Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Conundrum of Liberty



Richard Ebeling has written a piece, “Classical Liberalism and the Problem of “Race” in America.”  Because it seems obligatory to preface any statement on this topic with one’s own personal view, I offer this; I feel it is direct enough.  Suffice it to say, I agree with much of what Ebeling writes – as any libertarian would.  It’s what Ebeling doesn’t say that presents the conundrum.

From Ebeling:

Friends of freedom, therefore, in my view, must develop ways of breathing life into the philosophy and politics of individual liberty that takes back the moral passion and principled defense of freedom of association on racial issues with the same sense of right and justice with which the classical liberal enemies of slavery brought down that earlier institutionalized system of human bondage.

As a libertarian, we cannot escape a “principled defense of freedom of association on racial issues.”  This means we cannot escape the unsaid: that liberty also requires a principled defense of freedom of non-association on racial issues.

Very few people can understand the distinction between private actions and government actions: if it is wrong for the government to enforce discrimination via its laws (as the USG did for much of history in the United States), then it must be wrong for private individuals to enforce personal discrimination in their own life and property.  So they say.

But this is most certainly not true in libertarian theory due to the foundational principle of full private property rights; a libertarian must defend private discrimination.  Even private discrimination based on race.  Of course, there are many libertarians who are not comfortable with this; of this subset, many reduce private property rights to a secondary position behind “all must be embraced – always” (and I do NOT suggest that Ebeling is among these; I don’t really know either way).

Oh…let me allow a more prominent libertarian theorist to explain this:

J: The pro side says that, as long as it is on a completely voluntary basis, covenant communities exercising their right of association could exclude, for example, other races from entering the community. 

Walter Block: …yes, covenant communities, in which people of one race, or sexual preference, or anything else under the sun, are excluded, is compatible with libertarianism. Remember, our philosophy is predicated upon the non-aggression principle, private property rights based on homesteading and voluntary trade, and the law of free association. No one should be forced to associate, live next to, trade with, anyone else.

Many people – including many libertarians – would say that this sounds callous.  Well, Walter recognizes this:

This sounds callous, in that minority groups might suffer. For an antidote to this objection, read pretty much anything on discrimination written by Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams.

Block offers more on this topic here.

The conundrum of liberty is to be found in the foundational principle of private property rights.  As there are even libertarians who struggle with understanding the connection of private property rights and discrimination, why on earth would we expect non-libertarians to understand this reality?

Libertarians who are honest about private property rights will never be able to dance around what this implies regarding private discrimination – private discrimination in the covenant community, private discrimination at the lunch counter, private discrimination on the privately operated bus or airline.

Private discrimination on any basis and for any reason chosen by the property owner.

I’m just sayin’.

33 comments:

  1. I think that private discrimination is the essence of Liberty. And that it would be everywhhere and on everything in a libertarian, or in a more libertarian, world. But in a more complex way than what many people and libertarians think.. We will see a web of discrimination at many levels. Black and White, ethero and homo, for example, are rudimental and rough ways to think that subject. I don't fear racism in that kind of framework, but I fear racism and other kind of discriminations when enforced vi the state, and I fear people, and libertarians too, that ask for discrimination by the state. Maybe reasoning that if in a free society discrimination would be admitted, until we have the State it's all right to have discrimination by law as an approximation to a more libertarian paradigma.

    Anonimo Lombardo

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  2. I am very confused by Ebeling's article. Is he trying to say that liberals need to learn to argue for freedom of association with as much enthusiasm as they argued against slavery and segregation? Is that what he is saying?

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    1. It seems. But it leaves open - whether purposefully on his part or not (and I have not read enough form him on this topic to make a judgment about this either way) - the question of a private property owner's right to discriminate.

      Because this is where the rubber meets the road for anyone who wants to wear the label of libertarian.

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  3. Ebeling is the guy that pays Robert Wenzel to feature his articles, right?

    Liberals and libertarians need to be honest. Libertarians in particular will construct a strawman saying that a businessman will not discriminate because he will make more money catering to all. This isn't remotely true. Imagine a businessman that can guarantee an all white community development. He will get premium prices for those properties because of the tendency for white flight from 'diversity'.

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    1. Yes, we already know this isn't true; your point is quite valid. Those who choose not to bake wedding cakes or take pictures for gay couples come to mind.

      With this said, to the extent the transaction is blind (and most are), the market does not discriminate.

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  4. Honestly I don't think he could be more unclear if he tried (assuming he didn't). I am not sure who FEE's audience is. There is not enough red meat here for the hardcore antiwhite crowd and not a clear enough defense of principles for the private property crowd.

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    1. FEE leans left. Tucker is the "Director of Content."

      As I have not read enough of Ebeling to paint him with any brush, I have not commented more strongly. But...for someone who certainly was not shy with the number of words employed, he left the most important libertarian point unsaid.

