Social Justice, Current Events

Can you be a libertarian racist or anti-Semite?


OK, now we’ve got that out of the way, here’s why:

As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect, and that their actions should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause. Now, what counts as “just cause” is open for debate. But it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else. (Nor, incidentally, would the mere fact that someone is a different sex justify her differential treatment.) If you believe that it does then you’re treating persons primarily as tokens of types of people, and not primarily as individuals. And that’s just not an individualist–or libertarian–view.

This doesn’t mean that you or your business are required to deal with types of people you don’t like. You can refuse service to anyone, on any grounds. But, if you do it solely on the grounds that they’re (e.g.) a Jew, or Irish, or a woman, then you’re not committed to treating people as individuals. And it’s that commitment–and not the view that you should not aggress against others–that is the fundamental basis of libertarianism. This is because the commitment not to aggress stems from the recognition that other persons are individuals with their own projects that you should not interfere with without just cause. The respect for individuals comes first; the duty not to aggress comes second. This means that the argument that a desire to refuse service to persons on the basis of their ancestry (or sex) is compatible with being a libertarian as such a refusal is simply the refusal to confer a benefit and not the infliction of a harm cuts no ice. It’s correct that a refusal to truck, barter, or trade is the refusal to confer a benefit and not the initiation of aggression. But if this refusal stems from treating one’s prospective trading partner as a token of a type of people rather than as an individual in her own right then it will be incompatible with libertarianism. Again, this doesn’t mean that it would be disallowed in a libertarian society. But the person so refusing would not herself be a libertarian–no matter how much she might agree with free markets, the non-aggression principle,  or other doctrines associated with libertarianism.

So, no, you can’t be a racist or an anti-Semite and a libertarian. But libertarianism can (reluctantly) allow you to practice your racist or anti-Semitic views, provided that these are limited to withholding benefits and not inflicting harm.



Published on:
Author: James Taylor
  • Sergio Méndez

    Oh boy, I can´t wait to read the comments….”Why doesn’t the author focus on ANTIFA or Black Lives Matter?” “Anti racist? Against anti semitism? Communist! how dare you!”

    • It bears noting: One day later, none of these predictions came true.

      • James Taylor

        Perhaps you’re not reading the same comments as I am? 😉

        • Maybe instead of just being snarky, you could try engaging those of us who are trying to discuss this with you in good faith. This one comment of yours weakens your position on this issue more than you realize.

          • James Taylor

            I wasn’t beings “snarky” at all. Very few of the comments have attempted to address the argument I made. Most of them have characterized my position as “libertarianism precludes any sort of discrimination at all,” and then have claimed that this is clearly false. Yes, it is. But it’s not my view. Others have claimed that libertarianism is justified solely on the basis of non-aggression or coercion, and not respect for persons. But it’s hard to see why you’d care about aggression or coercion if you didn’t first have a concern for persons–a point made in the original post, but apparently ignored by the majority of the commentators. And if you think that my view that the comments seem to represent the prejudices of the commentators rather than a response to he post weakens the post, then you really need to reassess how arguments work.

          • Sean II

            You seem to be misunderstood often, by a lot of people, all of whom coincidentally misread you the same way, including both supporters and opponents.

            Clearly, the wise man move here is just to keep concluding it’s them.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN


          • King Goat

            Where ‘lots of people’ are people with very big dogs on the opposite side in the fight over what libertarianism is supposed to be. So I wouldn’t worry much James.

          • Ah, James, I’ve just caught you in a contradiction. Not one comment earlier, you suggested that the commentariat was calling you a communist and asking what about BLM, what about Antifa. That was the thing you expressed agreement with, okay?

            Then I told you not to be snarky, and your story changed. Now your real problem with the commentariat is that they said something entirely different, ie that they made a definition-stasis claim about what libertarianism is and didn’t defend that claim with an argument.

            Set aside for the moment that even this second claim of yours isn’t true. I notice two things about this specific claim:

            First, numerous commentators have already levied the same claim against you, and you have not responded to it. Oops. That would make your comment here a fancy version of “I know you are, but what am I?”

            Second, by talking about “most commenters” and making that the focal point of your argument, you have — guess what — treated your own commentariat as a group rather than individuals!

            I won’t say you’re wrong, but what I will say is that you have not been particularly convincing here, for the reasons stated above. But don’t worry! I’m sure it’s just a reading comprehension problem on my part, and everyone else’s part. You, of course, put forth the most clear and convincing presentation of your position imaginable, and if anyone doesn’t get it, they just didn’t read it carefully enough.

          • King Goat

            “by talking about “most commenters” and making that the focal point of your argument, you have — guess what — treated your own commentariat as a group rather than individuals!”

            This is facile. First, it’s like saying to a person who refuses to accept stereotypes about racial groups “but I notice that since you reflexively push outward on doors that you accept generalizations and stereotypes about doors, so busted in a contradiction dude!” Second, saying you’re not going to engage in group-wide generalizations doesn’t mean you can’t count.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            H/T to you for being civil and polite even under provocation, both here and on other threads. I admire your temperament even if I don’t share it. 🙂

          • Sergio Méndez

            Pure racists and racist apologists…they are provocated….poor little things, why they can´t be polite to them!

          • J Peterson II

            Sergio, on cue, asserting that explaining what libertarianism isn’t (descriptive) means the people are racist.

            Only took 2 days, you’re getting slow.

          • sandy

            Sergio, on cue, asserting that explaining what libertarianism isn’t (descriptive) means the people are racist.

            Sergio Méndez’s definition of racism appears to be somewhat schizophrenic.

            On the one hand, he defends James Taylor’s argument by adamantly insisting that the word racist specifically describes people who are “denying other people equal rights“.

            Yet in the very same comment section, he dishes out accusations of racism left and right, towards other commenters who have in no way denied anyone equal rights, but merely expressed disagreement with Mr. Méndez’es opinions on such matters as the definition of libertarianism.

          • Sergio Méndez


            If you hold racists views, you deny other people rights (regardless if you do it as part of your own theoretical philosophical background). On the other side, I don´t give a damn if you believe me or not regarding me accusing other people of being racist. I think they are because I don´t buy for a second their disagreement on this matter is motivated by honesty. I´ve seen people like Sean, Mark Friedman and Ryan P Long, to mention some of the commenters in this tread, defend racist ideas concerning hispanics or blacks, using all sort of pseudo philosophical justifications (stuff like collectivist assumptions on people´s culture to deny peoples right ot migrate, misguided use of statistics -about stuff like IQ to pretend some “races” are superior to others- and try to confuse the matter with the right people have to discriminate -as if all forms of discrimination were legitimate or reasonable-). And it doesn’t surprise me that they will jump to attack somebody saying that libertarianism should get away from such hateful beliefs when they obfuscate the conversation.

          • I asked you before, I’ll ask you again:

            Please point to any bigoted statement I have ever made. Then and only then can you continue to call me a racist.

            In the meantime, have a look at what I write about race on my own blog:


            There are 65 additional entries under “racism.” Feel free to take it all in and get back to me about the extent to which I am a racist (you fucking asshole).

          • J Peterson II

            //But it’s hard to see why you’d care about aggression or coercion if you didn’t first have a concern for persons//

            That’s fine and most of us do generally speaking. But, for example, I don’t have much respect for libertarians who aren’t individualists. So while I happily respect people by default, they can lose that respect without trying too hard, and I’m pretty sure I’m still a libertarian. At any rate there are plenty of reasons to be a libertarian apart from that.

            Unless I also misunderstood you, I’m pretty sure that addressed your point.

    • J Peterson II

      After reading the comments it is funny how much you have conflated relation with identity (Sanchez explains this in his takedown of Johnson) and continue to bring up the “individualism” argument despite it being addressed.

      So, I will do it again but from the article itself.

      //But, if you do it solely on the grounds that they’re (e.g.) a Jew, or Irish, or a woman, then you’re not committed to treating people as individuals.//

      This is true, so I can (and do) object on individualist grounds, but not on libertarian grounds.

      //This is because the commitment not to aggress stems from the recognition that other persons are individuals with their own projects that you should not interfere with without just cause.//

      That may be one way to get there but the claim here is “the only reason to be a libertarian is because you’re an individualist” and that’s false. Libertarianism is just a political philosophy with nothing to say about what people’s opinions of each other should be. Individualism (as opposed to collectivism) has something to say about how to (or at least how not to) form opinions about people.

      • J Peterson II

        You have a habit of insulting my arguments vs addressing them. Try to do less of the former this time.

  • Re: “As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect, and that their actions should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause.”

    = No. It’s based on the concept of self-ownership (axiomatic given the a priori of argumentation) whereby the first appropriation and non aggression principles follow.

    All individual humans are worthy of respect? That’s actually not individualistic at all… because given looking at specific individuals – there are most certainly many _not_ worthy of respect given their actions, but also applies when they haven’t aggressed against anyone.

    Previously I came across an exchange between Mr. Halliday, Walter Block and an editors note by Murray Rothbard. The Libertarian Forum 1973/06. I agree with Blocks rebuttal, and Murray’s note:

    “How about Professor Block’s second premise, that evil is only the initiation of violence? Here I think it is possible to partially reconcile the Block and Halliday positions. It is a question of what
    context we are dealing with. I would agree with Block that within the context of libertarian theory, evil must be confined to the initiation of violence.

    On the other hand, when we proceed from libertarianism to the question of wider social and personal ethics, then I would agree with Halliday that there are many other actions which should be considered as evil: lying, for example or deliberately failing to fulfill one’s best potential. But these are not matters about which liberty – the problem of the proper scope of violence – has anything to say.

    In short, qua libertarian there is nothing wrong or evil about breaking dates, being gratuitously nasty to one’s associates, or generally behaving like a cad: here not only do I join Professor Block, but I would expect Mr. Halliday and all other libertarians to do the same. On the other hand, qua general ethicist, I would join Mr. Halliday in denouncing such behavior, while Professor Block would not.”

    Recently via personal correspondence; “Block: I’m shocked that I ever wrote it. I
    don’t think I meant it. I agree, fully, with Murray.”

    Your incredibly poor understanding of libertarianism muddies the waters. It obfuscates and does not elucidate. I don’t need to respect individuals who constantly break promises, act like crumbs etc. Further:

    “People do not cooperate under the division of labor because they love or should love one another. They cooperate because this best serves their own interests. Neither love nor charity nor any other sympathetic sentiments but rightly understood selfishness is what originally impelled man to adjust himself to the requirements of society, to respect the rights and freedoms of his fellow men and to substitute peaceful collaboration for enmity and conflict.”
    — Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, The Scholar’s Edition, 2008), p. 168.

    Just to be clear before any WAF dismissals:

    “Here again is a profound lesson for us today. Too many libertarians have absorbed the negative and elitist conservative worldview to the effect that our enemy today is the poor, who are robbing the rich; the blacks, who are robbing the whites; or the masses, who are robbing heroes and businessmen.

    In fact, it is the state that is robbing all classes, rich and poor, black and white, worker and businessman alike; it is the state that is ripping us all off; it is the state that is the common enemy of mankind.

    And who is the state? It is any group who manages to seize control of the state’s coercive machinery of theft and privilege. Of course these ruling groups have differed in composition through history, from kings and nobles to privileged merchants to Communist parties to the Trilateral Commission. But whoever they are, they can only be a small minority of the population, ruling and robbing the rest of us for their power and wealth. And since they are a small minority, the state rulers can only be kept in power by deluding us about the wisdom or necessity of their rule.

    Hence, it is our major task to oppose and desanctify their entrenched rule, in the same spirit that the first libertarian revolutionaries opposed and desanctified their rulers two hundred years ago. We must strip the mystical veil of sanctity from our rulers just as Tom Paine stripped the sanctity from King George III. And in this task we libertarians are not the spokesmen for any ethnic or economic class; we are the spokesmen for all classes, for all of the public; we strive to see all of these groups united, hand-in-hand, in opposition to the plundering and privileged minority that constitutes the rulers of the state.”
    — Murray Rothbard

    • Sergio Méndez

      And here we go…

      • Do you have something more than a neophytic grunt to offer?

        • Sergio Méndez

          No, your bullshit does not deserve any more than that.

          • Yeah, didn’t think so. Standard fare and to be expected. Poison the well, throw out an ad hominem, and refuse to engage in any kind of considered thought. How unsurprising:

            One must have the courage to go where the mind leads, no matter how startling the conclusion, how shattering, how much it may hurt oneself or a particular class, no matter how unfashionable or how obnoxious it may at first seem. This may require the courage to stand against the whole world. Great is the man who has that courage, for he indeed has achieved will-power.
            — Henry Hazlitt, The Way to Will Power (1922)

            If you’re interested “in the essence of what libertarianism is we find a legal position rather than an ethical position (sure, the legal position can and is combined with various ethical positions, but this does not make the two identical in content). Understanding what rights are (legal) is different than deciding how, whether and in what ways to actually respect them or not in action (ethical).

            Now when I look back at Rothbard, I am seeing that he effectively was already doing this (some passages above and elsewhere, even in Power and Market), but was still bogged down in the use of the word “ethics” in the effort to distinguish what he was talking about from economic theory (and this usage continues in Hoppe, with the word “ethics” subbing in for what I think is actually “property theory.”).

            Yet in looking at what they are actually presenting rather than some labels, it is much much more about legal content (definition of property rights), rather than whether or not one ought to violate or respect such rights (knowing what they are being a separate question) on ethical grounds.“
            — Konrad Graf

            Further; “Deductive legal theory, when properly applied in a given context, objectively and descriptively defines the parameters of what justice is in relation to questions of property rights, contracts, torts, and other legal matters. This yields a deeper-than-expected foundation for the traditional libertarian insistence on not mixing law with morality and the corollary opposition to “legislating morality.” Legal theory is a discrete field that, like Mises’s conception of economic theory, can provide descriptive, categorical input for use in “ought” considerations, even as legal theory and ethics remain distinct in foundations, scope, and method.”

            TL;DR—stop conflating the two.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Oh God, you don´t even know what an ad hominem is

          • JdL

            This is the reply of someone who has nothing of substance to offer.

      • Chris Fisher
    • MamaLiberty

      Some good points here, Conza. I think part of the problem we have with the definitions of “libertarian” is a refusal by some to understand that aggression covers far more than outright violence. Aggression can be almost anything that interferes with self ownership, self determination – right up to the point where self defense is necessary and proper. And that is never going to be cut and dried! A truly free society would have a large number of trusted, respected people acting as arbitrators.

      Our disagreements with each other so often is complicated by lack of understanding that aggression, in some forms, is a natural and even necessary part of human nature. As with love, hate, fear and other basic emotions, it is part of the drive that fuels human existence and civilization. Where would we be if we were all vague, purposeless automatons with no particular emotions at all? The key to successful enterprise, physical strength, powerful personalities that move mountains and bridge the raging waters… all these come from innate aggression tendencies that are directed, controlled by the individual, and used for reasons that do not harm others. One of the sad things in current society is the incredible hypocrisy of the “politically correct,” which demands that people must accept any sort of behavior – even be able to read their minds. And any refusal to bow down and worship this behavior by others is punished endlessly, and without any regard to respect or equal rights. No, our emotions can easily control us and do ourselves and others great harm… or we can control those emotions ourselves and expect others to control theirs in order to be respected and trusted.

  • Steve Trinward

    I’d submit that if a bigot-in-his-own-mind chose to keep his ideas to himself, it would be possible to PASS as a libertarian, right up to the first “should” uttered, regarding the disfavored ethnicity, etc. Any attempt to individuals into a box is collectivist, and will eventually end up in self-implosion.

  • EAM

    What would you term someone who comes to individual liberty by limiting political authority on the grounds that even though he might have his own biases about who he excludes in his own life, he desires that no individual be able to impose their biases with the force of law? So, someone self-aware of their own biases who like Hume presumes knavery in any seeking political authority.

    • EAM

      In other words, the fundamental equality of individuals deserving respect is a sufficient condition to get to Libertarianism, surely. I don’t think you’ll find disagreement on that point.

      But why would it be a necessary condition?

  • Look, this is just thick versus thin libertarianism. You can choose your position if you want, but it won’t do to simply declare that the other kind of libertarian isn’t really a libertarian.

    The irony of it is that these were the kinds of arguments that libertarians used to levy against you BHLs.

    • Sergio Méndez

      No, it is not, Racism and anti semitism are not simply cases of disliking anybody else because of their ethnicity or genetic heritage. They are cases of denying other people equal rights because of their ethnicity and heritage, which under libertarian terms is unacceptable. You can try to disguise your bigotry in any way you want, but it is still bigotry and it is still incompatible with libertarian ideals.

      • My bigotry? You seem to know an awful lot about me.

        • Sergio Méndez

          More than enough, from what i´ve seen of your comments in this website, unfortunately.

          • Can you point to something specific that I wrote that was bigoted?

          • Sean II

            The irony is: Serg’ probably just confused you with someone else here.

          • The thick libertarians and liberal-tarians need to be really careful about mood affiliation. They’re amplifying their rhetoric more and more in response to arguments that simply “sound bad” to them, without ever tackling them head-on. If they don’t try to resist this tendency, it’s going to sink their whole movement.

            Gasp! Swoon! Shock! I don’t hate Sean II and I try to engage his thoughts critically. Sometimes I even learn from him and he often makes me laugh even when I disagree with him. I MUST BE A NAZI!!!

          • Sean II

            The crazier implication is: if you did denounce me, that’s all the evidence you’d ever need to supply.

            The way a 21st Century white proves he’s not racist is by beating other whites to the accusation.

            Behavior is quite irrelevant. Having real relationships with people from different groups does not count. Having the right pitch of hostility to whites who say the wrong thing, does.

            Say whatever else you will about the concept of “white privilege”, it sure gets one thing right: whatever it is, we WILL find a way to make it all about us.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Peter Brimelow once said that a racist is someone who is winning an argument with a liberal. I think his remark should be qualified to include many a “bleeding heart libertarian” (not to mention members of Conservatism Inc.).

          • Sean II

            That probably is how this started. And note well: as a rhetorical strategy, it always depended on the idea that conservatives weren’t actually racist. You want to shut people up, you have to call them a name they don’t like.

            Of course now it’s taken on a life of its own. People began by throwing the other N-word around as form of verbal intimidation, but now they really do believe the brownshirts have arrived.

            It’s pretty amazing.

      • J Peterson II

        Hi, Sergio. Welcome back to school. Libertarianism is a political philosophy. Even if it’s a moral philosophy about non-aggression, that’s still irrelevant to bigotry except to say you don’t get to beat me up for being a bigot or for being a member of a certain social group.

