Thursday, February 13, 2014

About My Racist Friends, My Homophobic Friends and My Own Prejudices

By Robert Wenzel

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 libertarianism:
 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 black 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've 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, just like the little time 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 homophoboic 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.

Now, if I have a friend who shops at TMW and there is some kind of huge sale at JAB, I may tell him about it, not because I believe I need to be an advocate for JAB, but because I want to expand my friend's awareness of opportunities in the world.

In the same way, if my friend and I regularly have drinks on a Friday night and I know he is somewhat prejudice and has never dated a black girl, I may tell him, "Hey, black girls can be fun." I am doing this because I want to expand my friend's awareness of positive opportunities in the world, not because of some type of responsibility I have to erase what I view as ignorant thoughts in his mind.

Further, I suspect most people hold prejudicial views against many groups and I would consider it absurd to think it is somehow my duty to erase everyone's prejudicial views from their minds.

In thinking about it, I have come up with a number of groups that I am prejudiced against. I am the type of guy that will strike up a conversation with almost anyone, anywhere, with people I have never met before, on the sidewalk, at a lunch counter, anywhere. But there are certain groups that I try to avoid having any contact with:

Dumb People-If I suspect you are dumb, I am going to try anything, this side of the non-aggression principle, to not have anything to do with you. If I suspect you are dumb and you attempt to strike up a conversation with me, you are going to get very short answers from me and I am going to look very annoyed. I get especially aggravated when I call a customer service hotline for help with a product or service and think I have an idiot on the line. I thank Gary North for the very valuable advice that the thing to do when you get a clueless person on a customer service call is to hang up and call back until you reach a person who actually knows what the hell is going on. I truly believe this advice from Gary has saved me from multiple heart attacks.

People with tattoos all over their body. I have no reason to logically explain this, but I really don't want to interact with people who have tattoos all over their bodies. The San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback has such tattoos, I am so horrified by this that I have never even determined what his name is. I hope the 49ers lose every game until he is replaced at quarterback.

As a side note, there are shades to all hating, even tattoo hating. I have a friend who will date women with tattoos, but only women who have three tattoos or less. If they are prison tattoos, he tolerates only two tattoos.

Loud obnoxious people. I was once in a hotel bar, when the FOX NFL color analyst Tony Siragusa was also present, between the loud farts, overall loud behavior and mooning of patrons (Yes, mooning of patrons), I did not consider it an enjoyable experience. If I ever walk into a bar again and see him at the bar I am walking out.

Toothless hookers. You will never catch me talking to toothless hookers.

So these are my prejudices. I don't want any of these people lynched, gassed or enslaved. I just don't want to have anything to do with them. Don't try and talk me out of these prejudices, it's not going to happen. I am not going to try and talk you out of yours. Let's be friends on common ground, and fight where a fight will help us all, a fight against the state.

 Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at EconomicPolicyJournal.com and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics. His linked page is here. His San Francisco Review of Books essays are here.

39 comments:

  1. "Don't try an talk me out of these prejudices, it's not going to happen."

    Yea, I don't know RW. I think you are missing the merits of engaging toothless hookers as a man, but I'll try not to annoy you by stating my case.

    :)

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    1. Let's just say that their 'smoothies' put the ones you get at Jamba Juice to shame.

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  2. In regards to this my philosophy has always been people are assholes and not to worry about what others think of me. Nobody will ever talk me out of hating liberals, neoconservatives and paleoconservatives because all three of those ideologies represent statism and I loath statism.

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  3. I hate 3D movies. They are gimmicky, expensive and give me headaches/nausea.

    I will do nothing to stop other people from attending these movies beyond loudly complaining about the above three grievances.

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  4. Bob, you are a riot! I wish you lived in Phoenix. I'd love to call you a friend!!

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  5. Regardless of the race or gender, statists and smoke nazies are inferior people.
    And everybody knows it.

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  6. You sir are clearly overlooking the merits of toothless hookers as the risks (personal injury) of some down low services are mitigated and benefits of a gum massage enhanced. Just close your eyes.

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  7. The establishment’s 24/7 promotion of homosexuality is about reducing population levels. It reminds me of the 24/7 promotion of feminism back in the 70’s for the same reason (to get the women out of the home having babies and on the tax rolls instead). The fact is we’re managed like livestock. Some of us are on to it, but most are naively oblivious. Anyone note how Obama-care requires coverage for contraception and sterilization? Question: does it cover fertility treatment?