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  5. There should be no distinction between a private home and a private business. In a free society, as Jacob Hornberger has recently pointed out, "a person has the fundamental right to associate with anyone he chooses and on any basis he chooses." In a free society, business owners, like homeowners, would have the right to run their businesses as they choose, including the right of exclusion. In a free society, everyone would have the right to discriminate in his place of business — yes, discriminate — against male or female, Blacks or Whites, Christians or Jews, Protestants or Catholics, heterosexuals or homosexuals, atheists or theists, natives or immigrants, smokers or nonsmokers, obese or anorexic.

    https://archive.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance205.html

    I think problem is Institutional discrimination/racism not individual

    everything should be decentralized to smallest possible level

    max

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    1. So...I clicked the link where Hornberger supposedly said this:

      "Error 404 - Page Not Found"

      As I trust Vance, I assume it is so. But I would really like to read the context.

      As you brought it up, maybe you can find the good link?

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    2. Hey Max, in which society does your freedom of association apply?

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    3. Again, for libertarians the issue is clear cut: A person has the fundamental right to associate with anyone he chooses and on any basis he chooses. He might be the biggest bigot in the world, choosing only to associate with white supremacists, but that’s what freedom is all about — the right to make whatever choices one wants in his life, so long as his conduct is peaceful — i.e., no murder, rape, theft, fraud, or other violent assaults against others.

      https://www.fff.org/2010/05/24/evil-statism/

      max

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    4. Hey Max, in which society does your freedom of association apply?

      In a free society

      max

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  6. Max, which one dude? Where is it? A name or GPS coordinates, please.

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    1. did not find one yet.
      max

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  7. I enjoyed the article by Richard. Freedom of association and dis-association is a topic that was not difficult to understand for me as I have always enjoyed reading Sowell. Listening to my left libertarian friends made me feel as though I was misunderstanding something. Until, I realized every time I brought up discrimination they brought up racist. They are truly the ones incorrect in applying the foundation of libertarianism.

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  8. Hey bionic mosquitos don’t we as(humans all discriminate? Isn’t life full of discrimination?
    I know we are talking about property (& Sellers) owner’s discriminating on bases of race, gender and sexual lifestyle. They still discriminate on other bases. One such example is Bank loans checking your past credit on whether or not you can pay back the loan. Most business are allowed to discriminate (in fact encourage to by the state with fines if they do not) on age with Alcohol and if the person is too drunk. I know some clubs with not let you in without the right dress code or if you look too drunk and if you break the rules of the club you will be ask to leave and if not force to leave, that is discrimination.

    Customer themselves are allowed to discriminate by not going to a shop they don't like (unless we are talking about taxes and state subsidized business).

    No society in history has gotten rid of discrimination of some sort or another. The ones that get closest tend to be the less civilized societies and this is because don’t enforce many standards.

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  9. To clarify, all the NAP says about "discrimination" is that strangers cannot sue you for you refusing to admit them to your property or because you refuse to enter into a contract with them. There are plenty of other sanctions available that "society" might impose upon, let's say, racists in action. They could refuse to sell them food, water or shelter. They could refuse to allow them access to private highways, insurance or court services. I do not see why any of this is controversial.

    Further, as a practical matter, most business people are going to want paying customers so the only color most will be worried about will be the color of money.

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    1. "I do not see why any of this is controversial."

      I do not see why many libertarians who want to proudly display their virtue have a hard time mentioning property rights when it comes to discrimination.

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    2. "Further, as a practical matter, most business people are going to want paying customers so the only color most will be worried about will be the color of money."

      Absolutely not true, and only true for very impersonal things like your mobile phone service.

      This is the dishonest libertarian dodge of the discrimination issue, although I don't blame you because you are hardly the only one doing this, Roddis.

      Far from discrimination not being profitable, in certain situations discriminating against people, particularly on basis of race, is absolutely profitable.

      Take the AirBNB platform in which accommodation is aggregated on that platform, and offered by private landowners. Many of the landowners have found it profitable to discriminate against black people. If you look at the reasons given for the discrimination, usually it isn't "racism" or a hatred for black people, but simply because the black people that stayed in their property previously trashed the place. Its probably something like the murder rate in America - Although blacks are 13% of the population, they account for over 50% of the places trashed on AirBNB.

      This is the method by which dishonest libertarians attempt to assuage the fears of blacks that libertarianism will not deliver good outcomes for blacks. Exactly the same for welfare. When welfare is eliminated blacks will have less money, not more money coming from magical jobs that American blacks are not suited for anyway.

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    3. "I do not see why many libertarians who want to proudly display their virtue have a hard time mentioning property rights when it comes to discrimination."

      This is starting to remind me of the gender pronoun issue. Just because someone calls themself a libertarian doesn't mean that that is what they actually are. And others should not feel compelled to use their political label of choice.

      If it is simply a lack of information then it's understandable. But, once someone willfully neglects to consistently apply the non-aggression principal and property rights to certain issues, they cease being a libertarian.

