Where Have All the Black Libertarians Gone?
by Wilton D. Alston
by Wilton D. Alston
I like Bill
Maher. He takes sides. One of his best recent lines was, "the
last time the Republicans had that many black folks on stage they
were selling them!" (That was in response to the reportedly
large number of black folks carrying the Republican banner at the
2004 RNC.) The historical irony is that the folks who did the bulk
of the selling of black folk would have been predecessors of today’s
Democrat party. (So, Maher is evidently no history buff.) I still
like him though.
some of that history, Deroy
Murdock and Steven
Warshawsky suggest supporting the Republican Party. For me they
are just picking a different bus upon which to ride to the same
destination. (One can only hope they both get to sit up front!)
Why do black folk overwhelmingly support the Democrats, particularly
in light of history? And why not give the ‘other party’ a chance?
Because neither party gives a rat’s anal opening about black people!
And even if they did it would not matter, for reasons I examine
below. How about more black libertarians? Black libertarians are
as common as lips on a chicken – hence the tongue-in-cheek title
of this little rant.
Sowell and Walter
Williams come to mind as examples of black libertarians. I am
pretty sure that the chairman of the NY Libertarian Party is black.
But to be clear, I do not think embracing another vehicle of state
power – another political party – is really the answer. After a
rather long time with my head in the sand – or stuck in other places
equally dark – I have come to an even more controversial conclusion.
For black folk there is only one viable option – abolish the state.
Embrace unvarnished, unfiltered, straight-up, full-contact laissez-faire
libertarianism – not the party – the thought process. This is more
accurately described as market anarchism or anarcho-capitalism.
The uninitiated can review Stefan Molyneux’s article on market anarchism
(MA), entitled, "Market
Anarchism: Are You Guys Crazy or Just Nuts" for background.
He defines market anarchism as:
broad term referring to the theory that voluntary free market
relationships can – and should – replace all existing coercive
state relationships. It is derived from taking the principle of
the non-initiation of force to its ultimate conclusion, and accepting
that if using violence is wrong for one person, then it is wrong
for every person. If stealing is wrong for me as a private citizen,
then it is also wrong for everyone – including those in the ‘government’."
state? Is this Negro crazy? No, I have not lost my mind, at least
not yet. (And for the record – no, I do not plan to vote Republican
in the next election. Voting is a subject worthy of a separate article
– maybe next time.) While most who visit libertarian websites (like
have little issue with my suggestion, I would be kidding myself
if I did not expect this suggestion to be as popular among black
folk as designing fashionable sheets for the "Klan of the New
Millennium." Maybe it will be helpful to examine, using MA
as a rubric, a few myths that continue to undergird our undying
support for either Republicans or Democrats. To wit:
Political parties exist for vastly different goals, thus supporting
one or the other will make a difference in my life.
with eyesight slightly better than Stevie Wonder can see the two
parties as really that different baffles me. Some time back,
I was sitting at a dinner party with a very astute and no doubt
well-respected member of the political science faculty of a major
university. I uttered something about "from my vantage point,
both parties are the same" in a matter-of-fact way, over the
appetizer, between sips of wine. This guy was aghast. He spent the
next several minutes regaling me with examples illustrating the
differences. (Heck, at some point, I may have even started to believe
him.) As I recall, he ran off a litany of issues about which the
Republicans and Democrats appear to be diametrically opposed. Likely
many readers can repeat many of the "classics" in this
regard – gay marriage, abortion, voting rights, social security,
school choice (vouchers), national defense, welfare, affirmative
action – yada, yada, yada.
I do not doubt
that on many of these "hot-button" issues, the two parties
seem different. If one judges by only these issues they might
actually be different to varying degrees. Are the specific issues
really that important in the grand scheme? Maybe. Should we not
be just as concerned with the methodology for addressing them? Definitely.
But if the two parties were substantially different, would
we not see, in the aftermath of each election, noticeable and substantial
upheavals in policy, law, and as a direct result, day-to-day life?
And if we do not, were those ostensive differences really important?
One can basically
just watch the whole thing unfold on CNN (or not) and feel no fret.
Seriously, unless you are a talk-radio maven, a "ditto head,"
or an Internet web log geek, you could actually miss the whole election
and be mostly unaffected. (This might explain the lack of voter
turnout.) And that, my friends, is the goal. And to be fair, as
government goals go, it is really not a bad one. Allow me to quote
Carroll Quigley, from Tragedy
and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, who says:
argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals
and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the
Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and
academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical,
so that the American people can "throw the rascals out"
at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts
in policy. … Either party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired,
unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace
it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will
be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor,
approximately the same basic policies."
Here is what seals it. Even if the two parties did actually have
radically different ideas about right and wrong – and implemented
radically different policies as a result – one key factor would
remain the same. Those policies would be funded based upon coercion
supported by the threat of violence. Basically, the state, as realized
in every western "democracy" available for study, functions
on principals closer to the Mafia than any utopian republic described
by Plato. Simply put, they [the state] force all to contribute to
their treasury, for the creation of products and services that no
one has a choice about accepting, at a cost that always escalates.
supports "a women’s right to choose" or considers "the
sanctity of human life" most important – everybody has to pay
for it. If you think the police have a duty to protect you or you
realize, accurately, that they cannot (and will not) do anything
of the sort – you will still pay their salaries. Think the invasion
of [pick a country] makes you safer or puts you in danger – irrelevant.
