Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently told Palm Beach Atlantic University students that obsession over trivial identity-based sleights has reached an all-time high:
My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up. Now, name a day it doesn’t come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah. Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them — left them out. That’s a part of the deal.
Indeed, I believe Thomas has a point, but I believe it goes well beyond his concern with the “obsession over trivial identity-based sleights.” I am of the opinion that all racist and homophobic views are no big deal, as long as the racists and homophobes are not advocating breaking the libertarian non-aggression principle.
My view flies in the face of so-called “cosmopolitan libertarians,” who are advocating some type of linkage between libertarianism and an advocacy of tolerance for groups such as gays and blacks.
I believe the advocacy of this linkage entirely misunderstands the nature of the world, its complexity and libertarianism. Laurence Vance recently referenced Murray Rothbard on libertariaism:
Libertarianism, in the words of Murray Rothbard, “is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only apolitical theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life. . . . Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism. It should not be surprising, therefore, that there are libertarians who are indeed hedonists and devotees of alternative lifestyles, and that there are also libertarians who are firm adherents of “bourgeois” conventional or religious morality. There are libertarian libertines and there are libertarians who cleave firmly to the disciplines of natural or religious law. There are other libertarians who have no moral theory at all apart from the imperative of non-violation of rights. That is because libertarianism per se has no general or personal moral theory.”
Now, on a personal level, as I have pointed out before, I have no problem with blacks or gays. I find gays generally interesting and have more than my fair share of blacks friends. That said, I also have friends who are racists and others who are homophobes, and I have no intention of ending my relationships with them, nor will I attempt to change what I view as their silly perspectives. In other words, I do not believe that I have any responsibility to become an unpaid public relations agent for the gay or black community.
I view racists and homophobes as people who simply have narrow uninformed views of the world. This is not as uncommon as it may seem and goes well beyond racism and homophobia.
Let us start by considering basic irrational shunning.
I tend to shop for clothes at Jos. A. Bank and don’t shop at The Men’s Wearhouse. In passing by The Men’s Wearhouse, it appears to have the same quality of clothes as Jos. A. Bank and my guess is that they probably have the same price points on their clothes. BUT, I never go into The Men’s Wearhouse. I started going to Jos. A. Bank many years ago and feel comfortable going there. Location-wise the two stores are within a couple of blocks of each other. There is no logical reason for me to shun The Men’s Wearhouse. In fact, it might be stupid on my part not to check out the store. Their prices might be lower than JAB, the quality of their clothes might be better than JAB, there may be products at TMW that just hands down blow away anything at JAB. But, I am ignorant of what is really the case with TMW. I am never going to go into TMW. There may be no rational reason for me to avoid TMW, but I am going to stick with the store I feel comfortable with.
Because of my lack of logic and shunning of TMW for no good reason, should anyone outside of TMW really care about this? Of course, not. Will my friends desert me because I shun TMW for no good reason? Of course, not.
How is this different from a racist or homophobe? They are shunning people based on criteria that make no sense. They are missing out to the degree that blacks or gays can make their life more valuable. But, as long as these racists and homophobes aren’t advocating the lynching, gassing or enslavement of these people, i.e., they are not calling for the abandonment of the non-aggression principle, then so what?
I’v recently launched the Circle Rothbard here in San Francisco, and we had our first meeting earlier this week, I went around to everyone present and asked them if they had acquaintances who were either racist or homophobe, everyone said they did. Now, are any of these people going to shun their acquaintances/friends because of their racist views? I doubt it.
The complexity of the world is such that we all have transactions with all kinds of people, but we tend to limit interactions to mutually beneficial aspects. At the restaurant where I have bacon and eggs every morning, there is a nice little old lady who is the cashier. We exchange pleasantries every morning, but I can’t imagine our worlds ever intersecting far beyond that. For all I know, she spends her time off at some knitting club, which frightens me with boredom just thinking about it. What we have in common is likely very little.
If someone spends his entire day walking around with a swastika on his arm and ranting hate about Jews and blacks, I am going to spend little to no time with such a person, anymore than I am with a little old lady, who knits all day.
But, my friends, who are racists or homophobes, have characteristics that make friendship possible. It is limited to what we have in common, not their racism and homophobia. As far as I am concerned, racist and homophobic views display a narrow view of the world. But my interaction with my racist and homophobe friends has nothing to do with that part of their world. And, I note again, I do not consider it my responsibility to act as an unpaid public relations agent for the black or gay community.
I have some groups of my own that I discriminate against regularly. They include…
- The unintelligent – If a person is unable to hold a conversation of any seriousness, they probably are not for me. I don’t generally have serious conversations in person, but the ability to think and the curiosity and drive to learn are things that I value in those around me. Further, people who cannot hold an intellectual discussion without resorting to childish ad hominems and general logical ignorance fit in that category.
- Hard drug users – I am just not interested in being associated with people who do hard drugs. I don’t think it should be illegal, but that also doesn’t mean users aren’t low-lives or lacking in common sense. If it is something they do and keep to themselves, that is fine by me, but doing it in front of me is likely the end of a friendship.
- People who think it is fun to manipulate others or people who talk shit behind the backs of everyone they know. – Why would you want to be friends with someone who talks smack behind others’ backs when it is inevitable they do the same about you? These types of people are psychopaths and cowards, respectively, and are really unworthy of good friends. I don’t need someone who will bring me down to the level of vice and selfishness.
- Statists – Only in part, I am uninterested in being friends with those who wish to use force against me to silence and/or obviate my views.
- Most people – I am a misanthrope. So sue me.
- Cliquey people – Those who hang out in a sort of coven don’t interest me. The drama and emotion of such types are generally too much to make the effort worth it, and I have never had the inherent need to be accepted.
I also have some groups of people that I choose NOT to discriminate against on a regular basis. Those include…
- People who don’t have many friends; introverts – I don’t have many friends (and I like it that way) and I tend toward introversion with my free time. These people are lots like me, and even where they aren’t, they are generally more interesting than others.
- People of any race/creed/religion – I don’t really care what religion someone is or where they are from or what they look like. It is irrelevant to why I would be friends with them.
- Homophobes – I don’t mind when someone is anti-gay rights, which follows Wenzel’s explanation above. They may still have traits that make them a good friend – hell, I might not even know if they are bigoted against gays. We may argue when the topic comes up, but that isn’t a ruined friendship…
- My family – no matter what they believe or do, I will love them – and that is not something that requires justification.
- Robots – I love my computer, okaaaaaaaay? Robots are people too.
And there you have it. Looks like I am a big discriminator. And I like it that way! Think up your own groups, and while you are at it, stop with the anti-discrimination crap.