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  10. "Remember, our philosophy is predicated upon the non-aggression principle, private property rights based on homesteading and voluntary trade, and the law of free association."

    I'd love to see a discussion on whether buying products from a slavemaster, made by his slaves, is a violation of the NAP from various people's subjective viewpoints.

    That might appear to be a minor/unimportant topic, but I can see the answer/answers touching on so many aspects of daily life that it would be astounding. (and I'm not volunteering my thoughts until other people offer some,if anyone chooses to, because I don't want to set boundaries on the thought/scope)

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    1. Interesting. I will have to think about this for a bit. I understand (and am greatly / totally influenced by the moral issues involved); but from a libertarian standpoint...?

      Really sounds like a question for Walter Block!

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    2. "I understand (and am greatly / totally influenced by the moral issues involved); but from a libertarian standpoint...?"

      As I mentioned re that Hoppe quote the other week, I have a hard time separating morality from the NAP.(while acknowledging the role of subjectivity in both)

      :)

      "Interesting. I will have to think about this for a bit."

      I am honored you consider it worthy of your thought time.

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    3. Why should a "slave contract" be permitted at all? Contracts should be upheld once made, but certain types of contracts should not be permitted, period. Among these are contracts for slavery, and sexual services contracts with children.

      Block has advocated for selling oneself into slavery, but has made unprincipled exceptions for contracts with children for no logical reason. Its impossible to debate him, however, because he simply demands that you publish in a libertarian journal before he will condescend to reply.

      TLDR; some types of contracts are always impermissible, regardless of individual interests.

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    4. Matt, I am not sure that anyone raised the point of the validity of a slave contract; are you asking a new question?

      Nick, a thought: where does one draw the line? Don't buy Soviet Vodka, knowing the conditions for humans in the USSR? Don't buy a German car because the tax rates approach 60%?

      Not necessarily answering the question, just asking.

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    5. BM,

      No, the point was not raised directly, yet the point is raised automatically by the original question.

      What contracts can be entered into, and who is able to enter into them is of vital importance. Block would have you believe that someone that has self ownership can enter into a slave contract, a performative contradiction if I ever saw one.

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    6. I own myself; I can sell myself.

      I also believe one can voluntarily enter into a slave contract without violating the NAP. I find no NAP-consistent basis by which a third party can initiate aggression to stop such an action.

      On what NAP-consistent basis do you see that this action can be stopped by a third party?

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    7. "Don't buy Soviet Vodka, knowing the conditions for humans in the USSR? Don't buy a German car because the tax rates approach 60%?

      Not necessarily answering the question, just asking."

      Excellent question(s)!

      I'm offering no answer(at this time).

      :)

      I will mention though that your thinking is drifting towards mine.

      How about Chinese jail labor that produces products to be sold? What if we assume some are guilty of a NAP violation and some aren't?

      Let's go even further...what about a buying products from a country who's currency is constantly debased while also being forced upon it's inhabitants against it's will? (in essence, making their products worth less over time)

      Again, I offer no answers at this time.

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  11. "I own myself; I can sell myself".

    The latter abrogates your claim of self ownership. If you did the latter perhaps you can indeed self yourself but you lacked self ownership in the first place. It would put you in the category of person incapable of making decisions, like a down syndrome person, or a child.

    "I also believe one can voluntarily enter into a slave contract without violating the NAP. I find no NAP-consistent basis by which a third party can initiate aggression to stop such an action.

    On what NAP-consistent basis do you see that this action can be stopped by a third party?"

    Contrary to the myth of slave-taking ships, many of the African slaves sent from Africa to America were exactly this variety of slave - the contractual self-sellers. The government at the time was highly libertatarian and respected property rights to the extent that property, in the form of African slaves, were permitted to be brought to America by slave traders.

    This laid the groundwork for an America where a 13% of the population commits over 50% of the murders, and let's face it, most of the rest of the crime. I don't know if preventing that would have been consistent with the NAP and I don't care. Society would have been better off shooting both the slave buyer and the self-seller.

    Frankly this contracts thing is the weakest part of the ideology that you espouse. Do you hold children to contracts? No? Why not? What about an adult with the intellectual capacity of a child like a down syndrome person? What about a person with a very low IQ? The society that you envision necessarily has shysters running roughshod over the very people that can least handle it.

    If your answer to slavery is "yes, I would have permitted the importation of African slaves into America as long as they were self-sellers" is your stance, you might as well just pack it in.

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    1. Matt, you are going off on several tangents with your comments. I will bow out.

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    2. Just got around to reading the comments here.

      Self ownership is predicated on inalienable rights. They are literally non-transferable. Choosing to do whatever the buyer says does not make one a slave. If the seller later chooses to break the contract and is prevented from doing so, the seller then becomes a slave. A third party could choose to intervene at that point without violating the NAP.

      In the not so distant past the above resembles a marriage contract with the seller being the wife.

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