An incredibly odd headline appeared in The Daily Beast under the David Frum imprimatur:
“Reality check: Libertarianism can’t cure racism.”
Libertarians might be inspired to add that doorknobs can’t cure foot fungus, cotton candy can’t cure warts and coffee mugs can’t cure baldness.
Yet writer Justin Green attempts to prove his non-sequitur anyway.
First he invites readers to listen at the :45 minute mark of a Ron Paul video in which he says “libertarians are incapable of being a racist because racism is a collectivist idea.”
So Ron Paul never said libertarianism can “cure” racism.
Green’s Exhibit B quotes Will Wilkinson (from an article bylined “W.W.”) saying, “When I was a Rand-toting libertarian lad, I believed, as I believe now, that racism of any stripe is a disgusting form of collectivism.”
But then Wilkinson decided that individually non-coercive actions can “add up to stable patterns of behaviour that are systematically or structurally coercive, depriving some individuals of their rightful liberty,” and because the political value that matters most to him is liberty he became “fairly friendly toward federal anti-discrimination law, affirmative action, Title 9, the works.”
His logic apparently goes like this:
A. Coercive racism is evil.
B. Non-coercive racism is evil too because it inexplicably creates a pattern that deprives people of liberty.
Conclusion: To preserve liberty the non-coercive “thought crime” of racism must be stamped out by coercive government.
Logically, libertarians don’t attempt to abolish anyone’s thoughts, racist or anti-racist, because libertarians know that neither they nor any other ism can possibly do such a thing.
Morally, libertarians advocate the Zero Aggression Principle. While people can think and act privately in any way they wish they absolutely have no right to impose their racist ideas on anyone else, either individually or as a “pattern of behaviour.”
Government coercion can’t “cure” racism, it simply creates anti-government resentment.
People like Wilkinson can advocate all the exceptions they like, for whatever reasons they like, but abandoning liberty for anti-racism is like giving up freedom for security – you end up with neither.
Simply put, Wilkinson is wrong. Racism isn’t a threat to liberty; coercion is a threat to liberty, and becoming “fairly friendly” toward government coercion is a betrayal of the very liberty Wilkinson says he wants to protect.
Neither government coercion nor libertarianism nor any other ism can “cure” racism.
Only principled individuals can, and that doesn’t seem to include Wilkinson.
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