Chris Selley Is a Pussy Libertarian; I'm Not

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by Walter Block

Recently by Walter Block: My ‘Debate’ With George Jonas Continues

I seem to be in a rut. This essay is yet another one critical of a semi demi quasi libertarian journalist who writes regularly for Canada's National Post, a newspaper roughly equivalent ideologically to "our" War Street Journal. Today's missive is aimed at one Chris Selley, who wrote an op ed entitled Religious education under fire on February 5, 2013.

First, a bit of background. Canada, believe it or not, is even more politically correct than is the good old US of A. There, the Christian religion is widely and heavily deprecated as being inconsistent with the ethos of the day which supports sex before marriage, gay rights, etc. Trinity Western University (TWU), one such institution, has the temerity to insist that all students and employees must sign a covenant prohibiting "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

A few years ago a fuss was made by the politically correct left over allowing teacher certifications for graduates of TWU, who might infect their young charges with this unacceptable philosophy. More recently this university has now begun the process of attempting to open up a law school, and the usual howls of outrage are heard. Selley reports that the president of the Canadian Council Association of Law Deans objected to this covenant on the ground that "Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful in Canada and fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools." He did so in order to convince the Federation of Canadian Law Societies, the accrediting agency, to oppose this initiative of TWU's, as if they needed any help in this direction.

To his great credit, Selley quite properly gives this opposition to TWU's plan the back of his hand (he does have some libertarian sensibilities after all.) He notes that Muslim students are treated quite a bit more respectfully than Christians. He rejects the claim from this "human rights" quarter that this covenant would lead to a shoddy law school, noting that several law schools at religious universities in the U.S. are very prestigious. This journalist duly notes the several years success of TWU's teacher's college.

But then he gets into a bit of trouble, at least with principled libertarians. He attempts to refute this argument put forth by yet another member of Canada's very strong "progressive" movement: "Would the governing bodies of the legal profession in Canada approve a law school that prohibited mixed-race sexual intimacy?"

How does Selley attempt to refute this charge? He states:

"Being a private university, libertarians would argue TWU should be allowed to admit whomever it wants. That's more or less where I'm at: A private university you wouldn't want to go to anyway is not the equivalent of a Woolworth's lunch counter, or of government marriage benefits. But the mainstream reaction, if we discovered some hitherto unknown whites-only university in the B.C. interior, would be to shut the place down u2014 not its law school, not its engineering faculty, the whole place. If people think TWU is doing the moral equivalent, why are we only talking about its law school? There's no moral difference between anti-gay discrimination and anti-black discrimination. And the only legal difference is that a religious freedom defence (sic) is far more likely in the first case than in the second u2014 and, perhaps, that we're only just getting rolling down this road. The full spectrum of gay rights is a newer development."

What sticks in my craw here is that crack about Woolworth's lunch counter. I cannot be 100% sure, I wish this man would write more clearly, but in my interpretation Selley is saying that this firm was not justified in refusing to serve black people; the implication is that the so called Civil Rights Act of 1964 was entirely justified. Of course, one of the basic tenets of libertarianism is the law of free association. No one should be compelled, at the point of a government gun, to associate with anyone else, against his will. Compelling Woolworths to seat blacks is thus incompatible with libertarianism. It was a violation of their private property rights over their establishment.

Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to "associate" with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn't so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves' private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.

Most men of good will are inclined to reject this argument. They see racial discrimination as economically harmful to the targeted group. They are economically illiterate. They do not realize that these sorts of boycotts have very little power. When employers discriminate against a given group, they drive their wages down. But this makes hiring them, by other employers, much more profitable, ceteris paribus. If some firms will not sell lunch to blacks, others will arise to do so, and be able to earn greater profits than would otherwise be the case. If some companies force blacks to ride in the back of the bus, others with no such rules will compete for their custom, and earn extraordinary profits from doing so. In all such cases, in the free marketplace, the latter (non discriminators) will tend to drive the former (discriminators) out of business.

Why didn't this work in the south in the early part of the 20th century? Did economic law function differently, or not at all, in that time and place? Not a bit of it. These salutary effects were not allowed to come into being due to the government and its Jim Crow laws that prohibited the competition of the non discriminators. If, is as usually assumed by our friends on the left (“progressives” as they now call themselves after having besmirched the name “liberal” which they stole from us), ordinary white people so hated and reviled black people, why were Jim Crow laws even necessary in the first place? Couldn't racism, all on its own, have accomplished this goal? No, and this was due to the economics of the case, as mentioned above. Without Jim Crow laws enforcing such behavior, the "magic of the market" would have rendered this type of racism impotent. The two people who have done more than perhaps anyone else to shed some basic economic light on the economics of discrimination are Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. Google them. Read them. (I note that initially Rand Paul took a splendid libertarian position on this matter, but then in an interview with Rachel Maddow, unfortunately backed down. In sharp contrast Ron Paul continues to uphold this free association banner of libertarianism.)

