep on goin’ into Ireland, but it doesn’t.

          • Sean II

            Cold-blooded diss on Cardiff too.

          • King Goat

            Full circle!

          • j_m_h

            And that definition would then imply inherant racist nature of the blacks (and perhaps white, hispanics, asians or whatnot) who support that definition for the purpose of “black goals and interests”
            Lets face it — everyone is racist and every organized gourp is as well if we take that definition, unless of course rasism can only be able black. (or would it be only about black in the USA?)

          • Sean II

            True. There is no cash left on the table of explanation.

  • HermanStone

    Like many here, I often claim to have been inspired by Milton Friedman, Lysander Spooner, and Frederic Bastiat. But also like you all, I secretly came to libertarianism through a careful reading of Pinochet, Jefferson Davis, and The John Birch Society. What’s most upsetting to me about MacLean’s work is that she seems to have discovered our esoteric secrets. The only question is: Who told her? Given the volume and intensity of his denunciations, I’m guessing Jason Brennan. Classic misdirection.

  • stevenjohnson2

    “We believe every individual should be free to associate with persons of his own choosing. We therefore disapprove of both involuntary (or coercive) segregation and involuntary integration. At the same time, we are deeply concerned over the serious constitutional questions raised by recent policies of the federal judicial and executive branches. Having given our ethical views, we must insist again they have nothing to do, one way or the other, with the economic questions on which we are about to comment.”

    Thus, Nutter and Buchanan. Insist they may, but no one is required to take their word for it. The chances these gentlemen honestly disapproved of segregation are so small as to be negligible. The economic costs of segregation were not a topic for public choice, were they? Given that mixed educational systems, public, private, parochial, segregated and, for that matter, home education, had been the norm for a very long time, it is sensible to be skeptical over the need to discover that mixed systems can work just fine.

    I think a lot of what’s going on here is that someone making a case that even a Nobel certified academic could be ultimately be paid for providing motivated reasoning that benefits the donors, hits altogether too close to home.

    • urstoff

      Or people are just tired of the unfalsifiable (and unprovable) charges of motivated reasoning. Attack the argument. Anything else is wasting time.

      • stevenjohnson2

        You’re right, these BHL posts are nothing but a waste of time.

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  • Theresa Klein

    In addition, her knowledge of Buchanan’s system of thought comes mostly from his autobiography Better than Plowing, The Calculus of Consent, and two secondary sources that are highly critical and have their own problems of good faith interpretation.

    So, basically she wrote a book about James Buchanan, and public choice theory, without having actually read very much of his scholarly work.
    This would be like writing a book about Marx and Marx’s philosophy, and the communist movement in general, having never read Das Capital or The Communist Manifesto, but only by reading Marx’s autobiography and the works of Ayn Rand.

  • Octavian

    There’s an entire industry out there in the publishing of superficially ‘intellectual’ books designed to reaffirm the existing prejudices of not-quite-academics who want to feel smart and morally superior. This is just the latest product. It seems to be getting good reviews in all the places one would expect.

    There’s no hope of bringing this book’s flaws into the mainstream unfortunately. I have to hand it to Maclean, she was smart to pick libertarians and Buchanan. If she’d picked Buckley or some conservative icon she might have faced some serious blowback, but all the libertarians in the country screaming about this at the same time amounts to a fart in the wind.

    • Sean II

      Plus you’ll never get all the libertarians screaming.

      Any minute now we should hear a virtue-signaling denunciation of Buchanan coming from inside the house.

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