I’m continuing the discussion on the previous post here.
To recap, it started up because of an abusive letter from a reader who repeated the ongoing canard that Ron Paul is a racist, who has the support of racists. Libertarians, like those at Mises, are frequently the target of these sorts of guilt-by-association charges.
Here’s a link to Paul’s own writings. Judge for yourself.
He pointed out that libertarianism undermines both racialism and racism and tends to make them irrelevant, as this piece on racial mixing and libertarianism by Winston D. Alston suggests. Racists tend to be opposed to libertarian ideas.
This led to a debate about several things:
1. Is there a distinction of any worth between racialists and racism (an issue fraught with the subtext that ‘racialism’ is simply a code word under which racists operate). My position is that this is not so, or at least, that it does not have to be so.
The distinction is valid and useful.
It think it is possible to look down on groups of people and yet not actively hate them. I don’t know what you would call this. This poster at Reason, makes that point about conservative commentator, John Derbyshire,
( I presume the poster is referring to Derbyshire in his personal life and not in his advocacy of torture or of civilian bombing in Iraq. If not, is the poster suggesting that it’s the fact that the targeted group is the enemy, and not any feeling of racial contempt, that makes D advocate what he does?).
One certainly can look down on individuals and not hate them or wish them harm, I admit. Only look at any leftwing or rightwing forum. It usually crawls with contempt for the opposite ideological set, and yet, for the most part, I imagine these partisans aren’t actually bent on wiping out their foes…..
At least, I hope not.
However, a developed theory of racial superiority, coupled with certain beliefs (social Darwinism, for instance), given the right set of circumstances, would be a highly incendiary combination…
On the other hand, not hating someone (or at least, thinking one doesn’t) is just not a very high bar. One could do harm, without hating, obviously. So, although the distinction should be made between those who are merely contemptuous of a group and those who advocate harm toward it, I think a high degree of contempt for individuals – based purely on their group affiliation — would get in the way of treating them empathically or ethically. It would create a bias in your mind that would misinterpret any data about them, for one thing.
The second debate centered around the issues of community and individual — does libertarianism undermine the community by sanctioning license, rather than real liberty — a favorite criticism of communitarians.
2. Is license inherent in libertarianism or is that a misreading of libertarianism?
Some of the racialist-communitarians on this thread seem to think that libertarianism needs the addition of state- sponsored virtue.
JH and I both feel that libertarianism proper already assumes ethics, as this paper by Aeon Sikoble of Temple University notes. We locate the corruption of many things primarily in the state itself.
In fact, I would argue that state-sponsored virtue is always murderous, like the current foreign policy hallucination called humanitarian intervention, which is only another variant of “standing up to terrorism” (Post Cold War, US), “reviving the caliphate” (Post Cold War, Al Qaeda), “defending our freedom,”(Cold War, US), “spreading the revolution” (Cold War, USSR), “Cultural Revolution” (Cold War, China), “lebensraum,” (WWII, Germany), “liberating Asia,” (WW II, Japan), “bearing the white man’s burden,” (Imperialism, Britain), etc. etc….
Some estimates of the number of people killed by the virtuous state in the 20th century alone run to a quarter of a billion, as this libertarian blogger at Freedomain points out. Moreover, unlike private crime, government crime is something you can’t get away from:
“State crimes are also qualitatively different from private crimes. There are many steps that a citizen can take to reduce the likelihood of being victimized by private criminals. From security systems to doormen to moving to a better neighborhood…Contrast that to government crimes. What can you do to protect yourself against taxation? Nothing. Everywhere you go, you are taxed. Want to take up arms against the Gestapo? Good luck. Want to escape senseless regulations? Pray for a libertarian afterlife….”
However, I differ from JH in seeing some gaps between libertarian theory and its articulation and practice.