Another difficulty with the intellectual position of the anti discrimination, anti free association folk is that they always apply their totalitarian notions to the business world, not the personal one. If discrimination against black people ought to be against the law, why not apply this to both realms of human interaction. After all, murder is illegal both in the bed room and in the board room.

How would this work if implemented? Human "rights" commissions would insist that if blacks are, say, 10% of the population, and whites 90%, then the correct proportion of intermarriages ought to take place. If there are too few, then no more marriages should be allowed until this statistical representation once again reoccurred. After all, sans discrimination, this is exactly what we would expect. Similarly, even for dating. If there were an all white couple, or an all black couple, then each of the four of them should be queried as to whether or not ugly discrimination were responsible for their choices. They ought to be made to prove their purity. Statistical disparity, as it is now in the realms of business and education, would be evidence of racially motivated discrimination. The burden of proof to demonstrate otherwise would be upon them.

Now let us apply this to sexual relations, and we will see that anti free association laws logically imply compulsory bisexuality. Take heterosexual men, for example. They are disgusting creatures. They arbitrarily and unconscionably eliminate half the human race as potential love-bed partners. If that is not prejudice, then nothing is (it is politically correct for me to castigate heterosexual women; everyone knows they are evil; as a staunch believer in political correctitude, I am happy to abide by its mandates.) Now consider heterosexual women, for example. They, too, are disgusting creatures. They arbitrarily and unconscionably eliminate half the human race as potential love-bed partners. If that is not prejudice, then nothing is (it is not politically correct for me to castigate heterosexual men; but I am going to go out on a limb and do this anyway.) It is now the turn of homosexual men. They, too, are disgusting creatures. (I'm going to be run out of town on a rail for saying that, but the truth is the truth; I cannot tell a lie). They arbitrarily and unconscionably eliminate half the human race as potential love-bed partners. (Do you think I'm being too repetitive here?) If that is not prejudice, then nothing is. And the same goes for homosexual women. They, too, are disgusting creatures. (I can't anymore be run out of town on a rail for saying that, since this departure of mine has already been imposed on me). They, too, arbitrarily and unconscionably eliminate half the human race as potential love-bed partners. If that is not prejudice, then nothing is.

So where are we? I lost my train of thought. Oh, yes. It is only bisexuals who do NOT arbitrarily and unconscionably eliminate half the human race as potential love-bed partners. They do not prejudicially ignore anyone; they will consider all people. Long live bisexuality. All "progressives" ought to embrace this life style choice, if they want to stick to their principles. But wait! Bisexuals, too, as it turns out, are disgusting creatures. They, as does everyone else mentioned above, I think I've been exhaustive but I'm really not sure, are also discriminators. They don't eliminate half the human race as potential love-bed partners, but hear this: Bisexuals (remember, they are disgusting creatures) favor beauty ("lookism"), intelligence ("IQism"), compatibility ("compatibilityism"), age ("ageism"), and a whole host of other qualities. Bisexuals, like everyone else, disgust me, progressive that I am.

Where does "pussy libertarianism" come into play? Ann Coulter accused libertarians of this character flaw, because, she said, among other things, we refuse to apply our philosophy to racial and sexual discrimination. We limit our views to pussy issues such as imperialism and drug legalization. This, of course, is an outright lie; but it sure got press coverage. But, it does seem to apply to those such as Chris Selley who refuse to apply libertarianism to these hot button issues.

Am I being unfair to Chris Selley? I honestly don't know for sure, but I expect I am not. That nasty remark about "Woolworth's lunch counter" seems to indicate he does not fully accept the libertarian view on free association and racial discrimination. But the point is, he is not at all very clear on this, as in the case of his colleague George Jonas. Perhaps in a future column Mr. Selley will clarify this matter.

Mr. Selley, do not be such a pussy. Embrace your inner libertarianism. Let it come out of the closet.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable, The Case for Discrimination, Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective, Building Blocks for Liberty, Differing Worldviews in Higher Education, and The Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.

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