        Just because it might make sense to be a libertarian *and* also be against X, Y, or Z or for X, Y, Z doesn’t mean X, Y, or Z must be included within libertarianism. They might be *related* to matters of political philosophy but they are not a necessary part of that concept or “locus”. Just because X, Y or Z aren’t part of libertarianism doesn’t mean X, Y, and Z *don’t matter*. Libertarianism doesn’t account for “all that is good.” There are certainly very important social issues that are outside the scope of libertarianism. As a civilized human being I can take positions on those issues, it’s just not in my role as a libertarian. Whatever position I take there won’t be because of my libertarianism, but for other reasons.

        I would add to this that maintaining that distinction IS important. A person might be inclined to ask why we ought to waste time with this sort of rulesmanship; given how toxic bigotry is to social cooperation and society, why not just come out and say that Libertarianism itself is opposed to bigotry, and, not merely right-thinking Libertarians.

        The answer is that libertarianism is a carefully constructed philosophy, and not just a collection of loosely related principles, “good rules of thumb,” and political positions. If we start making arbitrary addendums, simply because we think they’re incontrovertibly part of the good life, we liquify the foundations of libertarianism, we open the door to any number of far less incontrovertible requirements, and we invite people to begin arranging their various add-ons into hierarchies that don’t necessarily keep non-aggression as paramount.

        • Sergio Méndez


          Funny how you didn’t answer anything I wrote. Because my argument was not simply an argument of libertarianism being against bigotry. The argument here is that libertarianism is a philosophy that is incompatible with racism and anti semitism, positions that assume people have less rights just because they belong to a “race” or an ethnic group. In other words, it denies people rights that libertarian affirm ALL persons have qua persons. I will add, that it also violate libertarianism basic principles of individualism, in other words, not judging people rights and equality before the law for belong to certain groups (which libertarians clearly denounce as “collectivism”). In other words, even assuming your own narrow and dogmatic understanding of libertarianism (that I concede for matters of this discussion, not as a matter of fact), libertarianism is completely incompatible with racism and anti semitism.

          • J Peterson II

            Hi, Sergio, welcome back to class again. Libertarianism is just a political philosophy with nothing to say about what people’s opinions of each other should be. Individualism (as opposed to collectivism) has something to say about how to (or at least how not to) form opinions about people.

            That being said, one could still be a libertarian and bigot, but as a human being you are pretty shitty.

            Hope you come back. 🙂

          • Sergio Méndez


            The day I consider your ramblings “class”, hell will freeze. Repeating and restating your opinions ad nauseum as if they were articles of faith, does not constitute an argument. Is just, well, repeating and restating your arguments ad nauseum. When you address anything I said, let me know.

          • J Peterson II

            Hi Sergio. Glad you’re back in class. I’m assuming you read the first sentence and that was that because I actually distinguished indiviualism as opposed to libertarianism.

            See you soon. 🙂

          • AP²

            racism and anti semitism, positions that assume people have less rights just because they belong to a “race” or an ethnic group

            Wait, how so? Most low-grade racist I know (not the proto-fascist kind) don’t defend any kind of removal of rights, they mostly don’t want to associate themselves or their family with individuals of certain races. But that’s not a removal of any right I see libertarians recognizing.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Have you wondered why racists don’t want to “associate themselves or their family [members] with individuals or certain races”?

          • Sergio Méndez

            And in any case, have you wondered also why societies dominated by people with racist ideas (including anti semitism) ended up suppressing the rights of people of the races they loath? Do you think the racist system created by the British Empire, the antebellum (and postbellum) south in the United States and South Africa, ended being brutally repressive regimes against the races they considered inferior (just to put some examples)? Or why anti semitism ended in persecutions, deportations, progroms and finally in an Holocaust?

        • Theresa Klein

          I think the problem is that the less government you have, the “thicker” libertarianism has to become.
          In a society where we have anti-discrimination laws, racists are neutered – they can’t really harm minorities too much, so it’s easy to say that racism should be socially tolerated.
          If we didn’t have anti-discrimination laws, libertarians would have to step up to the plate to declare that racism shouldn’t be socially tolerated – because we wouldn’t want a society where people were not only not treated like individuals, but routinely subjected to unjust treatment on the basis of skin color.
          In a total anarchy, you would have to strictly enforce norms against racism, because otherwise the “anarchist” mechanisms for adjudicating disputes would be grossly biased, and that society wouldn’t conform to anyone’s idea of libertarian.
          If you’re a libertarian, and you think there should be a minimal state, you ought to be in favor of some pretty strong social rules regarding treating people like individuals.
          In other words, a consistent libertarian kind of HAS to be a thick libertarian. The less government you want, the more you should be advocating informal systems to regulate problems like racism.

          • James Taylor

            That’s nicely put!

          • I didn’t realize how wrong this comment is until just a moment ago.

            No one argues that, because libertarians oppose the government provision of, say, daycare services, libertarians must therefore become experts in running child care facilities. Just because libertarianism says, “X is not the role of the state” does not suddenly imply that X becomes the burden of libertarianism itself.

            In fact, that claim is nuts. Libertarianism dictates that the state should not discriminate on the basis of race, etc. This does not suggest that libertarianism must therefore provide its own guide on race relations. One reason why this is so is because there is already a market of ideas that is replete with theories and approaches, just as there is already a private market for daycare. And just as some people in a free market will choose not to hire daycare services, so too some people in libertarian conditions will choose to recede from race relations entirely. As individuals, we don’t have to be happy about that, but as libertarians we ought to have no further comment.

            But again: Nothing about libertarianism suggestts that the burden of a theory of positive race relations suddenly falls to libertarians as the state shrinks. That is a total non sequitur.

          • King Goat

            “No one argues that, because libertarians oppose the government provision of, say, daycare services, libertarians must therefore become experts in running child care facilities. ”

            This is a poor analogy. An analogy closer to what Theresa is saying is something like this: in any society there are going to be people who are unfortunately in need through no fault of their own so libertarians should have views like that charity toward the unfortunate is a good thing or that a strong family ethos of taking care of those you’re related to when they need help (or what have you) should be encouraged, because if Libertopia then there’d be the problem of starving kids, and 1. as a moral matter that would be unacceptable and thus Libertopia becomes less morally defensible and/or 2. as an empirical matter such cases would push people away from the policies that resulted in Libertopia.

          • J Peterson II

            //In other words, a consistent libertarian kind of HAS to be a thick libertarian.//

            I really liked Sanchez’s way of defining the general error of thick libertarianism: the confusion of relation and identity. If you follow that error to its logical conclusion, you end up finding relations among an endless series of things and it strays far away from what the political philosophy was initially all about.

            One could say that “politeness” is a trait conducive to a free society; it’s *related*. Yet there are a million facets to “politeness,” it’s a somewhat vague concept to begin with. To take this concept and try to force it into the identity of libertarianism is going to, therefore, add a lot of confusion and vagueness. From here, you can start finding all kinds of relations with politeness and other things: racism, sexism, classism, ableism, privilege, etc. etc. Before you know it, thick libertarianism ceases to be about LIBERTY, because the concept’s boundaries have been made fuzzy and nondescript through this addition of “related” stuff.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Many, if not most, of the people you cavalierly dismiss as racists are not interested in “skin color”. What these folks are, rightly or wrongly, concerned with is the possibility that certain racial and ethnic groups will create societies in which they would not want to live. If the issue were merely one of skin tone, albinos would face widespread persecution and discrimination.

            A “consistent libertarian” has to support property rights and keeping one’s mitts to oneself. Anything beyond that is optional.

          • Sergio Méndez

            “Many, if not most, of the people you cavalierly dismiss as racists are not interested in “skin color”. What these folks are, rightly or wrongly, concerned with is the possibility that certain racial and ethnic groups…”

            Sometimes you have to wonder if this people read what they write….

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            My argument is that most of those considered “racist” are infinitely more concerned with group behavior than pigmentation (this might explain why many on the alt right take issue with Ashkenazi Jews). If you would like to contend otherwise, I am open to considering your position.

          • Lacunaria

            Do you think Sean II is racist? If so, what social punishment does he deserve?

            How do you define racism? Is it irrational discrimination? Is it disparate impact?

            What strong social rules against racism does libertarianism require and do you think current US society already has them?

        • Craig J. Bolton

          Hmm, interesting, J. Peterson II. So “well constructed” MUST mean axiomatic. Someone who merely endorses a strong form of the American Bill of Rights, for instance, can’t be a libertarian, since those rights can’t be inferred from some GRAND PRINCIPLE. Similarly, none of the Scottish or Dutch Classical Liberals were REALLY libertarians, since they endorsed more than one “principle of liberty.” Gollly, you learn something everyday.

        • King Goat

          “Even if it’s a moral philosophy about non-aggression, that’s still irrelevant to bigotry”

          Is it? Perhaps the earliest formulation of the NAP is Locke: “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

          When you read that sentence, you can’t see how that has ‘built in’ an anti-bigotry element?

          • J Peterson II

            No. It says no one should hurt others or steal their shit.

            I have no idea where you saw anti-bigotry in that statement.

          • Sean II

            It’s also historically absurd.

            By the standards of today, including those implied in the original post, everyone alive in 1690 was a racist.

          • That is precisely the claim that some people make. I’m reminded of whichever radical feminist it was that claimed that all acts of coitus are sexist acts of male chauvinism, including sex between lesbians, because that’s just how deep the Patriarchy runs.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            And the overwhelming majority of those alive in 1960 would also meet the modern definition of racist.

          • Sean II

            It’s true. Things are moving pretty fast.

            Wish I could figure a way to make money from statue removal and building renaming. Definitely a growth industry in the years ahead.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Pfff…the concept of race didn´t even exist in 1690 (although other forms of bigotry already existed back than.,..and yes, most people shared them.)

          • King Goat

            Hmm, it also seems to say the *reason* why ‘no one should hurt others or steal their shit’, doesn’t it?

            And that reason seems to be something about finding others “Being all equal and independent…”


            This is James’ point, which so many here seems to have just missed.

          • Lacunaria

            But people aren’t equal in every way, so the anti-bigotry is limited (closer to J’s scope), isn’t it?

            I don’t think most people missed James’ point, they just think he’s expanding the scope of libertarian “equality” or “respect” using vague terms.

      • J Peterson II

        //They are cases of denying other people equal rights because of their ethnicity and heritage, which under libertarian terms is unacceptable.//

        Lol. Only when they’re baked into the law. Me not liking Jews (if I didn’t) wouldn’t violate anybody’s rights.

        • Sergio Méndez

          You not liking Jews…but then again, the issue with the anti semite is not simple that they don´t like jews. The anti semite is the one who thinks jews are inferior and evil, and pose a treat toward society, and thus do not DESERVE the rights as ordinary people. Even if you don´t act on such stupid beliefs, you are already living a contradiction if you pretend yourself to be a libertarian at the same time.

          • King Goat


            As Locke says (and as James was getting at), the reason “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” IS BECAUSE EVERYONE “Being all equal and independent…”

            Philosophically, and historically, when most people think people from group X are not ‘equal and independent’ like them, well, they come up with all kinds of reasons to transgress on their ‘life, liberty or possessions.’

          • J Peterson II

            Assuming that’s true (which it isn’t) it’s not really different for commies, even anarcho commies. Consider how much time Kevin Carson spends fantasizing about killing rich people and landlords would disqualify him as one or many of your leftist friends who are bigoted toward people of a certain class.

          • J Peterson II

            In other words, Sergio, you’re moving the goalposts. You said anti-semites don’t think Jews have no rights, and implied this justifies the use of force against them as defensive. I said the same is true of commies with respect to other groups. Now you say it’s about *why* they think that, which as I said is moving the goalposts but I also don’t see how it could possibly be relevant here nor have you explained it.

  • Casey Bowman

    If Murray Rothbard, say, helped found one of the organizations that marched in Charlottesville as part of “Unite the Right”, how would that fit this claim?

    • Casey Bowman

      I ask because I found this evidence Saturday –

      The president of this organization then, Michael Hill, is still its president. He likes to talk about “biblical” slavery and “kith and kin”. He was out there leading his members in a march. They could be identified by their flag which is a diagonal black cross on a white background. Hill himself donned the sporty circularized version of this, reminiscent of another emblem.

  • Casey Bowman

    If Tom Woods, say, helped found one of the organizations that marched in Charlottesville as part of “Unite the Right”, how would that fit this claim?

    • Casey Bowman
    • Casey Bowman

      A half decade earlier Rothbard and Tucker argued in Liberty magazine for an alliance with the followers of Rousas Rushdoony. Rushdoony also defended “biblical” slavery. There seems to be a pattern. Tom Woods wrote of “biblical” slavery in an essay “Christendom’s Last Stand” if the copy in the Wayback Machine is to be believed. This is an essay that Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague refer to in their essay “The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South”. Sebesta and Hague go into more depth about all this.

      Would Tom Woods be willing to refute a predilection for “biblical” slavery?

      • Did you read the relevant part of “Last Stand”? He referenced “biblical slavery” as being UNLIKE 19th century chattel slavery, and said that would have been a better Biblical argument against Southern theologians than the arguments abolitionists actually used.

        And I suppose there is nothing you did half a lifetime ago that you would change if you could.

    • martinbrock

      If Casey Bowman, say, beat his wife for extinguishing his Tiki torch in Charlottesville, how would that fit this claim?

  • J Peterson II

    //As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect//

    Nope. Libertarianism as a philosophy concerns itself with the justified and unjustified use of force in society.

    You got it incorrect in the first statement.

    • David R Henderson


    • James Taylor

      I addressed this point in the original post.

      • J Peterson II

        Which was addressed in the comments.

        • James Taylor

          No, not at all. I see a lot of people asserting that coercion, aggression, and force against persons are wrong, but I have no idea what justifies these claims apart from respect for persons.

          • J Peterson II

            Ok. Let me start from the beginning.

            “libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect”


            //But, if you do it solely on the grounds that they’re (e.g.) a Jew, or Irish, or a woman, then you’re not committed to treating people as individuals.//

            This is true, so I can (and do) object on individualist grounds, but not on libertarian grounds.

            //This is because the commitment not to aggress stems from the recognition that other persons are individuals with their own projects that you should not interfere with without just cause.//

            That may be one way to get there but the claim here is “the only reason to be a libertarian is because you’re an individualist” and that’s false. Libertarianism is just a political philosophy with nothing to say about what people’s opinions of each other should be. Individualism (as opposed to collectivism) has something to say about how to (or at least how not to) form opinions about people.

          • Salem

            Are you making an empirical claim that most self-described libertarians justify their beliefs by “respect for persons”?

            There’s a book called “I Chose Liberty,” free online, which has mini-autobiographies from 82 prominent contemporary libertarians, talking about their intellectual development and how they became libertarians. Guess how many times the phrase “respect for persons” comes up? In reality, there are about as many ways to get to libertarianism as there are libertarians.

            Personally, I don’t know that coercion, aggression and force against persons are always wrong. Those words have a lot packed into them. But empirically, moving society in a more libertarian direction makes it wealthier, freer, more flourishing, and better to live in, at least at the current margin. That makes me a libertarian of sorts. It also makes me a conservative of sorts.

            If you aren’t making an empirical claim, what kind of claim are you making? Justification can’t be an endless chain. You don’t attempt to justify “respect for persons” in your post, after all.

          • J Peterson II

            Nor does he define “respect”. If anything it seems as though he is equivocating “respect” for property (as in I won’t infringe upon it) with “respect” for others as a person.

          • David R. Henderson

            Really good point, Salem.

  • Sean II

    “…then you’re not committed to treating people as individuals. And it’s that commitment…that is the fundamental basis of libertarianism.”

    If libertarianism requires a ban on pattern-recognition, it deserves to die.

    • Felix9

      It doesn’t require a ban on pattern-recognition. It’s just NOT based on pattern-recognition. If you prefer pattern-recognition, Nozick can show you a plethora of alternative theories. [I know he’s not a fashionable reference these days, alas.]

      • Sean II

        I’m sorry, but the core of libertarianism which Taylor tries to sell here does come down to a ban on pattern recognition.

        “Treat everyone as individual” = “treat no one as mere member of a category”.

        That’s just what that means.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Well, yes, that is one of the core principles of libertarianism, treat people as individuals. First, regarding their rights (inherent as persons have them) and second based on their actions. That doesn´t mean you can´t recognize people belong to groups, but you can´t say them belonging to a group defines them as persons or matter more than there own actions as a person in order to judge them.

          • Sean II

            “That doesn´t mean you can´t recognize people belong to groups, but you can´t say them belonging to a group defines them as persons or matter more than there own actions as a person in order to judge them”

            So, just to keep it simple, you think it’s wrong when car insurance companies charge higher rates to younger drivers? Or to drivers with a recent accident in their history?

            Both are cases of saying “the group you belong to defines you as a car insurance customer”. Both are cases of ignoring someone’s individual action in order to judge them.

            Obviously you’re against that, right?

          • Sergio Méndez


            Funny you quote a sentence where I admit that you can recognize people for the group they belong and then ask me a question as if I said exactly the contrary. But let´s be clear: the insurance companies that charge higher rates to young drivers are not belittling young drivers fundamental rights. Racism and anti semitism -which is the topic at hand, not other forms of categorization of people- do. When you can justify that persons can be deprived of their most fundamental rights because they belong to “x race” or “x etnic group”, you will have made a case against this post, not before.

          • Sean II

            1) Okay good. Now you say it’s really only wrong to define people by categories when “fundamental rights” are at stake?

            That’s different from what you started with. And it’s very different from the idea that “treat people as individuals” is the core of libertarianism.

            2) “Racism and anti semitism -which is the topic at hand, not other forms of categorization of people….”

            Wrong. That WOULD BE the topic if Taylor (and others) hadn’t massively oversold their viewpoint, by expanding “don’t be racist” into a general obligation to “treat everyone as an individual”.

            The minute they did that, other categories become fair game.

            Now…if you want to say “statistical discrimination is fine in most cases, but shouldn’t be used when the categories involved are race, sex, etc., and when the harm is deprivation of fundamental rights” I’m fine with that. Indeed that’s all I came to argue for today.

            You game? Will you endorse that version?

          • Sergio Méndez

            “1) Okay good. Now you say it’s really only wrong to define people by categories when “fundamental rights” are at stake?

            That’s different from what you started with. And it’s very different from the idea that “treat people as individuals” is the core of libertarianism.”

            No. It wasn´t. This is the first statment I made on that regard in this discusion:

            “No, it is not, Racism and anti semitism are not simply cases of disliking anybody else because of their ethnicity or genetic heritage. They are cases of denying other people equal rights because of their ethnicity and heritage, which under libertarian terms is unacceptable.”

            “2) “Racism and anti semitism -which is the topic at hand, not other forms of categorization of people….”

            Wrong. That WOULD BE the topic if Taylor (and others) hadn’t massively oversold their viewpoint, by expanding “don’t be racist” into a general obligation “treat everyone as an individual”.”

