Dispute Over libertarianism, Sexism, Racism
This is a correspondence between me and a professor at a prestigious university in the US.
I watched with great interest this short presentation of yours on racism, sexism, anarcho capitalism (I deleted this material so as to retain anonymity for my correspondent).
If I had to summarize, you were saying that you can’t logically deduce an ought from an is. Fine. I have no problem with that.
However, I’m a racist and a sexist (as a libertarian, I believe we have a right to discriminate against blacks and females) and an anarcho capitalist (I believe this is the only moral and efficacious system). You opposed all three in that video. But, nothing you said leads to that conclusion either. Do you agree?
Thanks, Walter. No, I don’t agree. There’s a big difference between private decisions like dating or crossing the street, and public policies governing the criminal justice system and public accommodations. It’s fine to be a racist in private decisions—no one should force me to date a black woman if I don’t want to— but there are many reasons why we would not want a black defendant to be convicted on less evidence than a white man just because blacks have a higher base rate of criminality. It would run roughshod over standards of fairness and justice, and even if you disagree with such standards, the fact that most people subscribe to them would mean that a group-prejudicing policies would corrode public confidence in the judicial system and government, with downstream consequences for trust and other measures of social capital. It would also create perverse incentives, in which white men or other actuarially favored groups could game the system and commit harder-to-prosecute crimes, knowing their race would buy them the benefit of the doubt. There are other reasons as well.
I fully agree with you on crossing the street, and who we date, and also, that “we would not want a black defendant to be convicted on less evidence than a white man just because blacks have a higher base rate of criminality.” That’s 3 out of 4 agreement. Where we possibly part paths is over that “public accommodations” business. If by that you mean that govt parks, libraries, streets, schools should not discriminate, then, again, we agree. However, Joe opens a store and puts a sign out on it: “no dogs, Jews, blacks, gays allowed, either as customers or employees.” This violates more than just a few laws, but, since it is his private property, the libertarian in me says he ought to be allowed to do it. (Sowell and Williams have demonstrated theoretically why, and offered much evidence that, this sort of behavior cannot negatively impact these target groups, due to competition, free enterprise.) Do the Christian photographers, florists, bakers, have the obligation to deal with gays against their will? Must the black or Jewish baker bake a cake for the KKK or Nazi party member? I’m a consistent supporter of the rights of free association. You?
Walter3:30 pm on August 26, 2018 Email Walter E. Block