Scimitar, the communitarian blogger, felt that libertarian permissiveness corrupts the body politic and cited, “Defending the Undefendable,” by libertarian Walter Block, a book that according to its Amazon site, “argues that some of the most socially offensive members of society–including prostitutes, libelers and moneylenders–are ‘scapegoats’ whose actual social and economic value is not being appreciated” ( Robert Nozick). I haven’t read it but invite people who have to post.
3. One of the racialist-communitarian bloggers then brought up the issue of the censorship of ideas surrounding race and immigration.
Two controversial points were made:
That there is a correlation between racial type and levels of social freedom and social violence
That there is a racially and politically motivated agenda to mongrelize society.
[Since propaganda and mindcontrol are central issues on this blog, I decided to summarize these elements in my own words and censored the original comment. I did this only in order to avoid giving a troll the opportunity to associate this blog or libertarians for Ron Paul with ideas that neither supports].
I am reposting these relevant parts of my previous post for reference:
I. On Communitarians versus Libertarianism:
Lack of liberty in one area (which JH cites) can coexist with license in others (which Scimitar cites), I think,There is a need for balance and for seeing things as they are, not worshiping abstractions. Liberty and license are two different things. But there is also a lack of liberty.
Both operate today, but in different realms and in different ways.
A concrete example: small business is overregulated, while big international businesses – also technically regulated by the same laws – are often able to elude them – because of their privileged relation to the state (i.e. they become a rentier class). You have lack of liberty and license together.
The Language of Empire book dealt with a lot of that — License can even operate through the law I argue. Here’s what I wrote:
[I am writing about how “patriotism” today is really the unabashed support of corporate-state interests.
I am not talking here about the virtuous citizen defending the res publica.
“This “patriotism” feeds off a a type of radicalism that uproots shatters, homogenizes and perverts the traditional values of community and individual and replaces it with the mass.”
(Ch 8., p. 132 “Virtual Violence”)
That part of my analysis agrees with what S is saying, I think.
As you can see, I don’t really find S (community) and JH (individual) at odds intrinsically, except that S is willing to use the government to further his ends.
Instead, what I find is artificially constructed individuals and artificial communities (produced by mass culture) at odds with real individuals and real communities…
I don’t know if you’d agree or find it convincing but you can see the kinds of games language plays on us…
That’s why we have to deal with human beings and not be confused by the language the empire uses.
II. On Racialism and Racism
Update: I went back and looked through dictionary entries for racialism and racism and it seems from them that my distinction between the two is not held by all in the same way.
Here is Merriam-Webster, which is what I grew up with:
Main Entry: ra·cial·ism
: a theory that race determines human traits and capacities; also : racism
– ra·cial·ist /-list/ noun or adjective
– ra·cial·is·tic /"rA-sh&-'lis-tik/ adjectiv
Note, that this definition of racialism (that human characteristics are defined by race) is not mine – it is too broad and would obviously then include racism.
I think that’s why ‘racism’ is placed next to it as a variant – which, to my thinking, ought not to be.
Take an example.
Let’s say your research finds that ethnic puddleducks (just to make up a group so as not to be inflammatory) are more likely to get their feathers wet than regular ducks. Are you then a ducka-phobe or duck-ist? Even though your intention in researching may be to save puddleducks from wetfeatheritis, are you now the same as someone who commits duckicide? Gee, someone who might even want to wipe out the duck population?
Give me a break! But that seems to be the position of these dictionaries.
Still, at least, a distinction is recognized.
A similar but not so clearcut distinction is also maintained in the American Heritage Dictionary, which at least gives the second usage a separate entry as it should. It then points out that racialism is also a British usage for racist (something I wasn’t aware of before):
n.1.a. An emphasis on race or racial considerations, as in determining policy or interpreting events.
b. Policy or practice based on racial considerations.
2. Chiefly British Variant of racism.
racial·ist adj. & n.
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003).
Now, that makes more sense.
If there was not distinction between the two, all the people who tell us that the Indian population as a whole (I am talking about sub-continentals) show a higher frequency of one blood-type than, say, the French population would have to be deounounced as potential Nazis.