            Ehh, excuse me, did you read the title of the post in this discussion, Let me remind you again: “Can you be a libertarian racist or anti-Semite?”

            What part of “racist and ant-semite ” confuses you? Oh, apparently the argument of treating people like individual. Apparently you failed to read more in detail. Taylor didn’t simply said you should treat people as individuals. He sa said you should treat people with RESPECT as individuals (. But it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else.
            , which is the difference between racism and anti semitism (and other forms of bigotry) with other forms of categorizing people (insurance companies are not belittling young drivers for charging them more, following your example)., Is not that hard to understand.

            “Now…if you want to say “statistical discrimination is fine in most cases, but shouldn’t be used when the categories involved are race, sex, etc.,” I’m fine with that. Indeed that’s all I came to argue for today.”

            No, not my game. Statistic discrimination is never acceptable to deny people their rights (regarding if the statistics make sense, with the case of insurance and young drivers, or are just made up utter bullshit like is the case with race or anti semitism). That is my game, and that is the game of anybody who calls herself libertarian.

          • James Taylor

            Thank you–nicely said! I doubt we’ll agree on all points here, but it’s good to see someone read the post before commenting!

          • Lacunaria

            Do you think that racism entails denying people their rights on the basis of race? Because that seems to be the crux of many of Sergio’s arguments.

          • Rob Gressis

            James, just wondering, what do you think of psychometrics? Is it like astrology or respectable or somewhere in between?

          • James Taylor

            I had to look this up, so I have no view at all on it!

          • Rob Gressis

            Oh. Well, the reason I ask is this: many so-called scientific racists like Charles Murray, Henry Harpending, Gregory Cochrane, Razib Khan, Steve Sailer, and Linda Gottfriedson, claim that (1) IQ tests accurately measure something that is properly called “intelligence”; (2) this “intelligence” that IQ tests measure is partly genetically heritable; (3) there is a gaps in how self-described “blacks” and self-described “whites” do on the IQ test, with whites doing on average between 9 and 15 points better; and (4) the cause of these gaps is at least partly genetic. From what I know, around 83% of psychometricians believe all of (1)-(4). (See this for evidence for my last sentence:

            And yet believing (4) is enough to count as racist by many people’s definition. But I’m not sure it counts as racist on your definition. So, do you think that believing (4) makes you a racist? And if so, do you think that believing (4) is enough to make it impossible for you to consistently believe libertarianism?

            [For the record, I do not myself believe (4), but I don’t disbelieve it either. I just don’t feel like I know enough, and I suspect that no one knows enough–to endorse it *or deny it*. That said, I’m enough of a Kantian to think that a person’s good will (in the sense that Kant uses it in the opening of the first section of the _Groundwork_ ) is far more important than any other trait about them, such as their intelligence. So, if it turned out that I came to believe (4), I would think that this was irrelevant from a governmental point of view, any more than IQ is now relevant to what rights a person has. That said, it would suggest to me that disparate impact of a policy is not itself evidence of racism, systemic or otherwise. (Perhaps I’m in error about that.)]

          • Sean II

            If you don’t mind, let me suggest (4) should be split into two parts.

            (4a) The gap is at least partly heritable, as shown by twin/adoption studies and by its stubborn resistance to a long series of attempted environmental interventions.

            (4b) And as may soon be shown by genetic science directly.

            The reason to split things thus is: we already have enough evidence of heritability to make agnosticism on (4a) untenable. But we don’t know enough about the origins and architecture of intelligence to say which effects are coming from which variants. So a wait-and-see approach on (4b) is arguably fair game.

            Consider an analogy: BRCA1&2 were discovered in the early 1990s, but it would be quite wrong to say we didn’t know the related cancers were heritable before then. Identifying the specific genes was important, but it was not necessary to settle the question of heritability. Reasonable doubt on that point had already been removed by pedigrees, family medical histories, etc. That’s why we went looking.

            The IQ debate is at a similar point in its timeline. There really is no doubt that it’s partly to mostly heritable. The open question is just: where and how many are the switches.

          • Rob Gressis

            I don’t know nearly as much about genetics as you do, but I’m not as confident as you are that (4a) is untenable. For one thing, Nisbett, Turkheimer, and Harden deny (4a). For another thing, about 17% of psychometricians as a field do as well.

            It’s certainly possible that they’re simply scared of the results–though that’s a little hard to believe, given that much else of what they say (e.g., that tests can accurately measure IQ, that IQ measures something more or less like intelligence as the folk think of it, that what it measures is heritable, that “multiple intelligences” co-vary with each other (save for musical intelligence), and that having a high score in IQ is very important) is unpopular.

            It could also be that 17% of any field is well-intentioned but weird. Around 18% of philosophy professors* (including me) are theists, but maybe we’re just mentally off in some way?

            *–I was going to say “philosophers”, but I recall last time that I called myself a philosopher around you, you and a bunch of others made fun of me. I still don’t know why. Perhaps you think “philosopher” is an honorific, like “poet”?

          • alzhu4

            Out of curiosity, what does Sean know about genetics, and what do you?

          • Rob Gressis

            It’s a good question. I doubt he has a degree in it. But he does seem to be familiar with a fair number of papers on it. That said, I don’t know whether he’s read critiques of his position from people like Nisbett or Turkheimer.

          • Theresa Klein

            Actually car insurance does treat people as individuals – it adjusts prices for MANY factors, not just age and sex. Driving record is a major one.

          • Sean II

            It’s a nice try, but no. “More than one category” does not equal “individual judgement”.

            Example: a cop who starts following someone because he’s young, black, male, and driving a Chrysler has used four categories.

            And yet somehow that’s still a case of profiling, isn’t it?

            You still wouldn’t say he’d judged that driver as an individual.

          • Theresa Klein

            Again, the more categories you use, the more total information you use, the closer you get to individual judgement (some things aren’t really categories per se, but just bits of additional information). Although I’m not sure why driving a Chrysler implies anything about criminal status. If some of the “categories” you use don’t confer any actual additional information about an individual, you’re still just relying on one piece of information – race. being young and male ARE of course useful additional bits of information in this case. The cop probably wouldn’t pull over an elderly black woman. But let’s say the cop followed someone who was middle-aged, black, wearing a hat, and in a red car. Do you think that he’s making that judgement based on the hat, the age, or the color of the car?

          • Sean II

            1) “Although I’m not sure why driving a Chrysler implies anything about criminal status. If some of the “categories” you use don’t confer any actual additional information about an individual…”

            No offense, but this comment shows an innocence of of the subject matter which nicely supports my point.

            Who is more likely to know which categories are relevant? The people who actually use them? Or the nice white lady commenting from a far?

            As it happens, Chrysler is a popular brand among criminals. I wouldn’t know that either except I had it explained to me by cops and prosecutors.

            I guess I could have assumed they were suffering from a mass delusion, and formed a Chrysler Rights group to combat their bigotry, but it seemed wiser to wonder if maybe they know something I don’t.

            Key point here: most anti-statistical discrimination campaigns have this in common, that they are cases of virtue-by-distance, cases where group A wants group B to stop noticing patterns about group C.

            Meanwhile everyone is a statistical discriminator about that which they know best.

            As some alt-right Nazi once said: “It is useful to remember, however, that neglecting valid stereotypes inevitably results in suboptimal judgments.”

            Hardly surprising that people with no skin in those judgements don’t mind imposing a constraint that makes them suboptimal.

            2) “Again, the more categories you use, the more total information you use, the closer you get to individual judgement.”

            This represents a big reversal for you. For a long time you’ve been saying “judge people as individuals, don’t use categories, especially not innate ones”. We’ve had the argument many times.

            If you now wish to amend that into something more reasonable, like “use more categories, and better”, you’ll get no argument from me.

            That’s what I have been advocating all along.

          • No offense, but this comment shows an innocence of of the subject matter which nicely supports my point.

            It was actually a stunning admission of ignorance. Someone imploring me to take the perspective of an oppressed group has apparently never spent much time on the wrong side of the tracks.

          • Sergio Méndez

            So you are defending racism after all….all that talk about the right to discriminate in general…to end in justifying racial profiling by the police or racial segregation by white liberals (“You see, southerns were right into bombing and violently discriminating blacks who dared to move into their neighborhood). And then you complain when people tell you what you are…

          • Theresa Klein

            As it happens, Chrysler is a popular brand among criminals. I wouldn’t know that either except I had it explained to me by cops and prosecutors.

            Do we have any actual statistics on this, or is it just some anecdotal thing you heard? Just because cops seem to think Chryslers are popular among criminals doesn’t mean it’s a statistical fact. Lots of things that people believe turn out to be urban legends. Or maybe what you heard isn’t really all that commonly believed, which is why Chrysler owners haven’t noticed any particularly strange behavior towards them on the part of the police. Do police pull over people driving Chryslers more often than non-Chrysler drivers?

            That said, if there actually IS a statistical correlation between Chrysler ownership and criminality, that WOULD be a salient fact. The thing is you can’t simply assume it is true, because you heard it somewhere, any more than you can assume that thing people say about blacks are true, because you heard them somewhere.

            Now, if we add up different facts: black, young, male, driving a Chrysler (presuming that actually IS correlated with criminality), lets compare it to “young, white, male, and driving a Chrysler”. Or maybe we add on one or two more facts “young, male, driving a Chrysler in a known gang neighborhood, while playing loud music with the windows down.” At what point does the skin color really make the difference? How salient is it when combined with a long list of other things. Would a young white guy playing rap music in a Chrysler in a bad neighborhood be immune from suspicion?

          • King Goat

            It’s not just ‘some anecdotal thing’, it’s one he himself says comes from very self interested parties (‘cops and prosecutors’, who we know are led by hard, cold facts, not biased stereotypes!).

          • Felix9

            When I visualize the outcome of biting that bullet (re: insurance), I see something that looks more like the neo-reactionary perspective. I suspect you think that’s wrong, and I’m happy to consider why you think that.

            However, setting that aside, I’d like to ask you–again, disregarding whether or not that’s incorrect for a moment–if you consider the neo-reactionary outlook (I know there’s not just one, so please just pick one or humor me) as compatible with how you define libertarianism?

            I realize I have no track record here, but I’m interested in some of the boundary-mapping aspects, and I hope you will assume my good faith unless and until I give you reason to conclude otherwise. Thanks.

          • Sean II

            I’m not that familiar with the neo-reactionary perspective. Can you give me a quick explanation of what it might mean in a context like this?

          • Felix9

            Ugh. I probably can’t. Can I give you a recipe? Take Curtis Yarvin and/or Nick Land and/or any other person that gets mentioned a lot in this context. Strip away anything obviously il-libertarian or that would serve only as gotcha bait (any unnecessary foreboding…”The Dark Enlightenment,” etc.), and let me know if the rest–medievalism + blockchain, maybe? A patterned modus viviendi for traits other than religious belief?–counts.

            Sorry to be vague, but a quick explanation would either be too general or too reductionist. If the above is insufficient, and you have hours to kill, Scott Alexander has a couple lengthy posts (3/3/13 and 10/20/13) that meet his typical standard of thoughtfulness.

          • Sean II

            “I’d like to ask…if you consider the neo-reactionary outlook… as compatible with how you define libertarianism

            After skimming around a bit, I don’t think so.

            The key thing for me is: as an empirical matter, non-democratic societies underperform democratic ones in just about everything that matters. I realize the experiment (i.e. world history) lacks controls, but it’s what we have and in any case, it’s not like the NRX boys have some knock-down theoretical argument for restoring the Hapsburgs, or whatever.

            The thing we know to work is: liberal democracy + a high human capital population.

            If we lose the latter, we’re screwed through and through, in a way that even the most earnest larping of late medieval institutions won’t prevent.

          • J Peterson II

            //treat people as individuals//

            No surprise you dont see the conflict here.

  • I appreciate the sentiment, James, but I think that what you say is thoroughly mistaken. First,

    “libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect”.

    You should distinguish appraisal respect from recognition respect. I have contempt for antifa, for mass murderers, for the Google and Facebook censors and loads of others. That is, I lack appraisal respect for them. But I recognise that they are human beings and have the same ‘human rights’ as other human beings (the quotes around ‘human rights’ signifies the debate to be had about what constitutes them). Second,

    “it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else”

    That does not seem right either. First, you are talking about individual humans rather than individuals in general: you do not mean that individual cats, or individual stones, for instance, are worthy of respect. Second, it is not inconsistent to accord a moral respect to all humans that one does not accord to non-humans and also to insist that there are additional forms of respect due to different classes of humans. In mediaeval times, the respect due to a peasant differed from that due to an artisan, from that due to a priest, from that due to a noble, from that due to the king, and so on. Until quite recently it was common to accord differential respect to men and to women, while respecting both as human beings. This is recognition respect, due simply to status, not apprasial respect, which depends upon character or deeds. Third,

    “If you believe that it does then you’re treating persons primarily as tokens of types of people, and not primarily as individuals.”

    That shows a confusion about the type-token distinction. All legal and moral rules concern people as types not tokens (what Kant called ‘universalisation’). The question is WHICH types are relevant to difference of treatment? Being human? Being a man rather than a woman? Being of ‘noble blood’? Etc. Treating people as individuals belongs to close interpersonal relationships: it’s about love and friendship, not moral/legal rules.

    What characterises libertarianism. I think, is the demand for maximum equal liberty for all persons: the maximum liberty of all compatible with the equal liberty of each (or whatever Kant’s formulation was). I say ‘persons’ rather than ‘humans’ because if we encounter aliens who can talk and argue with us, then we ought to treat them as having maximum equal liberty too.

    What follows from that concerning racism?It is not entirely clear because it is not entirely clear where the bounds of maximum equal liberty lie. I suspect libertarians can, in consistency, take different positions on it.

    • Sean II

      I have contempt…for the Google and Facebook censors…But I recognise that they are human beings…”

      Or, at any rate, algorithms with human parents.

      • From what I have read (which may, of course, be ‘fake news’), it is actually people who take the censorship decisions individually. Apparently, Google employs an army of people in different countries to enforce political correctness by making more or less arbitrary decisions (subject to ‘guidelines’) which are never explained to the victims (except with a general comment about ‘infringement of terms of service’).

        • Sean II

          No you’re right, at this point the censorship, shadowbanning, de-monetization, etc. is all still human curated.

          The joke I was hinting at is: it may not remain so for long. Maybe our AI dystopia will arrive with more whimper than bang.

          A code without pity, it could be the ultimate nudge.

          • Theresa Klein

            Hmm, maybe this dystopian AI will use pattern-recognition to detect racism.

          • Sean II

            I hope so. It’ll find racism in some inconvenient places.

            Already now we can see an inverse correlation between wokeness and practical diversity.

    • Andrew Lister

      Re: “Treating people as individuals, as tokens, belongs to close interpersonal relationships: it’s about love and friendship, not moral/legal rules.”

      But there is a real question, isn’t there, about the extent to which we treat people based on characteristics of their own, as opposed to characteristics that are statistically typical of the demographic groups to which they belong. I would have thought that libertarianism was at the individualistic end of the spectrum, in this respect, as the author of the post suggests. Of course, we also need to be careful about bias in generalization, and about the extent to which generalizations that may be currently accurate are the product of social conditions, including present or previous state action (and our own tendency to act on the basis of generalizations that may be rough even if true, i.e. correlations much less than 1, as well as biased).

      • Sean II

        Of course that’s just the point: nobody treats people as individuals. The cost of information is too high. Discrimination by category is efficient and necessary: college or above vs high school or below, 18-34 vs no one cares what you think, smoker vs. non, Prius driver vs Nascar fan, etc. Hell, most people don’t even get to know their spouse as an individual until after the relationship is well underway.

        Now if one wants to say that certain categories should be avoided with special care, fine. It’s a perfectly reasonable argument to say “pattern recognition is a vital part of thought in the human animal, but some patterns are so dangerous we need to resist, limit, discourage, maybe even ban their use”.

        That’s a non-stupid, non-frivolous position. Plenty of history on hand to support the idea of a strong, targeted taboo against race and sex discrimination.

        But to needlessly extend that into a prohibition against ALL forms of category discrimination – as entailed by “just treat everyone as individuals” – is just idiotic.

        • Theresa Klein

          The more categories you use, the more efficient and accurate your perceptions will be, and the closer you get to judging people as individuals. Using only one category – race – above others disregards a great deal of information that you ought to know is available and often easily accessible.
          Moreover, you have to know that information about certain factors like race may be biased. So if that factor is the only one you can judge by, it’s probably a good idea to get more information.

          • Lacunaria

            By prioritizing rational efficiency, you concede Sean’s point. He’s been arguing that race is simply a valid categorical basis for discrimination, not that it should be used exclusively.

          • King Goat

            “race is simply a valid categorical basis for discrimination”

            That’s kind of what racism is, right?

            It’s of course important to remember what we mean by a ‘a valid categorical basis for discrimination.’ Sean II has argued for differential treatment of people based on race even when *most of the people in the race don’t have the condition which supposedly justifies the discriminatory treatment,* but, rather, that the average number of people in that group that have the condition is higher than the in other groups.

          • Lacunaria

            That’s kind of what racism is, right?

            Excellent question! That’s exactly what people need to first agree upon to have meaningful discussions on this issue.

            If you define racism as irrational discrimination on race, then any rational discrimination on race is not racism.

            So, if efficient selection to meet some criteria is the goal, then relative incidence can be more pertinent than whether “most of the people in a race” meet that criteria.

            e.g. the incidence can be low in all races (i.e. not most people in any race), but if it is 10 times more frequent in one race than others, then a biased search is rational.

          • alzhu4

            What is the definition of rational discrimination based on race? And therefore irrational discrimination based on race?

            Does the validity of the definition affect the scientific or moral validity of a biased search?

          • Lacunaria

            It’s discrimination based upon an apt correlation. For example, you might note the race of your attacker and then restrict your search to people of that race or similar. You are rationally discriminating based upon race in order to narrow your search domain. Such racial discrimination is moral.

            By contrast, if you don’t want to sell an item to a paying customer because of their race, that is typically irrational and immoral.

            The definition suggests that the moral validity of a biased search hinges on whether your bias is rationally justifiable.

          • alzhu4

            … that criterion always made sense to me. I’m looking forward to the day my 1.83 kids are all grown up and the loans on my 2.28 vehicles are paid off.

        • King Goat

          “nobody treats people as individuals”

          He’s determined to make the naturalistic fallacy into an actual moral philosophy.

          All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so go sin all you want!

        • alzhu4

          I read the use of “pattern recognition” here as an admission of lack of cognitive ability. That is, I admit that I’m not perceptive enough to understand this _individual_ in front of me, so I’ll make do by imputing group average values (the group label itself being either imputed or self-identified).

          Please feel free to argue against that interpretation. (But it is the basis of a lot of machine learning techniques today, so as an interpretation of “pattern recognition” it’s not too far off.)

