In a post by Brian Doherty on the Reason Hit & Run blog, Some Notes of Possible Relevance to Some Recent Unpleasantness Regarding Tolerance and Libertarians, there’s an interesting exchange in the comments, between Sheldon Richman, Eric Dondero, and Steve Horwitz. Horwitz had written:
Steve Horwitz | January 17, 2008, 9:23am | #
Dondero doesn’t help himself by questioning Sheldon Richman’s libertarian credentials. Get real.
The point Sheldon makes is the one I’d make too. It’s one thing, as a libertarian, to defend the right of racists to say racist things and even if we as individuals choose not to associate with them, we should still be vigilant in defending their right to free speech.
However, when people calling themselves libertarians are pandering to racists and either outright saying or strongly implying that such beliefs are part of what it means to be a libertarian, then it’s a whole other issue. (And I use “racism” as a cover term for all kinds of odious stuff.) Then libertarians who find such views offensive have every right to engage in a more aggressive sort of shunning and one that suggests that presenting such arguments *as libertarian arguments* is not a position that can be tolerated.
To me, when self-proclaimed libertarians suggest that racist views are part of libertarianism, it feels just like someone is calling me a racist. Not only is it false, it does damage to my name and reputation, and I feel justified in saying “you’re wrong and shut the hell up.”
As one example, it troubles me no end that there seems to be a generation of young libertarians who believe that it is part of libertarianism to defend the South in the Civil War. (Obligatory caveat – this does not mean I think Lincoln was a saint, ok?) Such an argument need not be racist but it certainly can be, or can be easily misconstrued that way. In any case, libertarianism per se requires no such view of the Civil War.
The problem here is what I’ve called “libertarian contrarianism,” by which I mean the belief that some libertarians seem to have that if you are libertarian, you must reject all “conventional wisdom.” Hence, some libertarians attack those who attack racism, deny evolution or deny/minimize the Holocaust, defend the South/attack Lincoln in ways that can’t be supported by historical scholarship, etc.
It’s the mindset of a 16 year old who just assumes everything his/her parents say is full of shit. (Trust me, I have one of these creatures.) Pandering to racists etc has reduced pieces of the libertarian movement to intellectual adolescence. The newsletter fiasco might be our cue to be more consistently grown up.
My reply to Horwitz:
Stephan Kinsella | January 18, 2008, 6:03pm | #
Steve Horwitz: “However, when people calling themselves libertarians are pandering to racists and either outright saying or strongly implying that such beliefs are part of what it means to be a libertarian, then it’s a whole other issue. … To me, when self-proclaimed libertarians suggest that racist views are part of libertarianism, it feels just like someone is calling me a racist. … As one example, it troubles me no end that there seems to be a generation of young libertarians who believe that it is part of libertarianism to defend the South in the Civil War. (Obligatory caveat – this does not mean I think Lincoln was a saint, ok?) Such an argument need not be racist but it certainly can be, or can be easily misconstrued that way.
“… The problem here is what I’ve called “libertarian contrarianism,” by which I mean the belief that some libertarians seem to have that if you are libertarian, you must reject all “conventional wisdom.” Hence, some libertarians attack those who attack racism, deny evolution or deny/minimize the Holocaust, defend the South/attack Lincoln in ways that can’t be supported by historical scholarship, etc.”
Steve, let me agree with much of this. Racism is immoral, and is certainly not part of libertarianism. Of course, this does not justify falsely accusing others of racism; that is itself immoral (and libelous). And this is what many of the cosmotards continue to do.
As for the War of Northern Aggression–the same cosmotard libertarian centralist compromisers continually refer to anyone who brings up secession and the unconstitutionality (and illegality) of the Civil War, or a critic of Lincoln, as a neo-confederate and a “defender” of the CSA South a neo-confederate and apologist for slavery. It mystifies me why any libertarian would ever have harsh words for libertarians critical of Lincoln! This is utter ignorance or madness. As for the Civil War, it is a perfectly legitimate view to believe that it was immoral, unnecessary, unconstitutional, and illegal, without favoring slavery (e.g. abolitionist Lysander Spooner’s views). Or even without “defending” the South. For example I view with contempt the Rebel Flag waving neo-confederate hokum; I do not defend the South *or* the CSA (in fact they had no right to exist, or to keep slaves or to keep slavery legal; or to conscript soldiers to fight, etc.). Yet this does not mean there is anything wrong or unlibertarian with a sober analysis of the constitutional and moral flaws with Lincoln’s actions too.
In addition, there has been a gradual (unconstitutional) federal centralization of power in this country, dating back since the Civil War (if not before), and it has increasingly ignored the constitutional fetters placed on it. This results in more death and destruction, more unleashed power of the state, so waht in the hell is wrong with naming some of the origins of these troubling trends? Has PC infected part of our movement so much we cower in fear to soberly and honestly diagnose historical origins of the evils of our current marauding central state? What is wrong with the PC crowd …? they are so distracted by all the PC concerns that they overlook, or bash, legitimate libertarian inquiry and concerns.
So I agree that libertarians should not “defend the South” in the Civil War because slavery was evil and because states are evil, and war is evil. Of course, one not need “defend the South” to criticize Lincoln or his immoral war.
You say that the argument against Lincoln or his war “need not be racist but it certainly can be, or can be easily misconstrued that way.”
I don’t know of any libertarians who oppose Lincoln’s war because it freed the slaves. Every libertarian I know, without exception, opposes slavery. So I have no idea how libertarian opposition to Lincoln or the war coudl even have a racist component. And yes, it obviously “can be easily misconstrued that way” since so many cosmotarians repeatedly do this–but I didn’t know it was so easy to be so dishonest and vile.
“Hence, some libertarians attack those who attack racism,”
Yes, usually because “those who attack racism” do so either unfairly (by using such a broad brush the unfairly label non-racists as racist) or unjustly (by using the power of the state to outlaw racism). I would agree, however, that we ought as a general matter to be opposed to real racism; but this view, too, is not part of libertarianism, just what decent humans should do.
“deny evolution or deny/minimize the Holocaust,”
Well, I don’t think we are obligated as libertarians to accept evolution (though I do); and I don’t personally know any libertarians who deny the Holocaust. As for “minimizing” it, unless you are referring to recognizing *other* genocidal murders that are also to be condemned (China, USSR, etc.), I don’t know any libertarian who minimizes it either; all libertarians I know of course oppose slavery and murder, including mass murder. So you must know a different young breed than I do.
“defend the South/attack Lincoln in ways that can’t be supported by historical scholarship, etc.”
I assume here you are talking about DiLorenzo, who has done heroic work attacking the terrible statist, racist, and UNlibertarian Abe Lincoln. Even if you don’t like Tom’s scholarship, this has nothing to do with racism, or libertarianism, or the ridiculous, self-embarrassing charges being made by the Palmers and Sandefurs of the world.
I think Horowitz should take his ideas to their logical conclusion. If the South shouldn’t be defended because of the slavery association then why should the Founding Fathers be defended either.
Or let’s take it even further, what about people who are championed “libertarian” presidents such as Andrew Jackson. That’s pretty racist in light of his treatment of Native Americans and slavery.
Horwitz, not Horowitz. And I agree, the Founding Fathers, racist utopians, should not be defended either.
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The short story is great though. ,