Friday, April 3, 2015

Progressives libel libertarians over discrimination laws

Explaining the libertarian position on antidiscrimination laws - The Washington Post - David Bernstein:

April 2, 2015 - "With the recent and continuing hulabaloo over conflicts between antidiscrimination laws and freedom of religion, the charge inevitably arises that anyone who is opposed to, or even skeptical of, antidiscrimination laws that apply to private parties – which means most people who identify themselves as libertarians – is effectively not pro-liberty, but pro-discrimination.

"The most serious charge has been that libertarian skepticism of antidiscrimination laws that apply to private entities reflects, at best, insensitivity to race discrimination.  One blogger, reflecting a significant swath of progressive sentiment, argued that no matter how committed to racial egalitarianism any individual libertarian claims to be, 'Libertarianism is a racist philosophy. Libertarians are racists.'

"This is a rather odd criticism. For both philosophical and utilitarian reasons, libertarians are presumptively strongly opposed to any government regulation of the private sector.  It naturally follows that libertarians presumptively oppose restrictions on private sector discrimination.  It’s hardly an indication of racial animus, or even insensitivity, for libertarians to enunciate the exact same position on antidiscrimination laws that they take in all other contexts.

"The progressive libel of libertarians as racial troglodytes for their consistent defense of private-sector autonomy is ironic, given that similar illogic has so frequently been used against modern liberals.  When liberals defended Communists’ free speech and employment rights in the 1950s, their critics accused them of being Communist sympathizers, if not outright Communists.  More recently, progressives have been accused of being American-hating jihadist sympathizers when they stood up for the rights of terrorism suspects.  Critics have even charged civil libertarians with abetting racism for opposing hate speech laws.....

"While minorities can generally find productive economic niches in even highly prejudiced but market-oriented societies, there is no safe haven for minorities if racist ideas dominate politics and lead to harsh discriminatory legislation.

"Also, a free economic market protects minorities from discrimination to some degree because businesspeople have an economic incentive to hire the most productive workers and to obtain the most customers. By contrast, individual voters and political activists have no corresponding incentive to overlook or overcome their personal prejudices. Concern for the financial bottom line mitigates the temptation of economic entrepreneurs to discriminate; concern for the electoral bottom line, meanwhile, often leads politicians to stir up resentment against minorities."

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