          Assuming it’s valid to any extent, here’s my question. For context, let’s interpret this “pattern recognition” as an implementation of a hypothesis test, the result of which determines things like employment, college admissions, lawsuits, policing, etc.

          From the libertarian perspective, how morally acceptable is it for any negative burden resulting from my subpar cognitive abilities to fall upon the individual members of the Type I or Type II error classes?

          Or is it perhaps more important for me to be agnostic on the question for the moment, and instead work at improving my own cognitive abilities?

      • There are two questions that should be distinguished:

        (1) do people have different rights (or moral status) in virtue of the race to which they belong?
        (2) should we treat people of different races differently on account of statistical differences (ave IQ, ave criminality, etc.) between the groups to which they belong?

        One can consistently answer ‘no’ to (1) and ‘yes’ to (2).

        I had assumed that James was discussing (1); but it seems to me now that he probably intends to cover both.

        Answering ‘no’ to (2) does not imply ‘treating people as tokens rather than types.’ It means treating people equally in virtue of instantiating the type ‘person.’

        • King Goat

          “One can consistently answer ‘no’ to (1) and ‘yes’ to (2).”

          Danny, as a historical-empirical matter, would you concede that accepting ‘yes’ to (2) has often been used as justification to answer ‘yes’ to (1)? What’s up with that, do you think?

          If I believe, for example, that Middle Eastern-born Muslims living around us are constitutionally determined to exploit things like our rights of free speech, freedom from unreasonable searches, etc.,policies in order to overturn them all on us, what would keep me from concluding that we should not restrict them in those?

          • Yes, I concede that. Some collectivists argue that way. But individualists do not; and libertarians are individualists.

            For an individualist, a person has rights in virtue of some specific characteristics that he has (i.e. in virtue of his type identity). For libertarians, the relevant type identity is being a person; for racists it is being a person of a particular race.

            For some collectivists, a person has rights in virtue of some specific characteristics that are typical of the group to which she belongs. So, characteristics of the person that differ from those which are typical of the relevant group (race, say) are irrelevant to what rights the person has.

            Thus, an individualist will answer ‘no’ to (1) but may consistently answer ‘yes’ to (2) insofar as one can treat two people differently without violating the rights of either. But for a racist who is a collectivist of the kind just considered, (1) and (2) are logically connected and he will answer ‘yes’ to both (assuming that he is consistent).

            I think that there are two things wrong with that kind of racist collectivism: it is racist; and it is collectivist. As you may know (because I might have mentioned it before), I have an argument linking the concept of a person with the moral demand for equal freedom for all persons. Of course, many (perhaps all) libertarians have such an argument; but mine is different and, I think, better than the others (some of which are very poor). You can find it here:

      • * Suppose there are only two races: Majority Race A and minority Race B.

        * Suppose that there is no appreciable difference in the qualities or behaviors or anything else between A and B, other than some superficial physical characteristics such as skin color.

        * Suppose that due to long-standing anti-B racism, members of Race B draw much lower wages for equal work than members of Race A.

        * Suppose that some enterprising capitalist realizes that there is a great deal of producer surplus to be obtained by implementing a policy of only hiring employees from Race B, to the exclusion of members of Race A. (After all, it’s the same quality of work for a lower wage.)

        I believe that James Taylor would be copacetic with this kind of non-individualism, but that he would condemn that capitalist if she chose instead to implement a policy of only hiring employees from Race A.

        So, the question to Taylor and anyone else who might want to answer it is this: Which aspect of libertarian philosophy justifies a Race-B hiring policy and not a Race-A policy, in light of what Taylor has written above?

        My claim: If there is no such justification, then Taylor is probably wrong about what he writes in this blog post. Comments and corrections are welcome. My goal is to learn. I consider myself a “thin” libertarian, but I can be convinced otherwise with a sound enough argument.

        • Could he not say that there is nothing wrong with hiring only Bs on the grounds that they are cheaper, but lots wrong with hiring only Bs because they are Bs? If his hiring practice raised the price of Bs to the same level as that of As, it would then be wrong for him to continue hiring only Bs and it would be economically senseless too.

          • Sure, he could say that, and indeed maybe this is his answer.

            I didn’t quite spell it out above, but I had in my mind the notion that the capitalist is thinking that there is so much producer surplus to be gained from hiring Bs that she can hire them indiscriminately, i.e. solely because they are Bs, and not worry too much about the quality of the individual workers. In that case, the capitalist would be doing both things, hiring them because they’re cheap and hiring them because they’re Bs. Is this racism? Is it illiberal?

          • As you describe it, I don’t think she is hiring them because they are Bs. She is hiring them because they are cheap. And if they cease to be cheap, her hiring policy will change.

          • Could be. It might be a bad example. Thanks for thinking through it with me.

          • Sean II

            The example still works, in the sense that for any given hiring action during the life of this scheme, the category data point “member of B” is what guides the decision rather than any individual assessment of wages/revenue product.

          • Well, that’s what I was trying to get at, but Danny makes a good point in that perhaps it is just a cold act of profit-maximization. It’s surprising that cold economic utility calculus is morally preferable to the favoring of an oppressed Race B, but I have to concede that it might be consistent with Taylor’s claims.

          • Sean II

            Don’t concede too much. All you have to do is reverse the reversal and you end up with plain old discrimination.

            Example: if I’m a violin tutor with more students than time, and I decide to prefer Ashkenazi kids, I’m probably just making a cold and calculated business decision: they’ll do better on average, stick with it longer, enhance my reputation, etc.

            But it’s clearly still discrimination of the kind Taylor wants us to avoid.

            Your example complicated things slightly, but the key elements remain.

          • Yeah, it did cross my mind to use that example, too. Suppose Race B really is inferior; is it then racist to hire members of Race A first?

            We’re both trying to get at the same point: In the real world, there are situations in which it is permissible to judge people by their demography and situations in which it is not permissible. Even “thick” libertarians haven’t outlined a theory that concretely guides a person as to which situation is which.

            My contention is that this is a *good* thing. Thick libertarianism tries to do too much work. Thin libertarianism outlines a relationship between individuals and the state. We can use plain old ethics to cover the rest. I don’t need *libertarianism, specifically* to tell me not to be a racist. I have all kinds of other moral philosophies that can guide me on that point.

        • Sean II

          Great comment, let me add:

          Since it’s obvious that no one really means or could possibly live by such a prohibitive doctrine as “judge people only as individuals”, it’s fair game to ask what is actually intended by saying that.

          Elsewhere I’ve suggested it’s something like: “don’t discriminate using these particular categories (race, say), because that’s dangerous”.

          Your comment implies an important addition to that.

          The rule we’re really being asked to follow here is really more along the lines of: “don’t discriminate using these particular categories (race), in this particular direction (to favor race A), because that’s dangerous”.

          Again, perfectly reasonable, historically informed belief there. Certainly a lot better and less intrusive than trying to cook up a phony universal law like “judge people only as individuals”.

          And not for nothing it comports with a widely shared moral intuition – namely, that hiring someone because they’re Race A is…ick, while hiring someone because they’re Race B is kind of okay for lots of complicated reasons, and is in any case something most big institutions have been doing for some time now, in a way that goes far beyond anything like mere liability avoidance.

          Why can’t they just say that? It’s both more honest AND a much better argument.

          • Andrew Lister

            Not a universal law or a strictly-first principle, but at least something that matters, other things equal, and (I would have thought) matters more to libertarians than, say, utilitarians. Suppose, for example, that it is proposed to restrict men’s access to alcohol because we tend to behave badly when drunk. Hard to make that work, I know, but in addition, because the policy is based on imperfect generalizations (I’m assuming true generalizations but much less than 1), it imposes a cost on non-dangerous drinkers for the sake of preventing dangerous drinkers from harming others, simply because it’s hard to tell one from the other in advance. There is a kind of distributive unfairness, there, and a limitation of a person’s liberty – for the sake of preventing harm to others, it is true, but not for the sake of preventing *that person* (the non-dangerous drinker) from harming others.

          • Sean II

            Okay, but kicking things off Taylor called it “the core of libertarianism”.

            If we want to negotiate it down to a mere preference, that’s fine *with me* but good luck getting the bullet biters on board.

            Also I don’t think the preference is very strong. Your own example helps illustrate why.

            For though we don’t ban drinking among men in general, we do at least try to put limits on alcohol consumption by the worst men: teenagers. Nor indeed would I change that policy even on my own personal seastead.

            And it’s easy to see cases where we might go further.

            You familiar with what booze does on the Rez?

            I’m 25 years a libertarian and that turned me into a Prohibitionist right quick. At least for that population. It makes sense there, even if it fails to make sense elsewhere.

            That’s what bleeding heart libertarian should be about: noticing when one of our policies tips the balance and starts hurting people, and being willing to change it as a result.

          • King Goat

            “For though we don’t ban drinking among men in general, we do at least try to put limits on alcohol consumption by the worst men: teenagers.”

            Notice the dodge here. Men drinking causes way more problems than women drinking, period, any age. If he really believed in his stated criteria…

        • Theresa Klein

          I think you are thinking of this too much from the perspective of the person doing the hiring, and not from the perspective of members of Race B.
          If you were an individual of race B, and suppose that you consistently were socially discriminated against to the extent that you could not demand the same wage as a person of race A, would you regard that as a just situation? Would that be a society you would be fine with living in, or would you demand some sort of change?

          • Theresa, forgive me if I’m just forgetful or getting confused, but I am fairly certain that I have already been completely forthcoming about my many past experiences as a member of a minority; including, yes, a racial minority. You are asking me to hypothetically imagine something that I do not need to do because I already have ample firsthand experience with it.

            I believe the last time I brought this up, I got the feeling that you were discounting my direct personal experience because it didn’t line up with your preconceived notions about how a minority ought to feel in that situation. I recall saying something to that effect, and I recall that you stopped replying to me. Do you remember this?

          • Theresa Klein

            No, I don’t. If I stopped replying, it was probably because I became busy with something else.


            It’s in regard to the whole discussion. You found it incomprehensible that a person of color might prefer conservative racists to liberal ones. I gave you specific examples for why someone might choose that.

            I suppose I was wrong in that I didn’t go into a lengthy description of my own personal experience as a religious and racial minority, but I’ll leave that for another day. The point is, you accidentally goofed: You assumed – presumably based on things like the ethnic origin of my name and the color of the skin visible in my Disqus avatar, that I don’t have adequate experience considering the minority’s perspective. On that you’re simply wrong. There’s no shame in it – if you were talking to anyone else, it would have been a fairly safe assumption. But NB: You were not treating me as an individual when you drew these assumptions.

          • Theresa Klein

            Your experience is only one anecdote, which doesn’t make a very good argument for how other members of racial minorities might feel.

          • No. Back up. You specifically said that I wasn’t spending adequate time thinking of this from the perspective of members of Race B. My response: I already have that perspective, and since I do, this criticism doesn’t stick.

            Now you’re saying, sure, maybe I have this experience, but it’s only anecdotal.

            And we’re back to that old conversation and the reason I brought it up. Is your expectation that I have only adequately thought about things from another perspective if I arrive at the same conclusions you do?

          • Theresa Klein

            You post above only addresses the point from the perspective of the employer, not from the person being discriminated against. That is what I am addressing. If you have a perspective as a member of a racial minority, perhaps you should write about it. Your own experience, not your wifes.

          • My post is from the perspective of a dispassionate third party observing the actions of an employer. My perspective as someone who has been on both sides of this equation is that “thin” libertarianism is the appropriate response. If there are specific reasons why you think I should conclude otherwise, other than insinuations that I’m not in touch with the minority viewpoint, I’d like to hear them.

          • Theresa Klein

            Again, your post itself does not take the perspective of the minority viewpoint – that is what I am asking you to do. You have yet to do so other than asserting that in some way you have experienced it, without actually explaining how you have experienced it, or how that perspective informs the subject matter we are discussing.

          • Hi Theresa. I created an example to illustrate a point. Then I asked for feedback on my example and encouraged people to punch holes in it. One person even successfully did this and I managed to learn something from the process.

            You, by contrast, just want to hear a different example, presumably to teach me to take a perspective you think I need. There are many reasons why I’m not playing along with you, but the main reason is that it’s unreasonable to insert yourself into a discussion and then demand that we change the subject to something you’d rather talk about instead.

            By pointedly refusing to engage my example, you ironically make me more confident in it. I doubt this was you intention, but you’re welcome to set me straight. If you don’t plan on participating in the discussion that’s actually happening, then I guess I’ll leave it at that.

          • Theresa Klein

            I want you to think about it from another perspective, because it sheds light on the issue of “which is more racist”.
            If you look at it from the perspective of a member of race B, the situation where the employer exclusively hires only B, because he can pay them less is still a racist situation. It’s better than being locked out of the job market, but rather than being rewarded on your own merits, you’re only being hired because someone wishes to exploit your unfortunate situation.
            I’m sorry that you completely bypassed the opportunity to make this point because you were too busy being antagonistic.

          • This is a better reply, since it at least begins to address the example itself, rather than just imploring me to make your point for you (which is antagonistic, and condescending, by the way).

            But alas, you’ve missed the point. This wasn’t a conversation about “which is more racist.” The point of my comment was to ask whether the situation I outlined was consistent with Taylor’s claims. Your consistent endeavor to obfuscate the purpose of my question and shift the topic over to comparative claims of racism is, to put it mildly, antagonistic, especially in reply to a comment in which I expressly stated:

            Comments and corrections are welcome. My goal is to learn. I consider myself a “thin” libertarian, but I can be convinced otherwise with a sound enough argument.

            You couldn’t have mishandled this matter more completely than you did.

          • Theresa Klein

            You complain about my giving up on replying to you, while simultaneously refusing to engage with my argument. Great. I’m done.

          • I actually did, repeatedly, and then asked you follow up questions.

            Your first reply demanded that I demonstrate a different perspective. I acknowledged this by referring to empirical examples of my possessing the perspective you were looking for and confirming that you were an active participant in those examples.

            Your second (substantive) reply claimed that the examples I provided were mere anecdotes. You did not relate this to the present conversation, so I clarified: The claim that I lack sufficient minority perspective, if that was your claim, does not stick for reasons cited (with a hyperlink). I then asked for claification: Does my perspective only count if I reach the same conclusions you do?

            You did not answer my question. Instead, you demanded that I recount my personal history with being a minority. This is a highly personal question, and considering that you had previously dismissed some of my experiences as merely an anecdote, clearly not a request that was designed to elucidate anything about the actual issue we’re discussing. Unless it is now your position that my personal anecdotes are actually relevant? Which is it?

            But in response to this, I clarified my example and its purpose, and again posed a request to you to provide reasons for why I should reach a different conclusion than the one I did, the one I painstakingly clarified in my original example comment, and through further replies to you.

            But rather than providing any such reasoning, you again demanded that I write a whole new example instead.

            If you wanted me to discuss a different example, you could have created that example yourself and asked me a question about it. That’s what I think a normal conversation would look like. There was no reason for you to reply to a comment that laid out a specific situation and invited critiques by asking for a totally different example and then getting antagonistic and frustrated when I kept circling back to the initial example which you have so far said exactly nothing about.

            What about this characterization of our discussion do you disagree with?

          • David R Henderson

            Great job of keep this on track, Ryan.

          • King Goat

            I just knew he was referring to this laugh out loud moment:

            “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.”

            For Ryan, Trumpistas saying his wife is constitutionally unfit to be an American is one thing (not even one thing really, if they’re clever and witty it’s all good to him!), but liberals who think their enjoying cuisine from his wife’s favorite foods, well, them’s fighting words! Both Sides Do It, But Liberals Are Always Worse! Lol.

            Theresa was never more right to call b.s. on that.

      • Theresa Klein

        Even if the generalizations are accurate, it would be unjust to assume that *every* member of the minority group conforms to the generalization. Generalizations by definition have exceptions – often MANY exceptions. If you believe that all individuals ought to have an equal chance to succeed on their merits, then you’re morally bound to treat people as individuals. Otherwise, individuals will be socially penalized for their group membership – they will effectively be punished for the actions of others.

        • King Goat

          Imagine an NBA GM with Sean and Ryan’s perspective.

          “Larry Bird? That white kid from Indiana? Ha, I know the stats on that, I’ll pass, thanks! John Stockton? Short white kid? Yeah, right. I know what the statistics show that the vast majority of NBA stars are tall black guys, you won’t fool me into taking that guy!”

          • Lacunaria

            If they also know the stats on actual performance, then your suggestion would be irrational.

            NBA racial stats are more instructive in the opposite direction — to show that discriminating on performance can have a disparate racial impact and therefore we cannot assume racism from disparate impact.

          • Sean II

            It’s funny, but much of Goat’s argument against discrimination hinges on deliberate statistical illiteracy.

            If you say “on average As are more X than Bs”, he’s afraid other people will hear something like “all As are X” or “no Bs are X”, etc. And indeed this is possible, for history is full of such errors. People really do struggle to understand the difference between “most” and “all”, “few” and “none”, “often” and “always”, “rarely” and “never”, etc. They especially struggle to understand the difference between things like “absolutely few but relatively more”, which is key to understanding many important things.

            The problem is that, in the next step, he likes to pretend you actually said the thing he’s afraid people might hear.

            So if you say, as I probably have and certainly would, that blacks are on average better at basketball than whites, his fear is that other people might crudely simplify this to “all blacks are good at basketball” or “no whites are good at basketball”, which would of course produce many errors.

            But his response is to crudely simplify it himself, then respond as if that is the only argument on the table.

            It all comes down to saying: “Other people might misinterpret this data, so we must preemptively misinterpret it now, and reject it on that grounds”.

            Meanwhile my preferred option, acknowledging the same risk, is to keep telling the truth and just explain it more thoroughly.

            Blacks are better at basketball. So much so, we can never really hope to hide the fact. Thus it seems our best way forward is to explain what this means, and what it doesn’t, and how it might be more carefully handled.

          • King Goat

            I know the difference between ‘”on average As are more X than Bs’ and “”all As are X” or “no Bs are X.” I’ve never disputed average differences with you, just the implication of what that should mean, behaviorally and/or policy wise. Most importantly, I don’t think that when average differences exist but false positives are the most common result of a policy based on them that that policy is supported. Secondly, as with my NBA example, I think that making a policy on group differences ignoring individual performance is often disastrously foolish.

          • Lacunaria

            Has anyone been arguing to ignore known individual performance? The claim is simply that there is a cost to obtaining knowledge and heuristic searches which include race can increase efficiency.

            In other words, any example where it is irrational to consider race is a strawman. It doesn’t respond to the claim.

            What is your moral basis for abstractly drawing the line at 50+% false positive errors? I mean, you don’t even know what condition you are measuring yet or the costs or benefits involved.

            e.g. a doctor’s policy might be to run a simple test based upon a patient’s race that has a high rate of false positives in order to weed out the negatives and inform further costly testing. Is that a bad policy?