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    1. "The establishment’s 24/7 promotion of homosexuality is about reducing population levels."
      What is your evidence to support this claim? I've never seen anyone advocating homosexuality as a lifestyle choice since it doesn't appear to be one (a choice, that is). They advocate tolerance, of course. But that is different than promotion.


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  8. "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 think you have the right idea, but it's not stated properly here. The NAP absolutely requires tolerance "for groups such as gays and blacks." What it does not do is place a positive requirement for you to interact with those groups or allow them to interact with you within the confines of your property. So, you have to tolerate their existence even though you don't have to tolerate their presence on your property.

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    1. You are making a distinction without a difference that may confuse people over the word tolerance.

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    2. It requires non-violence, not tolerance. You can refuse to tolerate gays and blacks without using violence.
      You can disallow them on your property (which is the same as not tolerating them) or leave whatever place where they are (because you will not tolerate being around them).

      This distinction is important, because the cosmopolitan libertarian view of tolerance is the same as "respect" or "like" or "accept" them.

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    3. I agree, Stanley.

      I'd go even further and suggest that a malleable word like 'tolerate' shouldn't even be used in such discussions.

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    4. If you are truly intolerant of an activity, you will use force to stop it. If you are intolerant of a person or a group, you will exercise force against that person or group. The NAP restricts that force to being within the domain of your own property. Therefore, the NAP forces you to be tolerant of the group or activity outside your domain if justified use of force.

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    5. Semantics.
      If i leave (or ask someone to leave) who i don't like, it's because i cannot and will not TOLERATE them. It simply means i don't want to be in their presence, or what them in my presence.

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    6. Words actually have meaning. When an a-hole president gets on a podium and says "we" aren't going to tolerate something from some country where people have the wrong skin color, he's saying "we're about to use force." If you're not using force you're tolerating the activity/person. If you qualify it in some way and say "I won't tolerate it in my presence," and you're willing to leave any area where the activity is occurring, then you've softened the statement.

      If someone is in my home doing an activity that I tell them I won't tolerate, I'm not going to leave my home, and if they persist, force is going to ensue.

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  9. Huh. Some of the most interesting, creative, sensitive, iconoclastic, insightful, funny people I've met were covered in ink.

    Go figure.

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  10. I have a prejudice towards people in harmony with reality. I don't know why. Maybe it is genetic.

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  11. Here is a 'cosmopolitan libertarian' that RW speaks of - http://www.economicthought.net/blog/?p=5619

    The problem with the cosmolibs is that they would abandon NAP to achieve the goal of cosmopolitanism.

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  12. Gays and minorities do not make a big deal out of it because they are sensitive. They make a big deal out of it because they want power over you and they want you to surrender power and money to them.

    If you look at the latest gay/minority movement it's called "pushing back on your privilege." It basically means give us your money and your power if you are "a white, straight, able-bodied, class-privileged, cisgender male or any combination of two or more of those."

    Notice you only need a combination of two or more it pretty much applies to any white middle class person. The fewer of these "privileges" you have, the more society owes you.

    In case you are wondering, cisgender means someone's "gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.."


    4 Ways to Push Back Against Your Privilege
    http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/02/4-ways-push-back-privilege/
    1. Relinquish Power
    2. Just Don’t Go (let someone else take advantage of an opportunity offered to you)
    3. Shut up
    4. 4. Be careful what identities you claim (don't pretend you are not privileged)

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    1. Are you really the Jerry Wolfgang all of us readers love to hate? This comment is the best thing you've ever written here.

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    2. Unbelievable. I actually agree with Jerry Wolfgang. Of course it is about power.

      I was having a discussion with an individual about gay marriage. I offered that if the state just got out of marriage, anyone could marry under any basis they chose. He was not interested in that. He wanted state recognition of gay marriage. It was then that I realized that he wanted to state use gay marriage as a bludgeon against gay marriage deniers like religious and conservative social elements.

      I have to assume that the step after state recognition would be to make gay marriage denial a felony hate crime.

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    3. Even a broken clock....

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  13. You cannot outlaw racism in a free society, but in a multi-race society it is more of a problem than you admit. Humans are imperfect (in knowledge and in rationalizing their actions) and any govt administration involves discretion. It would be unfortunate to be a disfavored minority race in a racist society. How would you like to face a jury of 12 racist blacks? Also races naturally fall into interest groups or gangs (as in prison) where a slight against one race leads to retribution, that often escalates. Even if you don;t want to join the melee, you can't decline to join your race so you can become a target.