But, apparently, there are other dictionaries that DO NOT agree with me but with John Howard on this:
An online dictionary (how good, I don’t know) even inverts the meanings and makes the term racialist more malign in meaning. That doesn’t seem right to me.
Wikipedia (which judiciously prunes and alters things, as anyone knows who has watched the appearance and disappearance of material, defininitions, and so on…) sees no distinction. Now, that could simply mean that the distinction is no longer made routinely or is being erased or that most people are not aware of it.
I will research this a bit more, but if there is no distinction being made any more, there needs to be one.
Or we will be practicing self censorship unwittingly.
Anyway, that this distinction appears all the time in articles, as here:
“While thwarting all majority efforts to weaken minority gains, it would reject the kind of “benign’ racialism that we increasingly take for granted. ” (that’s from an article in the Washington Monthly).
Elsewhere, David Horowitz ( not especially my best friend), makes that distinction when discussing alleged (I am using the qualifier not to disparage the notion but because I haven’t personally studied the media coverage of it) media black out of black-on-white crime.
Don’t be surprised when such usages, which people born outside this country are accustomed to making without controversy, start disappearing or changing, leaving us without a vocabulary to discuss what is plainly a crucial topic.
In any case, after having had the time to read his blogs, I find that Scimitar, I think, rather mischaracterized his position.
He is not only a raciaLIST (one who thinks racial considerations have a role to play in government policy – a position that is not necessarily malign) but rather a racIST (one who believes in the genetic, biological, and civic superiority of one race over another).
(However, I let his comments on my blog stay, since he worded his argument reasonably and without abuse).
He implies clearly that he “does not believe in racial, civic, or biological equality” whereas Ron Paul does.
Obviously, at one level, there really is no such equality – not all people or all races are mathematically equal. But to say that something is not mathematically exactly like another is not the same thing as saying that they are inferior or superior to each other on the basis of an arbitrary quantification that is simply delusory.
Why delusory? Because, the criteria that are used to establish superiority have varied to suit whoever does the selection, and have been shown to change (IQ tests, for example) and use samples and methodology that are – when you look at them closely – somewhat questionable..
The problem is a confusion of language again.
For me, even this corruption of our language stems from the state because the state’s used language so extensively as a tool to indoctrinate and treat people as masses rather than individuals that our vocabulary is showing less and less precision in definitions and distinctions. More and more, things are homogenized, blurred, made indistinct.
Take what people call capitalism. If you look back over the last 400 years, what people think of as capitalism has always been state-driven mercantilism. Even the enlightenment grew up around mercantilism.
You don’t have to reject the good that came out of the 17th-18th century to realize that there may be some negatives involved with that development. We have to learn to reject certain misuses of logic and rationality in contexts where their use must be embodied to have any value.
Verum factum. Truth is an act.
“All nations begin by fantasia, the power of imagination and the age of gods which are needed to comprehend the world. After that, there comes a second age in which fantasia is used to form social institutions and heroes are used to inspire moral virtues. The third and final age is the age of rationality, in which humanity declines into barbarie della reflessione — barbarism of reflection. According to Vico, this is a cycle — gods, heroes and humans — which repeats itself within the world of nations, forming storia ideale eterna — ideal eternal history.”
That’s a brief account of the thinking of Giambattista Vico, an Italian philosopher of language….
I talk about this in my new book (with Bill Bonner), “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets,” this misperception that if we don’t have a state telling us what to do, society will degenerate into chaos .
It’s also the subject of an earlier Lew Rockwell article “Katrina and the Fishy Logic of the State.”
(Another shameless plug, but I gotta eat and I don’t want to get my bread from the powers that be — or I won’t be able to blog freely on anything I want)
Human beings self organize in all sorts of complex ways that the state can never hope to imitate. They communicate in ways that the state can never quite control. That’s why state propaganda inevitably fails.
But that’s also why censorship and free speech, propaganda and mind control are the crucial issues. And that’s why I am a libertarian. Only libertarians have made this issue central in their thinking.