    • Sergio Méndez

      “What characterises libertarianism. I think, is the demand for maximum equal liberty for all persons: the maximum liberty of all compatible with the equal liberty of each (or whatever Kant’s formulation was). I say ‘persons’ rather than ‘humans’ because if we encounter aliens who can talk and argue with us, then we ought to treat them as having maximum equal liberty too.

      What follows from that concerning racism? It is not entirely clear because it is not entirely clear where the bounds of maximum equal liberty lie. I suspect libertarians can, in consistency, take different positions on it.”

      I totally agree with the first paragraph, which makes the second one make me feel stunned. If people or more precisely, persons, are entitled to a set of specific rights for being persons (and that includes any other forms of persons, including non human persons, like aliens), how that not have clear implications regarding racism? Racism implies by its very nature denial of other people “maximum equal liberty” to use your own words. Racists claim that because they pretend persons are “less persons” because of their genetic inheritance (which could easily apply to aliens), or ethnic pertinence. How is not racism completely at odds and incompatible with the principles expressed in your first paragraph?

      • Think of ‘liberties’ in Hohfeld’s sense. If every person has equal liberty to trade with every other, he has also the liberty not to trade. So does he therefore have the liberty to trade with white people but not with black ones? We can affirm equal liberty for all persons yet disagree over that question.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Again, racists and anti semites do not confine their own beliefs to “not trading/associating with people they dislike”. They actively and systematically claim people of other races or ethnicities than their own are inferior, and thus, are entitled to less rights.

          • Yes, typically they do; but they need not.

          • Sergio Méndez

            By the very definition of those they must do. If you are a racist you do believe that other people have less rights because they belong to x race. You may not act on that belief, but as a matter of your noetic structure, if you claim yourself a libertarian, you are a still having a contradiction.

          • Suppose some says (and believes): ‘all people have equal rights but I don’t want any black people around me.’ Is that not a kind of racism? It is a kind of position that has been defended by some libertarians as being legally permissible though morally unsavoury.

          • Sergio Méndez

            ” ‘all people have equal rights but I don’t want any black people around me.’ Is that not a kind of racism?”

            Depends on the reasons to answer that claim. Unless that there is a valid reason for that which is very unlikely (let´s imagine an hypothetical were the individual in question is really threatened by people of dark skin -say, for health issue-, for example), I doubt it. It is more probable that the person in question has some irrational hatred for black people, and thus see them as lesser persons. Again, he may NOT act on those beliefs, and in that way may avoid a performative contradiction with him or her being libertarian. But he will still have an internal contradiction (because being a libertarian means you think people have the same rights while at the same time think some don´t). In any case, stuff like racism and anti semitism hardly get confined inside people skulls. They are activist social causes, as history has shown (in very dramatic ways)

          • Sorry, I did not say enough. I meant that the person not only says and believes what I attributed to him but also behaves in accord: he never invites black people to his house or employs them in his business or patronises their shops, etc. When he accidentally meets any, he always treats them with the respect due to a person who has equal rights and he hides his detestation. But the detestation is there and it shows itself in his other behaviour (earlier mentioned). He accepts equal rights; but he is still some kind of racist.

        • Theresa Klein

          Posit a society in which systematic racism was widespread, legal, and socially tolerated.
          What sort of society would that be like to live in for a member of the minority group. Do you think it would be a just society? Do you think such a society would be consistent with libertarian ideals of individual liberty and equal justice?

          Imagine that you are a member of that minority group, and imagine that -being an individual – you don’t conform to the group stereotype. Nevertheless, because of the lack of individualist treatment, you almost always get treated like you did. You almost always get treated like “average black person”, rather than like the individual that you are. Would you be okay with that system? Would you believe it to be just and fair? Or would you strive to change it in some way?

          • I think some libertarians would say that such a society is just. Amongst those, some (perhaps all) would say that it could be improved morally. But I think it is open to a libertarian to argue that such a society would not be just. It all depends on what counts as maximum equal liberty. That is a theoretical question (one to which empirical evidence is relevant).

          • Theresa Klein

            Yes. I think it is somewhat semantic whether you say “unjust” or “could be improved morally”, but I think you would be hard pressed to find any legitimate libertarians who would be happy with that society and not try to alter it, perhaps only by promoting norms of individualism over racial biases. Maximum equal liberty is not inconsistent with having social norms governing what sort of behavior is tolerated – individuals are entitled to not associate with people who they think don’t treat other people justly. Moreover maximum equal liberty must include liberty across race. So we have a situation where we either have unequal liberty for members of different races, or unequal liberty for people who hold racist views, in a social context. I think almost all libertarians would hold that social norms which enforce equal liberty within society across race are preferable to norms which enforce equal liberty for holders of racists views. You can’t really have both.

          • Posit a society in which disregard for the environment (other than laws against trespass, pollution of commons, etc.) is widespread, legal, and socially tolerated. Development is indiscriminate and to such a degree that some types of ecosystems disappear. Mature forests are cut down, wetlands filled, migratory and vulnerable species made extinct.
            Do you think such a society could be consistent with libertarian ideals?
            Would you be okay with that system? Would you strive to change it in some way?

            I think it would be consistent with libertarian ideals, but I wouldn’t be okay with it and I’d try to change it in the direction of greater conservation and appreciation of nature.

            I’ve never believed libertarianism would solve all of the many difficult problems facing human societies. But this hasn’t made me abandon it. Nor does it make me think it must be (re)defined to include values of, say, conservation. Instead, I promote, among other things, libertarianism…and conservation. I’ve seen so many definitions of “libertarian” that clumsily define away some of the already small population who **want equal rights & limited government** that I’ve lost count. Many of these definitions, for example, involve natural rights. (In the thirty or so years I’ve considered myself a libertarian, I’ve never believed in natural rights. I like to think I’ve avoided being bounced though.)

            To me, thickening libertarianism dilutes one of its key ingredients: a marked incompleteness as a worldview. More than most political philosophies, knowing someone is libertarian suggests little about their other views about the world or society. To the degree that its adherents try to finish and decorate it, libertarianism loses its claim to simplicity and thus social neutrality. As Salem suggests below, if people who prefer minimal government are not “libertarian,” we’ll need a different word for them.

  • JdL

    Can you be a libertarian racist or anti-Semite? No.

    100% wrong. Hating people for their group identity is silly, but it’s not anti-libertarian. If someone advocates reduced legal protections for members of groups he/she hates, THAT’S anti-libertarian, but simply refusing to engage voluntarily with certain people is well within the NAP.

    • Sergio Méndez

      “If someone advocates reduced legal protections for members of groups he/she hates, ”

      And what the fuck you think racists and anti semites do?

      • I think we all agree that this kind of racism is anti-libertarian / illiberal.

    • James Taylor

      I addressed all of your points in the original post.

  • Theresa Klein

    I think this is a thick vs. thin libertarian distinction.
    Thick libertarianism involves not only co-existing with other people under a libertarian government (i.e. adhering to non-aggression principles), but also following a personal moral ethos consistent with maintaining a libertarian social environment.

    A thick libertarian should strive to create a society where not just government, but the informal norms governing social relationships are libertarian in nature. That is, in which it’s not ONLY the government that is required to treat people like individuals, but other individuals are also expected to treat one another as individuals, which is enforced by various social norms against treating people merely as members of groups.

    A Nozickian metastate would certainly have room in it for communist enclaves and racist enclaves and religious theocratic enclaves, but the thick libertarian would tend to live in the enclave with fairly liberal social rules where people do get treated like individuals and would strive to keep it that way.

    A society in which certain groups of people systematically *weren’t* treated like individuals wouldn’t be a libertarian society to the members of those groups. It would be a fairly restrictive and punishing place, much like conservative Muslim societies are to women. I would think that a libertarian would strive to liberalize conservative Muslim societies, to make them freer places for women, and likewise, ought to strive to make society a freer place for minority racial groups. That means maintaining a personal ethos of treating people like individuals, as well as establishing and enforcing social norms which require others to treat people like individuals.
    The fact that treating people like individuals requires effort and imposes costs is not a good reason for not doing it. While libertarianism allows people to be selfish assholes, it does not require them to behave in a selfish utility-optimizing fashion (nevermind that behaving in a racist way might not be utility optimizing in the long term). Ayn Rand might have advocated that people behave selfishly, but she strongly condemned racism.

    Ultimately, in the complete absence of government, the only way a libertarian anarchist group could exist is WITH firmly enforced social norms forbidding racism. Otherwise, it simply wouldn’t be libertarian at all. An anarchist group with rampant racism and no laws would basically be either a slave society or a racially exclusive enclave. Absent government, the only thing enforcing individualism IS group social norms. The more you devolve the state and the less institutional law you have demanding equal justice and individual rights via state enforcement, the more you have to have informal social norms enforcing individual rights within the group.

  • MamaLiberty

    Such nonsense. Respect, trust, reputation is EARNED, not an automatic given.
    Each individual can and should discriminate to suit themselves. It’s called the freedom of association. The people they allow into their lives – and the reason for any exclusion –
    is entirely optional. The only response not available to anyone, legitimately, is initiation of force.

    Discrimination by the non-voluntary government, on the other hand, always involves aggression and is not ever legitimate.

    • James Taylor

      I think you misunderstand “respect”; it is not a form of admiration, but the recognition that others have morally relevant properties that require a particular response. Otherwise, why should I not aggress upon you if I so wish?

      • MamaLiberty

        You obviously define “respect” differently somehow. Respect, to me, is a part of trust. I do not respect anyone I cannot trust, and I will not trust anyone I don’t respect. People demonstrate their trustworthiness by their integrity, their non-aggressive relationships with others. I center my life, my relationship with others based on the non-aggression principle. I will never aggress against anyone, but that doesn’t mean they are worthy of my trust or respect. Do you respect muggers or politicians… but I repeat myself. Do you actually respect those who want to control your life and property, or kill you?

        • James Taylor

          That’s a reasonable response; I think our disagreement might be semantic, rather than substantive.

  • Salem

    I am interested in your definition that the basis of libertarianism is individual respect – where does it come from? Is it the most common self-description by self-professed libertarians? Is it how non-libertarians describe it? Does it derive from some widely recognised authority on the subject – perhaps some sort of Libertarian Pope?

    What do you plan to call all the people who agree with libertarianism as a political commitment, but don’t agree with your justification? Do you think the distinction between libertarians and schmibertarians is a useful one – particularly as the latter so heavily outnumber the former?

    Or is it just your view of what libertarianism ought to be? If so, try to justify, because so far you have just pronounced. Personally, I think the post is banishing all that’s good about libertarianism. For example, I treat my brother differently from a random stranger, due to our shared ancestry. Lots of religious groups treat co-religionists very differently from outsiders. The great thing about libertarianism – and the free market more generally – is it provides a way for folk with very different views and moral commitments to co-operate and flourish, without forcing them to respect each other, whether as individuals or groups.

  • Salem

    Or, to put it another way:

    Go into the Exchange in London, that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion and reserve the name of infidel for those who go bankrupt. There the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist, and the Church of England man accepts the promise of the Quaker. On leaving these peaceable and free assemblies, some go to the synagogue, others in search of a drink; this man is on the way to be baptized in a great tub in the name of the Father, by the Son, to the Holy Ghost; that man is having the foreskin of his son cut off, and a Hebraic formula mumbled over the child that he himself can make nothing of; these others are going to their church to await the inspiration of God with their hats on; and all are satisfied.

    That’s the aim – not to force people to pretend respect for persons, views or practices they find odious, or to shatter their pre-political commitments.

    • What a great passage. I’d never read it before. Here’s a link in case others want to follow up:

    • James Taylor

      The whole point of Voltaire’s discussion was that the traders did respect each other as persons.

      • Salem

        No! The whole point is that they didn’t; hence why he says immediately below “If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other’s throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace.” If they respected each other as persons, they wouldn’t wish to cut each other’s throats, unless I dramatically misunderstand you.

        Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of British society circa 1733 knows that differing religious groups didn’t respect each other (Test, Corporation, Occasional Conformity Acts…). Far from it; they thought each other’s religions evil and corrupt, their ceremonies pagan superstition, and all the rest. But they treat one another as if they were of the same religion in the marketplace, because the free market gives them a modus vivendi.

        • James Taylor

          Thank you–that’s a reasonable response to my reply!

          • But again, notice, you don’t actually reply.


    This surely is a worthy topic for discussion on this blog, and merits an extended and careful analysis. Unfortunately, this ain’t it; in fact I suggest it is a fairly transparent example of circular reasoning, i.e. it purports to offer an argument but merely restates its assumptions.

    After a couple of anodyne opening sentences, the author says that, “But it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else.” Left unsaid at this point is the substance of “treating her differently” or why it requires “justification” of some sort. We are then told that if you do act this way, “you’re treating persons primarily as [gasp] tokens of types of people, and not primarily as individuals. And that’s just not an individualist–or libertarian–view.” Nothing here yet about why this is not a libertarian view.

    In the next para we are informed that such discrimination is not libertarian because “the commitment not to aggress stems from the recognition that other persons are individuals with their own projects that you should not interfere with without just cause.” Again left unsaid: what sort of “interference” is objectionable, and what would constitute “just cause.” What Taylor needs at this point is an argument that shows that respecting other persons’ libertarian rights isn’t enough. Put differently, how can my acting squarely within my rights represent an objectionable interference with someone else?

    Instead, we merely get repetition. We are entitled to refuse service to anyone, “But if this refusal stems from treating one’s prospective trading partner as a token of a type [gasp again] of people rather than as an individual in her own right then it will be incompatible with libertarianism.” So you say, but there’s no there there. It’s not even compelling in some sort of naive intuitive way. One means by which hard-pressed immigrants survive is to favor their own. This is the story of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Korean, and other immigrant communities. They prefer to marry their own and do business with their own: that’s how you make it in a strange and often hostile environment. I’m actually open to persuasion on this subject by either side, but this is very weak tea.

    • Jeff R.

      Another case where the comments wind up being substantially better than the original post.

    • Sean II

      Guy makes one tiny little claim about something other than liberty being the defining feature of libertarianism, and you gotta jump all up in his shit.

      Coulda just rolled with it and helped to create a definition of libertarianism that would exclude all of humanity from membership, but noooooo….


        Ya know, I’m beginning to feel a little pang of guilt about this…

        • Sean II

          It’ll pass.

    • James Taylor

      Where do these “libertarian rights” come from? You’ve apparently removed from consideration that they stem from features that all persons (i.e., those who should be accorded them) share, and that should be respected as a result. So, I’m very curious as to what the basis for these “rights” actually is.


        You’ve misfired here (again). I didn’t object to your claim that rights “stem from features that all persons…share.” In fact, I champion a version of that argument developed by Robert Nozick in my Nozick’s Libertarian Project: An Elaboration and Defense (Continuum 2011), pp. 16-29). Check it out! No, the problem with your post is that you provide no actual argument for what your regard as the sole correct interpretation of what constitutes libertarian “respect for persons.”

        • James Taylor

          I didn’t mention rights at all, so I’m pleased that you didn’t object to a claim I didn’t make. I read your original comment several times, and, frankly, couldn’t understand it at all–in large part as you attribute to me a series of claims that I don’t make Reading this response doesn’t really shed any light on what your objection is, except that you seem to want me to defend the view that libertarianism is committed to respect for persons, where this is understood as a refusal to treat people differently on the basis of morally irrelevant criteria such as race and gender. But the burden of proof here isn’t on those who believe that like cases should be treated alike; it’s on those who hold that it’s consistent not to do this, or who hold that race and gender are morally relevant.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I really don’t know what to say. My initial comment reviewed your “argument” at each of its stages, and noted that certain key terms: “treating her differently,” “just cause,” “interference” were arbitrarily interpreted to require a certain type of conduct, i.e. a rigid policy of blindness to race, gender, religion, etc. On this basis, you concluded that libertarianism demands that we conform to this standard. I simply noted that none of these interpretations were actually argued for, and that nothing you said gave us adequate grounds for rejecting alternative understandings of “treatment,” “interference,” etc., such as respecting other persons’ libertarian rights. It’s your post and “argument” so I can’t quite see how I have any burden of proof here at all.

          • James Taylor

            I don’t think you even read the post, since you seem to have missed the fact that I explicitly noted which normative elements were not crucial to the argument, and so open to disagreement. Hint: Those you claim I need to define.

            Yes, this is my usual tone with people who defend the view that you can be a “libertarian racist”.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Wow! A number of your critics I know to be published philosophers. Others have demonstrated by their comments on this and other posts that they are either academic philosophers or highly sophisticated consumers of philosophical argument. We have all made essentially the same point, i.e. your “argument” is deeply flawed because it depends on unsubstantiated assumptions. Your knee-jerk response is that we all failed to “even read the post.” Trust me on this, we read it, but found your reasoning to be unsatisfactory.

            Here you say that you noted that “just cause” was up for debate. True enough, but as I have now observed several times, the problem is that ALL the key terms of your argument (“treatment,” “interference,” “justification”) are similarly up for debate. You arbitrarily interpret these terms to suit your claim, and then declare victory, equivocating between the unobjectionable statement of your case (“respect for persons”) and the controversial version you adopt.

            Finally, I actually didn’t defend the view that “you can be a libertarian racist.” As I made clear in my first comment, I have an open mind on this question, but criticized your specific argument. I am confident that more capable philosophers can make a much tighter argument that might persuade me. I do agree, however, that there is no point in further discussion.

          • Sean II

            “Yes, this is my usual tone with people who defend the view that you can be a “libertarian racist”

            This is pretty funny considering one of the things people objected to in your post with a lack of boundary in the key definition.

            If everyone who practices statistical discrimination is a racist, and no racist can ever be libertarian…well, we’d better warn PorcFest to get back that 2018 deposit while there’s still time. This gets us down from 3% to zero.

            Now, incredibly, you take the further step of declaring that anyone who speaks in defense of this thing everyone practices (i.e. statistical discrimination) is not just unlibertarian, but undeserving of basic courtesy as well.

            All this, in an argument you started with the certain knowledge that such people would show up to reply.

          • Sergio Méndez

            “If everyone who practices statistical discrimination is a racist, and no racist can ever be libertarian…”

            And this is, in the end, the most sophisticated form of defending racism. It is is not racism…it is “statistical discrimination [based on race and ethnicity]”. Let´s just avoid the details of discriminating by race or ethnicity, let´s just avoid the details of being a racist and ethnicity and label it behind some pseudo sophisticated phraseology “statistical discrimination” and everything is fine . Let´s ignore the fact that racism and anti semitism, the main issues discussed, imply the denial of people´s of color or jews rights (and thus its practical violation) and say we are just exercising our right to discriminate on statistics (because of course statistics can never be wrong or interpreted wrong). In essence, this is just a more sophisticated version of the denial the Alt Right does: try to hide the fact they are racists, and proud of it.