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  14. This is probably one of the best posts I've ever seen here on EPJ, and I see a lot of great posts.

    Thanks Robert! :)

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  15. "As far as I am concerned, racist and homophoboic views display a narrow view of the world."

    "I have no reason to logically explain this, but I really don't want to interact with people who have tattoos all over their bodies."

    I liked these two lines. While I don't have any tattoos myself and I can't imagine myself ever getting more than 1 or 2 (too expensive!), I often attempt to explain to people that being prejudiced against people with tattoos (few or many) is just as nonsensical as being a racist.

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    1. Why is "being prejudiced against people with tattoos (few or many) is just as nonsensical as being a racist"? We are born the race we are. We choose to have tattoos added to our bodies. The MASSIVE difference is obviously choice. There isn't even the pro-gay argument of "I was born that way."
      If someone feels they don't like someone because they don't have enough tattoos, it is very possible they feel the person is not libertine enough, self expressive enough, etc.
      If someone feels they don't like someone because they have too many tattoos, it is very possible they feel the person is not conservative enough in their modesty or too flagrant in their self expression.
      These are not at all the reasons to like or not like someone because of the color of their skin or the culture they are a part of (depending on how you view "race").

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  16. Wish there were more writers with the balls Robert Wenzel has.

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  17. I've come to realize that saying "I'm not prejudges," is like saying "I'm not horny." Prejudges is part of the human condition. I once met a family on the beach at Ocean City, Maryland from southern Illinois who thought people from southern Indiana were trash. Kudos to Thomas.

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  18. Why is it different for political views?

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    1. It's not.
      I wouldn't stomach a whiny leftie or a belligerent rightwing warmonger. Or someone who annoys me with his religious views for that matter. I would only be able to tolerate them if they keep that crap to themselves.

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    2. I think I agree it's not different, but that's why I was asking Bob. How can he support Ron Paul trying to change people's political views, but not racist, sexists, etc?

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    3. The difference is obvious. Politicians in general, except the Ron Paul-types, are trying to use force against me and others. The essence of libertarianism is the objection to such coercion.

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    4. Yea not talking about that. How is Ron Paul or you trying to change people's political views different than someone trying to change someone's prejudices? How about economic views? What's the difference? Where or how do you draw a line?

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    5. To Anonymous February 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM,

      That is easy. You draw the line at aggression. For example, if someone says "You should allow such and such race/religion/whatever to visit your shop/home/church/whatever" and uses simple persuasion to do so, there is no problem. If on the other hand they are sending police to enforce it, then there is a problem. That is where you draw the line.

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    6. That's not where Bob drew the line in his post though.

      I would be more inclined to argue that it would be okay for politics and economics since when people support intervention, they are advocating the use of force, which voids the NAP.

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  19. I agree with your list of prejudices or as Rothbard would have said postjudices listed at the end of your fine piece. However I do believe generalized prejudice against blacks is not irrational but based on the objective reality that blacks far more crimes than any other group out of proportion to their numbers. Here in SF they are 5% but 60% of the crime, in Oakland 27% and 79% respectively. That doesn't mean I can't have some black friends but I'm wary of the race as a whole for good reason.
    I find homosexuality perverse but I have some 'gay' friends.

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  20. The term "homophobe" is a smear, intended to portray those who disagree that homosexual behavior is normal, natural, healthy, etc. A phobia is a mental illness, therefore, if you do not embrace homosexuality as as natural as heterosexuality, you are mentally ill and have an irrational fear of homosexuals/homosexuality. Plenty of people believe homosexuality is a disorder and do not have a phobia of it.
    Along the same lines, the term "bigot" makes me scrtach my head. Aren't we ALL bigots, including those who hurl it as an epithet at those who don't share their views? We all believe our way of thinking, our ethnicity, our "clan", our worldview is best. And what is wrong with that? What is wrong with discernment/discrimination?

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  21. I enjoyed reading your article. It gave me a big sense of relief to realize that it's not my responsibility to change my friend's mind. My friend is racist and prejudice. I've stated my views, and he's stated his views. I won't shove mine on him and he won't on me, but there are times when we are both vocal. His wife seems more conscious of our differences, however, and tries to cut him off before he really gets in it. There are times when it bothers me, and I've wondered if he is someone that I should be friends with - but you know what, like you said, I can have black friends, gay friends, racist friends, and homophobic friends - as long as we all respect that we have our own views. He's simply narrow minded. It's his culture. I shouldn't have to throw him out on the curb because he doesn't view others the way I do. Long story short- thanks for the advice!

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