The problem with privilege and libertarianism

Update: I’ve edited the text for clarification on a few points.

From what I’ve seen on the Net lately, there are many libertarians who need to ask themselves what issues they are a libertarian on.

For those of you new to libertarianism or who don’t know much about it, it is actually a rather simple political philosophy. When all is boiled down, it can be summed up in a single statement known as the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP): No one has the right to initiate aggression or violence against an innocent person or their property.

That is it. This is about as inclusive a philosophy as you are going to get.

Unfortunately, for such a simple message, it gets contaminated by people who either aren’t libertarians but pretend to be, or are libertarians but for the wrong reason. They are not comfortable with just leaving it at the NAP because that’s not really what got them involved in the liberty movement.

Recently there has been a feud between libertarians over several irrelevant issues, mainly the concept of “privilege,” that showcases this distinct separation between those who are interested in liberty and those who have other axes to grind.

I like to consider myself a calm person. Most of the time. But I lose all patience when someone throws out the word “privilege” out of nowhere. Usually, it’s because the person who employs the word is using it while making a highly judgmental, snide, haughty and ignorant remark about someone else.

For example, I was once accused of denying my “white privilege” when explaining why I had no college debt. I insisted that the fact that I had attended an inexpensive, in-state university, worked through high school saving up for college, spent next to no money during the school year, and lived in a old miner’s shack my last quarter while graduating a year early had something to do with it.

No. It was solely because there is some mystical power called “white privilege” that enabled me to pay my bills and not take out a loan.

Just as a side note, when someone says “privilege,” most of the time they really mean someone else made better life choices and are enjoying the fruits, while they made poor choices and are suffering for it but refuse to accept responsibility for it.

You’d think that as libertarians, these people would be interested in attacking the obvious privileges that the State enjoys, such as a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, money, taxation, and countless other immunities granted to its members which do not apply to ordinary citizens.

Silly me to think that. Apparently the real problem facing our society isn’t the Federal Reserve, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Patriot Act, NSA surveillance programs, drone strikes, undeclared wars, or warrant-less searches. These are not the greatest threat to our liberties, according to these so-called libertarians.

So what is?

White male privilege with Bitcoin.

You read that right.

The argument started when a female libertarian accused Bitcoin of having white male privilege because its users are overwhelming white men.

This is the kind of argument one would expect to get from conventional political thinking – which is really no thinking at all. Nowhere in this assessment does the libertarian attempt to provide evidence for their highly contentious and facile assertion. Nor do they raise any thought-provoking questions, such as what constitutes “privilege” and what it has to do with libertarianism. If no one’s rights are being violated, then what concern is it of ours?

Bitcoin, in case you don’t know, is an open sourced digital currency anyone can use anywhere in the world. Unlike a central bank, it is run by no one.

This is one of many, many reasons why I so despise the use of the word “privilege.” It’s a cop out for someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about to make judgments based on superficial observations.

One has to ask if this person had even tried using Bitcoin – or maybe the question answers itself.

One simple question could have settled this for her.

1. What part of Bitcoin gives white males an advantage or privilege in terms of its use that other people do not receive, and in what way are people’s rights violated by this?

The answer, of course, is none.

Yesterday the Libertarian Republic published this column, in which the writer discusses this feud within the context of a bigger argument that libertarians need to branch out more to attract people beyond the white male demographic. The writer is vague in terms of details and concrete steps to take, but it’s fairly apparent what they’re implying. The author argues that we need to stop talking so much about topics like critical theory – which has nothing to do with libertarianism – and talk more about issues like privilege – things that progressives and leftists love to preach on.

Tom Woods has written on these types of libertarians, saying:

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking dominates a certain wing of the libertarian movement, which congratulates itself for its “thick” libertarianism, as opposed to the (I guess) thin kind embraced by the rest of us. Yes, yes, they concede, nonaggression is the key thing, but if you really want to promote liberty you can’t just oppose the state. You have to oppose “the patriarchy,” embrace countercultural values, etc.

Then, once libertarianism has been made to seem as freakish and anti-bourgeois as possible, these same people turn around and blame the rest of us for why the idea isn’t more popular.

In the 1850’s, abolitionists, the only group opposing slavery on moral grounds, comprised a paltry 2% of the voting population. Clearly only a specific demographic believed in emancipation and pushed for it. Was that due to privilege? Or could there perhaps have been other factors involved?

We should be less concerned with the demographic make-up of the liberty movement and more concerned about maintaining its integrity and core beliefs.

Sadly, this is something I see way too often. A druggie hears that libertarianism promotes drug legalization and jumps onto the political bandwagon. Someone doesn’t want to pay taxes – but has no problem with others being forced to pay – and thinks that makes him libertarian. I tend to call them “single-issue libertarians,” because there is only one reason they joined, and it has nothing to do with liberty or freedom.

As the Good Book says, by their fruits ye shall know them. When someone spends more time attacking an unregulated, non-government digital currency instead of the Fed, that tells you something.

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17 Responses to The problem with privilege and libertarianism

  1. Pingback: Enough Already with the Juvenile ‘Privilege’ Nonsense | Tom Woods

  2. manner says:

    I don’t understand your reference to critical theory. How does it relate to libertarianism?

    Like

    • The Question says:

      I mentioned it because it was referenced in the Libertarian Republic column I linked to. Why they did this I’m not sure, either. I’ve edited that passage to clarify that point.

      Like

  3. Thanks for calling out these leftists…

    Like

  4. Pingback: Privilege and Libertarianism | Reformed Libertarian

  5. Pingback: Lew Rockwell gets it right on libertarianism | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  6. Pingback: Progressives in libertarian’s clothing | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  7. wargames83 says:

    Privilege only exists when other people are oppressed. Calling this a side issue and important is ignorant at best.

    Like

  8. Pingback: White Male Privilege Is Another Social Justice Myth to Justify the State | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  9. Pingback: Misandry over Reason | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  10. Pingback: Why Don’t You Check “Your” Privilege?” | The Anarchist Notebook

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