          • King Goat

            “I don’t think you even read the post”

            James, meet Mark.

          • It’s not just you, Mark. James Taylor spent the better part of yesterday asking several commentators to provide a basis for their view of rights. Each has answered in his or her own way, and James won’t acknowledge it. It’s more like he is pestering his commentators than engaging with them, and as such I likely won’t be reading his next post. Why would I?

          • James Taylor

            Actually, “the better part of yesterday” was about 20 minutes in the late evening.

            And only two commentators have responded directly to my question. It turns out that I have a semantic disagreement with one (which is fine), and the other claimed that free association was axiomatic. (Which I find deeply implausible.)

            Now we’ve got your factual mistakes out of the way, I’ll be very clear:

            My point in each case was simple: If you claim that persons should be free from force, or free to associate, or free from fraud, we need to know *why*. If your claim is that these claims are basic, we can stop there. (But your view is now utterly implausible.) If you claim that these claims are justified, we need to know how. And if you’ve also rejected the view that persons are worthy of respect simply in virtue of being persons, and that this grounds their equal treatment, then I’m curious as to what your justification will be.

            Since you consider asking persons for justification for their prima facie implausible views to be “pestering”, this conversation is at an end.

          • I’m not sure you’re capable of seeing how self-absorbed your approach to dialogue is, but the fact of the matter is that the “conversation” was over before it began. Ironic given that you seem to base your libertarianism on mutual respect: You clearly don’t practice what you preach.

          • Sean II

            “You clearly don’t practice what you preach.”

            Interesting to note: one of the first comments in this thread was Sergio predicting the board would soon be swarmed by people screeching “what about ANTIFA!”, etc.

            Taylor promptly upvoted him for that. Which means he too was expecting a youtube comment section level of argument here.

            But when no such people arrived, he didn’t change his mind. He just decided to treat the people who did show up as if they were the very Breitbartians he expected.

            All in the course of teaching others a lesson about prejudice.

          • Read it again, James. If you didn’t understand Mark, then read it again.

  • martinbrock

    Suppose I fancy redheads, so I only date redheads. I’m not a redhead myself. Does this preference and practice disqualify me as a libertarian? Suppose I create a matchmaking website called for men attracted to redheaded women and less discriminating, redheaded women. Does this business model disqualify me as a libertarian?

    • James Taylor

      I was unaware that sexual preferences entail holding persons one is not attracted to to be less worthy as persons. But maybe you have very odd tastes.

      • martinbrock

        If I prefer not to have sex with a person, the person is less worthy to have sex with me than a person I prefer to have sex with. What else does “less worthy” mean?

        I’m asking you to define “less worthy as persons” operationally. Choosing not to have sex with someone apparently does not deem the person less worthy. If I’m a prostitute but refuse sex with redheads, or charge them a higher price, do I deem redheads less worthy?

        • James Taylor

          Less worthy of moral consideration, such that actions towards them without their consent are less constrained than they would be towards others.

          • martinbrock

            Any action toward anyone without their consent violates a libertarian principle, but this general principle only raises questions that libertarian political theory must address. If you and I cannot interact consensually, we can be both act freely only be not interacting. That’s the whole point of private property.

          • James Taylor

            “Any action toward anyone without their consent violates a libertarian principle….”

            I don’t think that can be right, as written. I talk about you when you don’t want me to; I don’t see how this violates a libertarian principle. perhaps you could clarify this? I think that we might well be in agreement on your other points, though, so unless there’s something riding on this there’s no need to clarify!

          • martinbrock

            I took “actions towards them” to mean an aggressive interaction. If you talk about me and say things I don’t like, on my property or within my community wherein our standards prohibit the talk, then you do violate a libertarian principle. If you talk about me on your property, hearing your talk is my choice, so “I don’t want to hear it” is nonsensical. If simply knowing that you say things I don’t like, wherever you are, bothers me, that’s my problem, not yours, and I wouldn’t call the talk any sort of action toward me, any more than your thoughts about me are an action toward me.

          • James Taylor

            OK, that’s a helpful clariifcation!

  • Jeff R.

    This means that the argument that a desire to refuse service to persons on the basis of their ancestry (or sex) is compatible with being a libertarian as such a refusal is simply the refusal to confer a benefit and not the infliction of a harm cuts no ice.

    Does this mean no Curves gyms in libertopia? No wonder libertarianism doesn’t appeal to women!

    I’m being glib here, but this does hint at a real problem with this attitude: if you really do take the view that any sort of discrimination on the basis of immutable or otherwise difficult to change characteristics is wrong, you wind up having to condemn some pretty anodyne and normal civic/economic institutions: Catholics can’t form Catholic schools, the Knights of Columbus is some sort of Jim Crow abomination, and probably even the VFW needs to go. Societies need to be able to organize people along certain dimensions, and ethno-religious bases or shared experiences like military service are an obvious way of doing so. You need to be able to distinguish in some fashion between this kind of exclusion and the Jim Crow kind. That would be an interesting post to read and an argument worth fleshing out.

    Furthermore, you need to be able to make legitimate exceptions for freedom conscience, too, do you not? For example, does a Muslim Dairy Queen franchisee have to provide bacon-bourbon ice cream at a gay wedding in order to remain a good classical liberal? Must he violate his own personal commitments in the service of others’? I can’t see why. So how do distinguish between real issues of conscience and those of the ‘gays are icky’ variety? Again, that would be an interesting argument to read. Yours…wasn’t.

    • James Taylor

      Did you actually read the post? (Serious question.)

      • Jeff R.

        Yes, there is a distinct difference. That’s my point.

    • Theresa Klein

      Religion isn’t immutable. If you really want to go to a Catholic school, you’re free to convert to Catholicism any time you want.

      • Jeff R.

        That’s wonderful news.

  • martinbrock

    Since we’re declaring definitively who is and is not entitled to self-identify as “libertarian”, I’ll propose another definition. Libertarianism essentially is free association, and free association requires intentional community. Individual property rights are not essentially libertarian, because all property rights beyond self-ownership involve more than one person, a proprietor and others respecting the proprietor’s exclusive rights. To qualify as “libertarian”, this relationship between the proprietor and the others must be voluntary, and this requirement necessarily segregates individuals into groups.

    Members of a segregated group agree on standards of propriety and apply these standards to one another and to non-human resources claimed exclusively and collectively by the group. This collection of individuals and their resources is a community. Within a community, individuals may own resources according to any standards agreeable to all members. A Rothbardian community is perfectly libertarian, but so is a communist community in which members hold most resources in common, each producing according to individual ability and consuming freely or as needed. Either of these communities may be impractical and ultimately repel members, but that’s a separate issue. Free association also requires both an inalienable, individual right to exit a community at will and an obligation not to invade a community aggressively (not to violate its standards).

    Since nothing I’ve described precludes segregation based on race, ethnicity, religion or gender, racism, anti-Semitism and similar preferences are not relevant to libertarianism. I would not choose a racially segregated community myself, but this preference doesn’t make me more libertarian than thou.

    • James Taylor

      Why should we be concerned with allowing free association, unless we believe that we should respect certain features of the persons we believe should be able to freely associate?

      • martinbrock

        Because we are libertarians, definitively. An axiomatic assumption requires no further justification. You can reject it or accept it, but if it requires further justification, it’s not definitive.

        I don’t even know what “race” means. What is Barack Obama’s race? Who is a Semite? Self-described Jews don’t even agree on who is a Jew. If I disrespect a father who will stone his child for apostasy, am I an anti-Semite? If a disrespect someone who will not eat bacon, am I an anti-Semite? Someone who speaks Yiddish? Someone whose mother spoke Yiddish?

        The right to exit respects the only relevant feature of individuals, a capacity subjectively to prefer one community over another. Respecting this right, irrespective of race or gender or anything else, is definitively libertarian, but respecting this right does not preclude discrimination based on immutable attributes in the formation of communities.

        Liberty cannot be a right to enter, because entering a community without the consent of its members imposes a relationship on the members. If a community restricts entry based on hair or skin color, a person without the requisite hair or skin color is nonetheless free to choose another community.

        • James Taylor

          You’ve told me that there is a right to free association–but why should anyone believe this? I take it that you believe that there’s no right to cross state lines, say, from NJ to NY? And there’s no right to enter predominantly Jewish communities, such as Lakewood, NJ? Could they use force to prevent this? I assume, on your view, yes?

          • martinbrock

            I’m not asking anyone to believe anything. I am asserting a right to free association as an axiomatic foundation of a political theory. Anyone may accept or a reject the theory based on its logical consequences. I don’t know the one, true (or rightful) political theory, and I doubt that such a thing exists.

            There’s a right to cross state lines between NJ and NY, because authorities in these states enact this right and their subjects generally respect it.

            Lakewood, NJ is not an exclusively Jewish community, and I don’t know that any of its residents, much less a majority, desire an exclusively Jewish community; however, I have visited monasteries with exclusively Catholic (and male) membership in the United States.

            Even by the laws of the United States (which does not enact the political theory I defend here), a monastery may use force to exclude non-members, just as I may use force to exclude anyone other than my wife and I from our house. A group of Jews could constitute an exclusively Jewish community this way, and they would have a right to exclude non-Jews forcibly.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Can a libertarian be pro-Semitic? Can s/he prefer Jews to non-Jews and discriminate accordingly? Nice! You hit on something important here. One of the enduring anti-Semitic tropes is that we are clannish. And it’s true! Throughout the ages Jews have generally refused to marry non-Jews, and have prioritized giving charity and doing business with Jews v. outsiders. Even after we were liberated from the ghettos, Orthodox Jews prefer to live in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, and maybe worst of all, under traditional Jewish law, we can charge interest to non-Jews, but not to members of our faith. (I should add here, that under Jewish law it is a far worse sin to cheat a gentile v. a Jew, because you thereby “profane the name of God–but we can still have our “pound of flesh”). So for Taylor, traditional Jews are excluded from the libertarian club for bigotry. Thus, the irony, the guy on the holier-than-thou soapbox kicking libertarians out of the movement for anti-Semitism is endorsing one of the “justifications” used by anti-Semites.

          • Sean II

            “One of the enduring anti-Semitic tropes is that we are clannish. And it’s true!”

            Slight correction: it was true. The collapse of ethnocentricity and endogamy among diaspora Jews has been quite dramatic.

            This is not good news for people who love math, science, and comedy.

            There are some Jewish moms fighting a rearguard action against it, trying to keep the Ashkenazim alive by pairing nice Jewish boys with nice Jewish girls, but I suppose someone like Taylor would be obliged to call them evil for that.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Slight correction to your slight correction. Obviously, what you say is not true of the Orthodox, representing about 10% US Jews (not sure of the figure abroad). Now these aren’t your high achievers in math, science, and comedy–unless they defect–but the modern Orthodox are able to remain frum while working in the secular world, and send their kids to Harvard, MIT, etc. So, there’s still hope.

          • Sean II

            True, and interesting. It’s one of those weird double standards we have: if you’re willing to wear a funny hat, you can get away with things that would otherwise be swiftly denounced as racist or sexist.

            Surely no one is less woke than the Amish, but somehow they get a pass from all this cultural revolution shit.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Some funny jokes are out there about Orthodox Jews being mistaken for Amish…

          • Sean II

            Name the film:

            “I don’t want to hurt you! I just want to make you kosher!”

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Oh man, you trolling me? The last film I saw was “The Jazz Singer,” and I don’t mean the remake I heard about with Neil Diamond and Lawrence Olivier (embarrassing himself for the cash). You’ll have to help me out here.

          • Sean II

            The Frisco Kid. Classic bit of movie trivia here:

            Gene Wilder plays a rabbi who leaves Poland for an arranged marriage in San Francisco, but has to cross the wild west on his way. Being a nebbishy intellectual, he immediately gets robbed and beaten and left for dead in the desert (i.e. Ohio) by local tough guys. Dumb luck alone saves him when he stumbles upon an Orthodox shtetl, which of course turns out to be…an Amish community. They nurse him back to health and allow him to compete his mission. Whereupon he teams up with cowboy Harrison Ford – who in a later film would play a tough city cop who gets left for dead, then nursed back to health in an Amish community. In Hollywood recycling predates environmentalism.

            Doesn’t really work as a movie, but there are some good bits. Han Solo butchering yiddish, plus an amusing theological debate between him an a Comanche chief about the futility of doing rain dances before the G_d of the Torah.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            All kidding aside, that movie was pre-children for me, so I do remember seeing it on TV and laughing at those bits. Gene Wilder was a funny guy. I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble here, but it seems mighty weird how so many successful comics are Jewish. It’s probably just that their mommies were funny, and then back down the line.

          • Sean II

            It’s true, the Midrash is chock full of witty MILFs.

            There’s a question in real need of answering. As great as the Ashkenazi disproportion has been in other realms – 2% vs 25% for things like chess, math and science prizes, etc. – their contribution to comedy seems even greater. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like 75% of all professional funny people in America were Jewish, especially if we include anonymous talent slaving away in writer’s rooms to make people like Channing Tatum seem funny.

            One possible explanation that occurs to me is: comedy is a correlate of IQ, but because it’s impractical, it really only develops in high IQ communities.

            To say it more plainly: being funny ain’t worth shit out on the steppe, and it probably had a negative return for most of human history. At best, people laughed and admonished you to get back to flint-knapping. At even, you told a joke no one got and people ignored you. At worst, you made the boss look ridiculous and turned up dead shortly thereafter.

            So it might be that comedy only become profitable after large numbers of smart people found themselves living in close quarters, with time and money to spare for entertainment. And the first group which crossed that threshold were the Ashkenazim.

            But, as you say, what does this mean in light of the thread. Presumably its anti-semitic to say “the Jews run show business”. Taylor’s not in the habit of supplying definitions or examples, but it would be hard for him to avoid putting a statement like that on the bad list.

            But what if a Jew says it? Or what if a gentile like me says it, but one who thinks it’s a good thing that the Jews run Hollywood because they’re doing a great job of it, and producing some of the best art in human history? Is that still evil? Is it evil in the exact same way?

            A couple years back Steve Martin was hosting the oscars, and as he introduced Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds said: “You played a character obsessed with finding Jews. Well, Christoph [gestures to the audience of writers, producers, directors, etc]…here you go. The mother lode.”

            Everyone laughed, hard. It was probably his most well-received joke that night. And yet, at it’s core, and not at all ironically, the whole gag hinged on the fact that Jews really do dominate Hollywood.

            So, did he make himself ineligible for libertarianism there? Must we now regard him as someone who lacks respect for persons? Does the truth of his premise not in any way mitigate the presumed malice of it?

            And more importantly, how long do we expect respect for persons to last after we’ve done away with respect for facts?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Interesting theory, and it seems to be testable through historical research. When did “community comedy get its start, meaning something like comics making a living through oral or written entertainment? Greek drama? I have no idea. No discernible humor in the Torah, though. The Jewish God means business (humor).

          • Rob Gressis

            I also wonder about this situation:

            I live in a small town with very little crime. I notice someone come into my store. I go back to reading my newspaper until she asks to pay for some toiletries.

            In this situation, it seems as though I am *not* treating this person as an individual. It’s precisely because it’s a small town with little crime that I don’t make sure she doesn’t steal.

            On the other hand, if I live in a high crime neighborhood, I’m going to follow the movements of anyone who enters my store.

            Maybe neither of these cases is me failing to respect individuality; after all, you could say I’m moving from features of the town to the behavior of individuals, not features of groups to the behavior of individuals.

            But that would be silly; I’m moving from features of the individuals who are in my town to these individuals in particular.

            So what about this case: I’m in a high crime town; two individuals enter; one is an elderly man, the other is a young man. I can only focus on one. Whom do I pick? I think I would follow the young man, because young men are likelier to rob. Clearly, though, I am *not* treating this man as an individual.

            Here’s a more common case: I walk through the streets of LA looking at my smart phone because people in LA don’t tend to steal people’s smart phones out of their hands. On the other hand, if I’m in the subway in NYC, I won’t look at my phone while I’m near an open or closing subway door, because those are the kinds of situations where people do tend to steal phones. Finally, I won’t walk around looking at my phone at all if I’m in Costa Rica and around people, because phones get stolen out of your hands all the time (or so a Costa Rican Uber driver told me).

            Similarly, I don’t smile if I’m in Russia, because that’s a sign that you’re trying to get one over on someone, whereas I will in Thailand because it’s a sign of friendliness.

    • Theresa Klein

      Libertarianism is a bit more than just “free association”. It’s about creating an environment where individuals are maximally able to pursue their individual goals without harming others. It’s entirely possible for non-libertarian enclaves to exist within a libertarian umbrella. But being able to co-exist within a libertarian framework doesn’t make someone a libertarian.

      • martinbrock

        Free association creates an environment where individuals are able to pursue their individual goals without harming others, but as a political theory, libertarianism describes a means, not an end. Advocating the end without clearly specifying the means is advocating motherhood and apple pie.

        What is a “non-libertarian enclave”? If its members govern limited resources exclusively and if a member may exit at will, how is an enclave non-libertarian? If I’m a misanthropic hermit avoiding all contact with other people, with harming anyone, am I a non-libertarian enclave?

  • Chris Fisher

    “”As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect”

    No… NOO… noOOOooOo… libertarianism isn’t about “respect” (controlling people’s private views about other people), but about the right to live without physical coercion (disclaiming violence).

    • Theresa Klein

      What about the right to live without being subjected to social coercion? What kinds of social coercion are permissible and which are not? Is systematically making members of certain races social pariahs permissible as long as no physical violence is involved? If you think that’s not okay, what sorts of non-violent actions in response are permissible and what are not? Is systematically making people with racist views social pariahs permissible?

      • Chris Fisher

        Yeah, we should all have the freedom of association. The alternative is slavery, in which people are forced to work, against their will for others. If you are worried that racists might take control, understand that the Jim Crow laws were laws, and were only necessary because the free market undermined racism. Financial incentives were destroying racism, and it was the government’s guns that were needed to force discrimination. Much like in today’s world, where anti-competition laws enable discrimination due to dismantling the natural mechanisms of the free market that discourage discrimination.

        Yeah, and social ostracization is absolutely libertarian. Freedom of association.

        • Theresa Klein

          I generally agree, but I’m not convinced that absent Jim Crow laws, some sort of social caste system wouldn’t have remained in place, or wouldn’t reform in the absence of anti-discrimination law, unless we DID systematically turn racists into social pariahs. I’m not actually sure that the free market would eliminate racism on it’s own. The caste system in India persists, in spite of it being officially illegal, for instance. Informal systems of social norms can oppress women in conservative societies, even without legal enforcement (i.e. young girls in fundamentalist Mormon enclaves).
          So there is a real question of what sorts of social norms are compatible with libertarianism. It’s not enough to say the mere absence of laws enforcing inequality is going to ensure social equality. Some cultures, some sets of social norms, are actually more libertarian than others.