Your money will be buying ammunition. (Flak jackets will occasionally
be financed via neighborhood bake sales.) Individually, offering
a product or service via the barrel of a gun is criminal. Having
an organization known as the state do it is acceptable. Usually,
forcing people – who must accept that product or service – to pay
for its creation, without exception, is totalitarian lunacy. For
the state, it is business as usual. For black folk, this should
sound suspiciously like another time-honored tradition – slavery.
If the outcome will always be the same, why would I care which "Massa"
I ended up working for this go ’round? Would it not be better to
close the plantation?
While the state government (e.g., North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi)
will do you wrong, the federal government will do you right.
I can pretty
much guarantee that if you approach any college-educated black person
in the South and ask them, "So what do you think of state’s
rights?" the answer will involve harsh glances and at least
a couple four-letter words. The term "state’s rights"
has been co-opted to mean "institutionalized racism like that
practiced in the pre-Civil War south" or something like that.
Here is what confuses me. Unless the moral nature of a man – that
which he uses to determine right and wrong, fair and unjust, true
and false – is modified based upon whether or not he works for the
federal government in D.C. or a state government in Alabama, why
would state’s rights automatically lead to a different outcome than
If, for example,
the North had been the home of slavery, and the South been the home
of freedom, does anyone think the War Between the States would not
have played out with the same script? Is it unreasonable to suggest
that it was just a quirk of fate that placed Abe Lincoln (a white-supremacist
psychopath) in the historical position of supposedly freeing the
slaves? And if so, would that not make the act of placing a lot
of faith in the federal government vis-à-vis the state governments
a little misguided? No, unless the likelihood of a person being
racist is changed based upon his position in some larger organization,
then nothing about the ontology of the state, be it the federal
or otherwise, can mitigate the tendencies of this individual. Ergo,
if the state governments were unfit to oversee the affairs of black
folk after the Civil War, I am at least a little concerned about
trusting the federal government with my welfare now.
It is the job of the state to correct past wrongs – lest they go
on unabated for the foreseeable future.
action, as generally implemented, really that different from discrimination?
Not so much. Because of past wrongs – like slavery – does the government
owe something to a certain group? Depends upon whom you ask. Even
if they do – and certainly there is little doubt that the state
directly facilitated slavery – how should this repayment be funded?
Reparations, at their root, should be about property rights, not
retribution. Yet all debate seems to center on retribution, and
why it is justified, or not.
Before we attempt
to place concepts like reparations into a consistent, logical, and
moral context, let us examine the fact regarding the only method
available to the state for securing money – theft. Frédéric Bastiat,
in his pamphlet The
Law, puts state-sponsored theft, which he refers to as "plunder,"
into scientific terms when he says:
a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it,
without his consent, and without compensation, whether by force
or fraud, to someone who does not own it, then I say that property
is violated and an action of plunder is committed."
stole something from you, having the state steal from someone different
does not really solve the problem, does it? And if the state stole
– or more accurately, allowed someone else to steal – something
from your ancestors does it make sense for them to now steal something
from everyone else and give it to you? Not so much. All that said,
and despite anything David Horowitz might say, reparations are a
legitimate issue. (And I have to admit, after reading Twelve
Years a Slave," by Solomon Northup, I wanted to go
out and extract a little personal repayment myself!) I believe Walter
Block puts this issue into proper perspective in his piece, "On
Reparations to Blacks for Slavery," from Human Rights Review,
reparations are nothing more and nothing less than the forced
return of stolen property – even after significant amount of time
has passed. For example, if my grandfather stole a ring from your
grandfather, and then bequeathed it to me through the intermediation
of my father, then I am, presently, the illegitimate owner of
that piece of jewelry. To take the position that reparations are
always and forever unjustified is to give the imprimatur to theft,
provided a sufficient time period has elapsed."
is not if the debt is owed. The questions are: from whom
it is owed; to whom it should be paid; and, how best to fund that
repayment. But in no case is it justified for the state to come
along and tax everyone so that some can get their money back, no
matter how often this has been done in the past. That is, unless
we seek to place ourselves at the trough of stolen spoils the state
creates. I have no desire to perpetuate theft, even for reasons
as personally compelling as the debt of slavery. Ironically, once
one embraces the logic of property rights, the arguments against
reparations cease to be reasonable from any basis. It is a simple
matter of proper assignment and recovery. But it does not involve
the state – at least not in the form of taxation. The state cannot
be used as tool of theft, even for ostensibly just reasons.
where does all this leave us? If the shape of the government does
not matter, i.e., state versus federal is irrelevant; and the existing
political parties are not different enough to warrant continued
interest; and if past wrongs are best addressed via private means,
what purpose does the state serve for black folk? Not much of any
from my view. To be completely free, secure, and happy, there are
three things that concern me – life, liberty, and property. The
state did not create them. The state can only take them away. There
has been enough of that already. So unless I want to enjoy the fruits
of income redistribution – which account for a major portion of
the state’s budget, excluding national defense – there is not much
left for the state to do on my behalf. Enough is enough. Put the
state out of my misery. Give me my freedom back. Let us interact
in ways more direct, more efficient, and in no way dependent upon
organized theft, from anyone, me included.
Alston [send him
mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three
children. When he’s not training for a marathon or furthering his
part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal
research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily
on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.
© 2006 LewRockwell.com