One of the biggest pillars in the “thick” libertarian belief is the idea that it is not enough to adhere to the Non-Aggression Principle. We must also be against any “prejudice” or “bigotry” that may be out there.
There are several problems with this reasoning. One of those problems is how to address such bigotry and prejudice without using violence or coercion. This leaves few options. What options are there for a libertarian, other than to make choices that reflect our disagreement?
Naturally, we can choose not to associate with such people, not use their services or employ their businesses. But does this actually lead to reconciliation between differing groups? Or does it simply add to the tension and conflict we originally try to resolve?
Libertarianism doesn’t presume to remove all conflicts in life. Even in an anarchist society, people would have different religious beliefs, hold separate moral and ethical values. Segments of the population would be more socially conservative, while others would adopt more liberal attitudes.
The difference is that they wouldn’t be engaged in fighting over the control of the State in order to use its monopoly on legitimate use of violence and coercion to get the other group to do as they say. In an anarchist society, people would have an incentive to resolve conflicts nonviolently.
For certain types of people, such a scenario – in which people hold differing opinions yet still manage to coexist and not engage in struggles over who will oppress who – is too horrific to accept, which is why they leave libertarianism and become socialists, as one did. In this piece, Robert Wenzel at the Economic Policy Journal picks apart a former libertarian’s critique of the Non-Aggression Principle (essentially it does not allow people who think like him to use violence and coercion to make others behave as they wish. The horror).
Also, as Wenzel points out in another article, libertarianism shouldn’t require its followers to “become an unpaid public relations agent” for groups who claim to be victims of bigotry and prejudice.
Another problem is how we define bigotry and prejudice. Thickists, of course, believe that they are open-minded and tolerant, but who out there actually thinks they are the bigot and those they disagree with are the tolerant ones? Who gets to decide what is bigotry and what is not?
Libertarian writer Daniel Senchez discusses this issue and concludes, rightly so, that bigotry is not simply holding an opposing view of someone else. If this were the case, it would be impossible for anyone to not be a bigot; try meeting someone who agrees with you on everything. Name one topic or issue in which exclusiveness isn’t a vital aspect of it. Definitions, by definition, demand exclusivity. In order for something to be a something, it has to also not be something. A is A and cannot be B or C.
The flaw in the thickist logic is that their beliefs, because they accept those who are superficially different from them, are open-minded and tolerant, while those who think differently need to change their opinions.
But that’s not what open-mindedness is. Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider ideas and beliefs you do not hold. Tolerance is simply allowing something to happen. You don’t necessarily have to like it.
Acceptance is when you embrace something and personally believe it is true or acceptable to believe or to do.
When I was a conservative, and then a constitutionalist, I gradually became a libertarian because I was open-minded to ideas vastly different from what I had been taught and educated to believe. I read libertarian literature and essays. Obviously, I now accept it and embrace it.
As for bigotry, it has to involve deliberate activity on the part of the bigot in which they proactively seek to antagonize another person for no other reason than the fact that they do not think as the bigot does.
Additionally, bigotry by the State holds much more dangerous consequences than bigotry by a group or individual, especially those who believe in the NAP.
I don’t think it’s fair to call someone a “bigot” solely based on their personal views and how they choose to arrange their own personal and commercial affairs. To me, true bigotry is antagonizing someone based on how they differ from you: whether it is a difference in background and biology or beliefs and preferences. And it is bigotry in that sense that is truly conducive to statism. (Also of course, when the State is wielded against someone over some difference, that State oppression itself is antagonization, and is therefore bigotry as well.)
Again, the State rules by dividing and conquering: by pitting its subjects against each other as mutual antagonists, and taking a cut of the loot when such antagonism escalates to mutual coercion and plunder. And, so antagonization of any kind is inherently conducive to the State.
Bigotry is not politely declining to cater a gay wedding, or relating racial opinions and misgivings to your girlfriend; neither involves active antagonization. Bigotry does include both wielding the State against gays, blacks, etc (like Jim Crow laws, etc), and such non-State antagonization as protesting a gay wedding or funeral, as do the Westboro Baptist Church bigots, or hostilely belittling a black man by addressing him as “boy” or some other epithet.
But bigotry also includes boycott organizers trying to destroy the business of religious bakers, feminists trying to get a disc jockey fired for playing the song “Blurred Lines,” and thought police publicly hounding elderly men over coarse things they get caught saying in private or merely politically incorrect or poorly phrased things they state in public.
The BOP strategy, when directed at people over their personal views and how they arrange their personal and commercial affairs, is predicated on antagonization over a difference in thought and behavior, and it is therefore bigotry. What else can you call even non-violent campaigns against people’s very livelihoods and against their welcome in society itself, over their different personal beliefs and unobtrusive practices?
Much of this antagonism would go away with the State. People feud with one another because they fear their opponent will use the State’s power against them. Thus it is a constant struggle to maintain that supremacy. This illegitimate use of force through the State is also the cause of so much resentment and bitterness between religious and ethnic groups.
Politics is defined as the process by which it is decided “who gets what where how when and why.” Add “through violence and coercion” to the end and you have it quite accurately.
What’s more bigoted and prejudiced than the idea that everyone must submit to the form of government you think is best and the use of violence to keep them under the government is acceptable?
So if we’re going to speak about prejudice and bigotry, let’s start with the prejudice people hold against those who do not want to be ruled by their government and the bigotry that causes them to harass and persecute those who wish to live their lives peacefully outside of the State’s control.