          • Sean II

            “I’m not convinced that absent Jim Crow laws, some sort of social caste system wouldn’t have remained in place, or wouldn’t reform in the absence of anti-discrimination law, unless we DID systematically turn racists into social pariahs…”

            We have a caste system now, despite removal of Jim Crow, despite anti-discrimination law, despite affirmative action, and indeed despite making racism one of our strongest taboos. Look at any social statistic you like.

          • martinbrock

            Jim Crow laws violate libertarian principles, but repealing them and replacing them with various civil rights acts, court ordered busing to integrate schools and the like did not eliminate racism. We’ll never know what free markets alone would have yielded, but comparing this counterfactual scenario with another counterfactual scenario (the elimination of racism) seems misleading.

    • James Taylor

      What justifies the “right to live without physical coercion”? Note that since you have removed respect for persons from the discussion, you can’t appeal to features of the persons who wish to protect. I’m genuinely interested in your response.

      • Rob Gressis

        Couldn’t Chris Fisher say this:

        Libertarianism is the view that people have the right to live without physical coercion.

        There is more than one justification for libertarianism. There is, for example, a Kantian justification (like James Taylor uses), but there is also a Rossian justification (like Mike Huemer uses?), a utilitarian justification, an egoistic justification, etc.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Any of those justifications must account for something that is central on libertarian philosophy: that people have rights because they are people. No matter if your views are utilitarian, virtue based or deontological, libertarianism as a core philosophy affirms people have rights. Racism in itself is a denial of those rights (regardless the reason it is defended, regardless if you actually act based on the belief it entails) and thus is in contradiction with libertarian core claim of rights.

          • Suppose a racist sets up a charity that gives $500 to every homeless man, woman, and child who is not also an African-American person.

            Most of us would agree that this is racism, but it’s hard to argue that it denies anyone their rights.

            With this example, I hope to illustrate that it is at least possible to be a racist without denying anyone their rights.

          • Sergio Méndez

            But your example can´t deny that being racist is internally contradictory with your libertarian beliefs, if you hold any.

          • It is not internally contradictory with the belief that libertarianism outlines a relationship between individuals and the state.

            Be that as it may, I trust you concede that there are varieties of racism that do not deny other people their rights.

          • If a person doesn’t “justify” their political viewpoint, do they not hold that viewpoint? What if one is a libertarian because they’re suspicious of government due to personal experience? Can it be accurately claimed, then, that they are not actually libertarian because they have not justified their preference on a philosophical level?

        • James Taylor

          Perhaps this distinction will be helpful. We could justify institutions (all, or just some) that libertarians generally endorse in a variety of ways. However, endorsing a libertarian-approved institution wouldn’t make one a libertarian. To be a libertarian you’ll need to endorse the institutions in question for a particular *reason*–in my view, derived from the fundamental claim that all persons are equally worthy of moral respect. Think analogously of a utilitarian justification for deontological rights. You could claim that they should be respected as they function well on utilitarian grounds, but that wouldn’t make you a deontologist. (Peter Jaworski, by the way, has an interesting argument for the opposite view-but I think he’s wrong! 😉 )

          • Rob Gressis

            I guess I just don’t see why it’s important to define libertarian in that way.

            I can see why you might think that in order to be a Kantian, you not only have to believe in deontological constraints (though David Cummiskey disagrees with that), but also have to believe that the basis of deontological constraints is people’s fundamental worthiness of respect. But I can’t see why you would do the same thing for libertarianism. It seems that you’re making libertarianism not only a political position, but a political position based on a particular normative ethic.

            What’s the benefit of thinking of libertarianism in this way, such that someone who endorsed consequentialism couldn’t count as a libertarian? Is the thought that this is just how the term is used by political philosophers?

          • James Taylor

            Oh, my account of “worthy of respect” is fairly thin, such that a consequentialist who considered the interests of all could count as holding persons to be worthy of respect in the relevant sense.

          • Peter from Oz

            I don’t think libertarians generally endorse institutions qua institutions. What they endorse is the idea that institutions be established by individuals rather than by government.
            Thus libertarianism is really about freedom. Some libertarian may believe that if individuals are allowed to make their own choices they will treat all people with respect, because they will see that it is in their interest to do so. But that is only a consequence of libertarianism, not the core of it.

  • John Hasnas


    This is quite a deontological sounding argument for a utilitarian to make, but I understand that there can be a utilitarian grounding for it on a deeper level.

    Much as it pains me to do so, I must disagree with you, or perhaps merely indicate that we do not have the same referent for the term “libertarianism.” I believe that libertarianism is a purely political position about the proper role of the state that entails no necessary moral content. The moral view that all individual human beings are entitled to (equal, my insertion) respect can certainly lead one to support a libertarian political position, but it is not the only view that can do so, and it is not necessary for one to do so.

    Libertarianism is compatible with a wide variety of moral views, including the belief that there are no individuals because we are all part of Gaia, a thoroughly socialist view of the common good, or total skepticism about the existence of morality itself. As I use the term, as long as one advocates for the properly limited role of the state, one is a libertarian regardless of underlying moral belief.

    You could get me to agree that a racist or anti-Semite cannot be a morally good person, but that does not entail that they cannot be a libertarian.

    I will add that, in my opinion, the idea that there is some necessary moral content to political libertarianism is what keeps libertarians forever arguing with each other rather than trying to convince the larger world of the virtue of limited government.


      Your “Reflections on the Minimal State” was a nice piece of work. Please drop by here more often.

    • Sergio Méndez

      I am curious…if libertarianism is just a philosophy about the “proper role of the state”, why call it “libertarianism” to start (wouldn´t be because it is related with the proper role of freedom in a society and in people lives), and what if not a moral background could justify the supposed proper roles of the state (or freedom)?

    • James Taylor

      It might be that we don’t have the same referent–or it might be that we have a substantive disagreement!

      I think that there’s a difference between “being a libertarian” (having a distinct set of views concerning the role of the state) and “endorsing institutions that libertarians typically endorse”.

      I agree that persons with different moral (and political) views could endorse (some or all of the ) institutions that libertarians typically endorse. But, as I use the term, that wouldn’t make them libertarians. It would make them persons who hold certain positions that libertarians typically endorse, where the justiification for those positions is non-libertarian. By analogy, a utilitarian could endorse deontological side-constraints, but since she does so on utilitarian grounds her endorsement wouldn’t make her a deontologist.

      What would make her a deontologist would be holding a particular set of views that serve as the justification for her stance of particular issues. Similarly, I think that to be a libertarian–rather than merely holding libertarian positions–one would have to have a particular grounding justification for one’s political views that is libertarian. I don’t think that this entails that one must adopt a particular moral view. But I think that it does commit one to hold that persons should be accorded equal (I agree with this insertion!) respect. If it did not, then presumably the downstream principles (such as the non-aggression principle) would come with correlating caveats–“no initiation of aggression unless it’s against Poles”, for example. But since they don’t it seems that their justification rests on a basis whereby all persons must be accorded equal respect.

      Now, one might claim that “libertarian” is just a place-holder term for “person who prefer minimal government’ independently of the justification for that position. I have no objection to this use of the term–and on that use it would be compatible with a racist view. But if this use were the sole use this would imply that there’s not really a libertarian political viewpoint, in the sense of a distinctive set of principles that play a non-derivative justificatory role. And my argument was aimed at persons who hold “libertarianism” to refer to the latter, non-derivative, position.

      So, depending on our respective used of the term “libertarian” we might or might not have a substantive disagreement!

      • John Hasnas

        This is super interesting. After all these years I find out that I am not really a libertarian. My political position is determined by my belief that there is no worthy moral end that can be better accomplished by giving one group of people guns and the right to enforce their will on others that is not better accomplished by allowing diverse parties to try different solutions from a solution emerges by the process of trial and error. My support for my belief is the purely empirical observation of the entire course of human history.

        I didn’t realize that being a Hayekian implied that I was not a libertarian. I will have to find something else to call myself. I have been toing with comon aw liberal for a while.


        • John Hasnas

          Sorry for the typos. I am new to this blog stuff. That should be “from which,” “toying,” and “law.”

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            At the bottom of your comment there should be an “Edit” button that can be used for this.

        • James Taylor

          I suspect that on my own terms I’m not a libertarian either, for very similar reasons!

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Wait, what? Doesn’t that make him a “libertarian racist” worthy of contempt, like the rest of us?

          • Sean II

            Perhaps he thinks there’s a difference between “being a racist” and “endorsing institutions racists typically endorse”.

        • Peter from Oz

          Personally, I’m neither a classical liberal nor a romantic liberal, but a rococo liberal.

  • Jason Brennan

    Here’s a contrary view: *Every* major and enduring political and economic ideology–left-liberalism, classical liberalism, communitarianism, socialism, etc–is compatible with racism. Though racism is bad, that’s not really a problem with those views per se. Rather, it’s because each of these “isms” refers to a family of related ideas and principles, with the intellectual unity of a neighborhood more than of a house. A person can be a libertarian without having the individualist tendencies you defend above. A person can be a left-liberal and also lack them. Keynes was racist, but he was still a left-liberal. Marx was racist, but he was still a Marxist egalitarian socialist. Asking whether you can be both racist and libertarian is like asking whether you can be both a natural law theorist and libertarian. Yes, you can. You shouldn’t be, but you can.

    • Peter from Oz

      Why limit it to racism? You could substitute any sin stemming from an attitude that is illogical or irrational. Libertarians believe in treating all people with respect. If you philander, you treat neither your wife nor your mistress(es) with respect. Therefore if you are an adulterer you cannot be a libertarian.

      • Sean II

        “Therefore if you are an adulterer you cannot be a libertarian.”

        Thankfully, most libertarians are insulated against this particular vice. Most struggle to ensnare one woman…

        • Peter from Oz

          Tee hee.

  • Damon Chetson

    This sort of argument is the reason why libertarianism as articulated by academic libertarians is not the libertarianism that is the lived reality for policy- political- or “every day” libertarians. Academic libertarianism is primarily the province of economists, political economists, and political theorists. And those folks, like James who I count as a friend, are careful give a narrow description of libertarianism grounded in theory where they draw often neat lines between what libertarianism allows as a philosophical program or economic theory.

    But when you see real-life libertarians, and talk to them in the real world, what you find are almost exclusively white, largely male, largely middle, upper middle class, and upper class. These are people who are more likely than not Trump voters. They are comfortable with the current economic arrangement, with less government. The Tea Party, a mostly white phenomenon, was hailed by no less the Cato Institute as a libertarian-friendly grouping.

    Here’s the reality: the reality is that the Tea Party, and libertarian or libertarian-leaning human beings outside of academia and maybe some policy organizations gave rise to Trumpism, and form part of the hard 30 to 35 percent of the country that supports him. Maybe it doesn’t need to be said in this forum, but in case it does: Trumpism is white nationalism, hostility to trade, a reckless use of military force, a hostility to the “other,” parochialism, and anti-democratic.

    Oh, also, a significant component of libertarians as Nancy Maclean *accurately* wrote is hostile to democracy and democratic institutions. And those people all aren’t just in Auburn.

    • Rob Gressis

      Is it surprising that a group of people (libertarians) who place such a high premium on individual rights would be hostile to democracy and democratic institutions, which often invoke the will of the people to deprive minorities of their rights?

      • Damon Chetson

        It is not surprising that a group of almost exclusively white middle and upper middle class would be hostile to democratic institutions that they believe will upend the political and economics arrangements that have benefited them. You are correct.

        Virtually no racial minorities agree with you as evidenced in their non-participation in the libertarian project. And that is the most important minority grouping in the United States, a grouping that has had visited on it unconscionable and sometimes unspeakable injuries since the country’s founding.

        • Rob Gressis

          So is your view this: given that very few non-whites are libertarians, it follows that … what? That libertarianism is merely a cover for upper and upper middle class whites to protect their property? If so, you don’t need to read Maclean or anyone, really. Just look at the demographics of various political groups and deduce their actual motivations from that.

          • Damon Chetson

            In order to understand what Marxist Communism is, i don’t just read Marx or Marx/Lenin. I read history, too. This doesn’t seem controversial. And so when someone says, libertarianism can’t accommodate racists, I don’t just read what libertarian philosophers say.

          • Rob Gressis

            That’s fair, and it’s a good approach. But it’s tough! Do people who describe themselves as libertarians ipso facto count as libertarians, or do we have a conceptual core that someone has to meet to count, despite what they think?

          • Damon Chetson

            Certainly there would be cases where people hold views that are plainly not Christian, but call themselves Christian. There are issues at the margin too. Are Mormons Christian? I think broadly so, but others do not.

            But the doctrinal issues – many of which are gone over in detail by libertarians in the comments section of this website which has an aim of not just taking to the choir! – are secondary to historical and sociological phenomena. There are people who purport to be libertarian in these threads who advance white supremacist arguments. I take them at their word that they are libertarian since the seem know libertarian theology quite well.

            Also go read Reason’s comment section. It’s horrible. These are libertarians speaking.

            Here’s another thought: libertarians are quick to point out the self-interest of bureaucrats, politicians, and economic actors. That is the primary insight of Public Choice. They discount the bureaucrats or politicians claims that they are working for the public good.

            But these same libertarians think that critics need to judge them based on their stated philosophy as opposed to the coalitions they form, the ethnic and gender and economic make up of the libertarian community, the fact that ex-libertarians stay within the right wing or worse, the fact that they weirdly back school vouchers, are often climate change skeptics, sometimes back private prisons, focus on economic policy over war/drug policy.

            Anyway, I think there are many problems with libertarianism as a theology that libertarians embrace which is not to say there aren’t some insights.

          • Rob Gressis

            “But the doctrinal issues … are secondary to historical and sociological phenomena.” I’m not so sure about this. I probably have a very low opinion of most people’s reasoning abilities, at least when it comes to politics, but I would wager that most of the comments on just about any website, save for ones that, for some reason, attract credentialed experts, are of very poor quality. I take it, though, that you’re not claiming that most self-described libertarians (and, I presume, conservatives?), as well as the people who are attracted to “premium mediocre” libertarian organs, like Reason (or National Review, in the case of conservatives), are not just very poor thinkers, but also morally bankrupt? And I take it that you think that they are not just morally vile, but also relatively morally vile, i.e., as compared to the average commenter on Slate or Salon?

            “There are people who purport to be libertarian in these threads who advance white supremacist arguments. I take them at their word that they are libertarian since the seem know libertarian theology quite well.”

            I haven’t read the thread carefully, but I take it that an example you have in mind of someone who advances white supremacist arguments would be Sean II? I ask only because “white supremacist” seems, at least to me, anyway, to have a wider referent than it used to have. So I’m more at a loss than I used to be of what “white supremacist” means (I used to think that it meant, “people who consciously believe that the white race is morally superior to other races” but I gather it now includes groups who believe things like, “western culture is superior to non-western culture” or “whites have on average higher IQs than blacks, and Asians have on average higher IQs than whites and blacks, and these things are true partly for genetic reasons”?)

            “But these same libertarians think that critics need to judge them based on their stated philosophy as opposed to the coalitions they form, the ethnic and gender and economic make up of the libertarian community, the fact that ex-libertarians stay within the right wing or worse, the fact that they weirdly back school vouchers, are often climate change skeptics, sometimes back private prisons, focus on economic policy over war/drug policy.”

            The public choice perspective, as I understand it (and I’m no expert), is that, on average, political actors tend to act in their perceived self-interest just as much as private actors do. The trick is to find out what is in political actors’ self-interest, and this is often things like: getting reelected, making sure their agency gets more and more funding, etc.

            Given that understanding of public choice–which could be flawed for, as I said just now, I’m no expert–it’s a bit hard for me to see the relevance of public choice theory to libertarians themselves. Just applying the analogy directly, I figure it would be something like this: “libertarians advocate what they do because they believe it’s in their self-interest. Thus, if libertarianism happens to be almost 95% white and male, then it’s because these white males think that libertarianism will benefit them. By contrast, if almost 95% of blacks endorse progressivism, it’s because they think that progressivism will benefit them.”

            OK, so far so good. But there’s a difference between doing what you think is in your self-interest and what’s actually in your self-interest. To wit: 53% of white women voted for Trump ( Is that because it was actually in their self-interest, or because they thought it was in their self-interest? Hispanics make up 15% of the general populate, but 34% of Catholics (; is that because Catholicism is really in their self-interest or because they perceive it to be?

            You mentioned something about coalitions, and the fact (I’ll just take it for granted that it’s a fact, though I’d like to see evidence) that people who stop being libertarians tend to remain on the right. They think forming a coalition with people on the right will advance their agenda. OK. Aren’t they correct about that? Half of their agenda, after all, is economic conservatism, and the right-wing of the political ruling class seems to care more about that than about social issues.

            The point is, I’m (obviously!) having trouble (big trouble!) understanding how you’re applying public choice theory to libertarianism itself.

          • Damon Chetson

            Libertarians act out of their own political self-interest. They like libertarianism because it generally protects their economic and political power and their funders almost exclusively support less regulation, lower taxes, oppose universal health care, want to deregulate the labor market, oppose unions, oppose efforts at stopping climate change, that are in their economic interests. The get their money from people who benefit from these policies, like the Kochs. They advocate policies that are actually unsupported by libertarian principles – school vouchers, skepticism about climate change, privatization of prisons, etc. Barely any libertarian funder money goes to opposing war, or ending the drug war (FAMM notwithstanding).

            Anyway, why are there virtually no non-white libertarians in the U.S.?

          • Rob Gressis

            Do you think libertarians are unusual in acting out of their own political self-interest, or do you think that all political groups do so?

            As for why there are virtually no non-white libertarians, I suspect (though I don’t have data on this) that most non-whites haven’t heard of libertarianism. The ones who have I would bet (though I don’t have any data on this) are relatively fairly well-educated, and I would also bet (though I don’t have the data on this), that more well-educated non-whites tend to lean left politically, and so think that libertarian political policies are either immoral or against their self-interest. Just because they think it, though, it doesn’t follow that they’re right.

            Note that if we’re just sticking to public choice (and, I suspect, a rather crude version of public choice), the reason more well-educated people lean left doesn’t have to do with their having better access to the truth as much as it has it do with their thinking left-wing policies are more in their interest.

            Also, why do you think that 3/4 of electrical engineering faculty are Republican? (I got that statistic from an author of _Passing on the Right_.)

          • Damon Chetson

            I’ve made my points. I think they are pretty clear. This is not interesting.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            It rarely is when your interlocutor has made you look like a clown.

          • Wow!

          • Farstrider

            “Do you think libertarians are unusual in acting out of their own political self-interest, or do you think that all political groups do so?”

