In which I talk more about libertarians and privilege.

I was going to start off with a canned apology for going over libertarianism and privilege again, but I’m not actually sorry. There’s this toxic, unexamined privilege at the very core of the libertarian movement, and I think that the more sunlight it gets, the better.

Now, Tim’s been posting about Rand (not, in fact, named after Ayn Rand) Paul recently, and I’m going to have to follow suit. You will have no doubt at least heard about Mr. Paul the Younger’s recent bout of foot-in-mouth disease regarding the Civil Rights Act. The problem with Paul’s position – unexamined racial privilege aside – is that it favors property rights over the rights of citizens. This, for what it’s worth, is the basic problem with libertarianism in the United States. When you develop an ethos that says that the rights to own and control ones property are the primary rights that ought to be protected, you create a situation where the rights of the propertied are privileged above the rights of all other citizens, and that’s destructive to the republic.

And that’s setting aside, for a moment, the racial aspect of Paul’s comments. By saying “we ought to tolerate racist business practices, because of private property,”  Paul is saying that a racially segregated society is an acceptable outcome. He’s committing the classic libertarian sin of “whatever is, is best.” The market (remember, in the classical economic thinking which informs libertarianism) will arrange things so that there are non-segregated options, if there’s a clientele willing to pay for it, so what’s the big deal? Surely segregating one’s business, while racist and therefore beyond the pale, is a rational business decision. There’s no room in the libertarian mindset for justice, apparently, or citizenship. There are no rights other than property rights, and to declare otherwise is foolish.

This is why libertarianism is the domain of the white, male, and rich (or hoping to become so). It defends the rights of property above the rights of citizens, and says that things should be this way. Belief in libertarian ideas requires having lived a life more-or-less free of any intrusions on your own rights, and the inability to understand what those intrusions might be like. It’s the political philosophy of the spoiled.

  1. While it’s been thoroughly enjoyable trading witticisms about libertarianism with you, we should probably move on to other subjects for awhile 🙂 Rand Paul hasn’t even won a general state election yet …

    • mattstrong
    • May 22nd, 2010

    I’ll lay off of Rand Paul, as he’s done a good job stepping in it, but there’s just so much wrong with libertarianism. So, I’ll just throw this link to pandagon in and let you read someone else yelling about it.

    • SJC
    • May 25th, 2010

    Dear Matty-

    I like your blog. Not just as your friend but as someone who is increasingly more annoyed with privileged, white dudes.



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