            No, I think we agree that this is quite typical. But that agreement proves Damon’s point: that libertarians are in it for self interest, not philosophy.

          • Rob Gressis

            I don’t think that prove his point. It assumes his point. If we assume that people are motivated primarily by political self-interest, then it follows from that that libertarians, being people, are also motivated primarily by political self-interest.

            But the coherent ideological nets that people fall into can’t be reduced just to self-interest. Do people who advocate for drug legalization do so because they want to take drugs? Do people who advocate for open borders do so because they want to move somewhere but can’t because of the border? Do people who advocate for gay marriage (as the Libertarian Party did in the early 1970s) do so because they want to marry someone of their own sex? Obviously, the answer to some of these questions is “yes”, but in many cases, the answer is “no”, and so endorsement of those position is not straightforwardly about self-interest.

          • Farstrider

            I think you are confusing cause and effect. I think people come to libertarianism because they are looking for a philosophical and political justification for their self-interest, particularly with regard to “their” property or because they do want to do drugs. They then adopt some other libertarian views more out of a desire to be consistent than anything else. And you’ll note, I’m sure, that many so called libertarians are not in favor of open borders, precisely because they think it is inimical to their self interest.

          • Rob Gressis

            What you say could be right, but these are empirical claims, and without good evidence, it’s hard to see how you can be very confident about them.

            For one thing, many so-called libertarians are in favor of open borders.

            For another thing, are you prepared to generalize your point about libertarians adopting their outlook out of self-interest to other people? For instance, do liberals adopt their political outlook out of self-interest? How about communists? How about me? How about you?

          • Sean II

            “As for why there are virtually no non-white libertarians, I suspect (though I don’t have data on this) that most non-whites haven’t heard of libertarianism…”

            Problem for that theory: non-whites like libertarianism even less AFTER its policies are broken out and explained.

            Classic example: the much discussed turn against free speech among millennials is mostly (perhaps even wholly) explained by demography. If you look at white millennials alone, they sit in the same ballpark of pro
            First Amendment sentiment as their parents and grandparents.

            Another good case is the Bernie Sanders-Asian American affinity, which surprised so many of the unwoke. Why would a high income group with ultra low unemployment and rising status in global high tech skills competition embrace an avowed socialist promising higher taxes, less trade, and a return to the UAW economy? We could tell ourselves some stories here, but “maybe they liked what he was proposing” seems like a better place to start than “they haven’t seen enough of Milton Friedman”.

          • Damon Chetson

            What Sean II said. But I’ll add that I’m not sure I’d completely agree that millennials are “against free speech” really. I think many of them are in favor of courtesy, which is what a lot of “political correctness” boils down to. Don’t be an asshole.

            There are certain problems when a university imposes sanctions, although, why libertarians take the side of “free speech” over property rights is arbitrary in that context.

            It’s just one of the many arbitrary policy positions libertarians take which doesn’t seem to necessarily flow from their philosophy. And that’s part of the problem. Many of them cling to an arbitrary rights-based philosophy/theology, and then have certain policy positions that don’t really flow from the philosophy.

          • Sean II

            You’re right on one point: most of millennial opposition to free speech comes from a particular set of issues centered on inter-group relations. They’re not against free speech for porn or video game violence or Miley lyrics. They’re against free speech when they fear it has the potential to disparage certain groups.

            You’re wrong to think this boils down to anything so simple as: be courteous.

            If that’s all there was to it, it’d be easy for people to follow the rules. You wouldn’t have so many cases where some well-known nice guy prof and lifelong liberal runs afoul of the brigade. There is clearly something here which goes well beyond “don’t be an asshole”. Bret Weinstein was not an asshole. The Christakises were not assholes.

            For another thing, the conduct of the activists themselves rules courtesy out as a motive. One can’t act the way they do, and claim to be warriors for decorum.

          • Rob Gressis

            I wasn’t claiming that non whites aren’t libertarian but would like it if only they’d heard of it. just that they hadn’t heard of it and so couldn’t be libertarian for that reason. You’ll notice I also mentioned that high education non whites didn’t like it because they think it’s immoral or against their interests.

            Re the millennials and free speech, where did you hear that? Just wanted your source, not doubting you.

            Re Bernie, not sure what you’re saying. Are Asians genetically primed for socialism? I suspect the answer is some of: Republicans are the party of whites, Asians aren’t whites, so f the republicans; Asians are higher trust, so they’re more willing to support social programs; can’t think of a third for the sake of euphony.

          • Sean II

            1. Ah, I see the distinction you’re getting at now.

            2. The millennial thing came from a PEW survey, yougov, and a few other places, plus a little deduction. Gist is: free speech support declines for each of the last four generations, with a big drop from X to Y. Now compare with % non-white in the demography, and you see matching step increases. Then to be sure look at polls which separate white from non-white responses. You see the expected gap, 10 to 15 points. If the question is phrased differently – i.e. “Should we ban hate speech?” – numbers change for all groups, but blacks return a solid majority, 60 – 20 in favor of restrictions, with more like 50 – 30 for Hispanics. I’m in car so can’t do links, but google “free speech” + pew or + yougov, and do an image search. Add “millennial” or “white” to refine if needed. Should find what I found no problem.

            3) I’m not sure about the Asian Bernie thing, I just know that it’s interesting. Why him, in particular? Here we can’t say “because the other guy was white identitarian”. The other guy was Hilary. If anything Bernie Bros we’re the ones with white stain in the primary.

            Also the argument is a bit circular. Why do Asians vote Dem? Because the GOP is seen as white. How did the GOP get that reputation? Well, it’s because someone noticed non whites hardly ever vote for them.

            I’m generally very skeptical of “bad outreach” arguments. If it worked that way, blacks would never have forgiven the donkey for Jim Crow nor asians for Manzanar.

          • Rob Gressis

            You’re in the car and wrote that? My goodness. Be careful!

            Here’s another question: many non-white minorities are incredibly socially conservative relative to their co-partisans, and yet they have seemingly zero concern whatsoever for socially conservative policies. Why is that?

          • Sean II

            Don’t worry. I’m not the one driving, I just can’t look at the screen for more than a blink or I get sick. Have to just type and hope.

            Great question. I’ve wondered about that often without finding a clear answer.

            Best guess: most can only hope to enforce socially conservative norms within their group, so they withdraw from that part of politics. E.g. the aim is not to stop anyone from having an abortion, just your own daughters.

          • Rob Gressis

            That doesn’t sound like a very good guess. Couldn’t you say the same thing about economic illiberalism?

          • Sean II

            Well, no. It’s hard to have your own tax policy and get away with it. But if your goal is merely to have less social freedom than the surrounding society, you kind sometimes pull it off.

            Like Catholics did here for many decades, with their little islands of social oppression in a sea of relative freedom.

          • Rob Gressis

            Except that when certain kinds of behavior are tolerated in society as a whole, your kids will want to do them, and it’s really difficult to do anything about that. And I think this is obvious enough to most parents.

            I agree that it’s easier to do something about your kids by yourself, or with your community’s help, than it is to fix public highways. But communities could also have their own social welfare services, and I’m not sure that they tried to do that very much. Did they?

            And regardless, don’t most people vote like this: “I don’t like X. Therefore X should be illegal or legally restricted. If only someone said that, I’d vote for him”?

          • Sean II

            You think it should be obvious, but hope springs eternal. Watching immigrant families reenact Fiddler is an American tradition. I happen to know a lot of Asian doctors, and they can all plainly see that “go to college, marry white guy” is something that happens to the daughters of their friends.

            You know what lesson they learn from this? It’s not “such is life” or “what did you expect, moving to America!”

            No, they conclude that the Sirichai’s or whoever just didn’t raise their kids right, and that no such thing could happen to them. It doesn’t matter how many neighbors, practice partners, and referring physicians have pattern repeated before them. Each defiant daughter is a shock to her parents, and a scandal which the expat community promptly and none too charitably attributes to their failure.

            Not that such blindness comes cheap. $240,000 a year buys a lot of self-deception.

            2) Yes, when people think they can get away with that, they vote to enforce their morals on others. Hard to think that though, when you’re .3% of the population.

            But, as the case of Islam in Europe shows, that can change if the # gets big enough.

          • Rob Gressis

            (1) The hope springs eternal thing is interesting, but even though I’m sure it’s true for some people, I doubt that it’s true as a general claim. Speaking as a parent, I would think what’s likelier is: “it’s just too hard to keep fighting you on this. Fine, if it’s so important to you to play video games/get addicted to drugs/be promiscuous, then I give up.”

            I also wonder about the hope springs eternal line; is it supposed to be true just about US immigrants, about US and European immigrants, or about immigrants in general? Because if it’s the last one, then I’d think my story is more plausible.

            (2) This reminds me of Taleb’s piece here, but I’m not sure how close the parallel is.

          • Sean II

            1. I should be clear in saying I’ve only seen particular story among Asians and Arabs, because I don’t know any other group that would even think to try and resist Americanization in point of mate selection.

            But I really have seen a lot of it. These Thai or Indian parents will have a match in mind for their daughter. She’ll regard the boy with something on a spectrum from exasperated eye rolls to flat out disgust. If you’ve seen Bend It Like Beckham, there’s a character we might call “creepy bachelor who leers at wedding” and some Indian girls I know tell me that dude is a stock villain they must learn to avoid at ethnic gatherings – a task complicated by the encouragement he gets from their own fathers.

            So crazy as it seems, many such parents really do somehow managed to be shocked when their daughter comes home from college with Brad or Josh, even though everyone else could see it was inevitable.

            I mean, if the lesson was sinking in, at a minimum you’d expect them to start using reverse psychology: “I forbid you to see Tejas, that charming rebel with whose father I still, inexplicably, play golf”. But they don’t.

            Once, I knew both parties to a failed arrangement, who one drunk night actually hooked up with each other. He described it as the greatest moment of his life. She said “It was sooooo gross. Like, incest level shame here.”

            I realize this all started as an attempt to explain why socially conservative ethnic groups don’t vote their morals, but I admit I’ve given up that pursuit in favor of just mentioning things I find interesting.

            Truth is, I don’t know why the traditional mores immigrants fail so utterly to translate into affinity for the GOP. Seems like they would, but they don’t.

          • Rob Gressis

            First, that was very funny.

            Second, maybe they have concluded republicans won’t put their money where their mouth is when it comes to social conservatism.

          • Sean II

            1) “First, that was very funny.”

            Well, not for that poor guy. The Westermarck Effect knows no mercy.

            I think we may have discussed this before, but it’s an oddity of the immigration debate that the old time xenophobe’s fret “they’ll take our women!” turns out to be so frequently wrong.

            In the West it’s usually the other way round. This can be seen very clearly with East Asian men in the US, and for both East and South Asian men in Britain. Women from these groups fare much better in wider society sex competition than men.

            The effect for East Asian men is even more severe than it seems, once you control for income. Under mature capitalism, it’s unnatural for dudes who drive BMWs to go through life mateless. And yet that happens with some frequency among EA males, where we see an odd combination of success in the job market, failure in the meat market.

            Meanwhile in Britain, it’s different. The permanent bachelors among South Asian men are also quite frequently lifelong unemployables. Hard not to see how this feeds the Four Lions syndrome: the woman works (when there is a woman around), and the man talks about some jihad he never quite gets around to launching.

            I’m told there was something similar in Belfast during the troubles. Being an IRA thug was something a boyo could wear with more dignity than just being on the brew, plain and simple.

            In any case, recognizing patterns like this and thinking about their impact should be part of the convo when we talk about what borderless societies would actually look like.

            2) Or maybe…they simply figured out that conservatives are losers in the culture war, such that it would be a pure throwaway to vote for them on that grounds.

          • Rob Gressis

            The part I found very funny was “I forbid you to see Tejas, that charming rebel with whose father I still, inexplicably, play golf”

          • “Also go read Reason’s comment section. It’s horrible. These are libertarians speaking.”

            I wonder what proportion are libertarians.

          • Farstrider

            “That libertarianism is merely a cover for upper and upper middle class whites to protect their property”

            I did not think this was actually in dispute, for at least some people. Did you?

          • Rob Gressis

            For some people, it’s not in disputes. But it’s very disputable. I dispute it.

          • Damon Chetson

            It’s not really in dispute that an important reason why people subscribe to a political persuasion is that they think it’ll make them better off. Or at least, won’t upend a political and economic order that they rely upon.

          • Rob Gressis

            I’m not sure if you want me to stop responding to you — let me know, and I will — but assuming it’s OK, my response to your remark is that it’s misleading. According to Jason Brennan, it’s not really in dispute among political scientists that the conscious reason for people’s voting behavior is altruistic; in other words, if you ask them why they vote for a candidate or proposition, they’ll typically say, “because it makes people in general better off”. I presume from this that their conscious reasons for subscribing to their political persuasion is that they think it’s overall best for their state, country, world, etc. So, yes, they think it’s in their own interest, but that’s because they think it’s in most people’s interest.

            And sometimes they don’t think it’s even in their interest, at least consciously. That’s why you have wealthy individuals like Warren Buffet who claim that they should pay more in taxes.

            Finally, there’s evidence that people’s political persuasion is highly heritable, so you’ll have to throw that into the mix too. It could be that people have their political persuasions not because it’s in their or anyone’s self-interest, but simply because it’s how they’re wired.

          • Farstrider

            That is for sure true when, to take one example, rich people support political philosophies that involve low taxes. But it cannot be true for the rich people who support higher taxes.

    • Peter from Oz

      Point of order, Mr Speaker. Can the Honourable Member tell who in the US, which has no nobility, can be called ”upper class?”

  • Lacunaria

    But libertarianism can (reluctantly) allow you to practice your racist or anti-Semitic views, provided that these are limited to withholding benefits and not inflicting harm.

    Shouldn’t your “can” be “must”? By my understanding of the political definition, libertarianism REQUIRES that we politically allow racists to practice their views absent their aggression.

    That would mean that you can be politically libertarian and a racist.

    Of course, we can define other terms like “moral libertarianism” to include the belief that racism is immoral.

    And perhaps define “social libertarianism” to include the belief that we should segregate, ostracize, or socially punish racism.

  • A. Alexander Minsky

    I’m sure we all recognize the raw courage displayed by Mr. Taylor in condemning racism and anti-Semitism. I for one look forward to reading his upcoming pieces lambasting infanticide and human sacrifice.


  • KK KK

    Is it okay to charge differential prices? Let’s say you’re a life insurance company in a place with no anti-discrimination laws. Can you charge male and female customers differently?

    If yes, then your thesis is pretty empty. You won’t have to deny the service to anyone — you can just charge one group a ridiculous sum and get away with it.

    If no, then you’ll be out of business. Women do have lower mortality rates; if you price on the assumption of equality you invoke the wrath of the adverse selection god.

    So my question, how would you act as a libertarian and the chief pricing officer of an insurance company? (I am really curious.)

  • Agammamon

    “As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect, and that their actions should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause.”

    While I agree with the second part (except the ‘just cause’ weasling – NAP, the only justification for interfering in others is to prevent them from harming you or others), the first part is absolutely not part of libertarianism.

    There’s no call in libertarianism to view all humans as being worthy of respect. Simply that they be allowed to go to hell in the handbasket of their own choosing – that no matter how much we may dislike another (even another group) they be allowed to do their own thing without interference as long as it doesn’t harm us.

    “But it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else.”

    “This doesn’t mean that you or your business are required to deal with types of people you don’t like.”

    Are contradictory statements.

    “You can refuse service to anyone, on any grounds.”

    Only if you accept that you can be libertarian and racist at the same time – because libertarianism doesn’t imply an obligation to respect all people nor an obligation to ‘treat people as individuals’.

  • Peter from Oz

    What’s all this ”she” business? It grates and thus derogates from youur argument. Next you’ll be using BCE and CE instead of BC and AD.

  • a Texas libertarian

    “As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect, and that their actions should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause.” – J. Taylor

    Respect, as with all other forms of wealth in the free society, must be earned. Each individual decides for his or herself when they feel respect is earned. Libertarianism is simply the nonaggression principle, self ownership, and ownership of external goods based on peaceful acquisition. All this nonsense about respect and freedom of movement is exactly that: nonsense.

    “But it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else.” J. Taylor

    What if they are part of an organization or culture that regularly subjugates women and murders gays? What if they are from the same area as this organization? What if they share the same religion? What if they wear the same clothes? What if they look the same? What if they use the same body language? When, if ever, is it okay in your book to discriminate based on group characteristics?

    “The respect for individuals comes first; the duty not to aggress comes second. ” – J. Taylor

    You have it precisely backwards. Nonaggression comes first (which is albeit the smallest form of respect), and then willingness to engage and associate comes second (as a higher form of respect and trust are earned or granted).

    With every encounter there is a risk that the other person will not respect the sanctity of your body and property. We libertarians are allowed to use all of the evidence available to us to make the decision of whether or not to entertain this risk. Race is only one of an infinite array of variables in this process of discrimination. To use only racial discrimination would be most unwise, but it is not anti-libertarian to do so.

    I know you are just tripping all over yourself to prove that libertarianism can’t be racist (to appease your obnoxious leftist friends no doubt), but you are mistaken. Being a libertarian doesn’t make you a good person. It’s who you are on top of this foundation that is the really interesting part.

    “It’s correct that a refusal to truck, barter, or trade is the refusal to confer a benefit and not the initiation of aggression.” – J. Taylor

    So why in your estimation does everyone ‘a priori’ deserve this benefit from a libertarian?

  • Sobel

    Two things I worry about: First, I don’t think in the most important sense any significant ethical views can bypass the need to worry that they are problematically biased. I think this is a thing to worry about for any view but for the Libertarian it would go like this. Libertarians think respect for individuals primarily entails non-interference rather than the provision of desperately needed aid. That might be right. But it might be wrong. Isn’t it something that Libertarians should spend a few moments considering that maybe part of the attraction of this way of respecting people stems from it working out well for the well to do who are predominantly the folks who have time to develop a moral and political philosophy? I don’t see that what you say insulates Libertarians from the possibility of bias of that sort. And again, I think that sort of bias is a risk run by every substantive ethical view out there. I just fear when people tell themselves they don’t have to worry that they are subject to very common sorts of human bias such as racism and sexism. Second, I think the culture is such that one is a X-ist if one sincerely asserts one is. The culture is such that we say Peter Singer is a Consequentialist even if he does not always act like one. One is not, in ordinary parlance, only a Consequentialist when one acts like one. If that were so, Consequentialism would not be an at all common view. Having said that, someone is a Libertarian if they sincerely say they are even if they don’t in all ways act like it or fully internalize the heart of the view. Given that, of course a Libertarian can be racist or sexist or what have you (just as a Consequentialist can). What might well be true is that Libertarianism is not itself a racist doctrine and thus, to the extent that one perfectly lives the doctrine, one will not be racist. But that is a quite different claim.