Rocco: When did you stop Racially Abusing your Wife?

This post is about racism. Racism and libertarianism. The libertarian position on racism. Heavy subject, racism. Nevertheless, I’m gonna tackle it. Tackle it head on. Right now. No matter how sensitive a subject it is, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna get right to it, no messing about… But before I do, what do you reckon to that title, readers? Clunky? Witty? Cheeky? Provocative? Insensitive? I like it, of course. I like everything I write, to be honest. I wouldn’t write it otherwise. But I ask because I’m wondering if I’d reach a bigger audience if I just gave my posts straightforward descriptive titles, rather than wordy, opaque titles. What I mean is, maybe I should call my posts stuff like “Legalise necrophilia”, “Legalise cannibalism”, etc. But then, you see, there’s a chance, albeit slim, that that could put people off. I don’t know… Anyway, it seems almost like I’m beating around the bush, doesn’t it? Almost like I’m hesitant to tackle the weighty subject my awesome title alludes to. Like I’m shivering-scared to confront the spectre of racism.

Ha Ha! Got you! It was just a (very clever) meta-joke. Sort of the written equivalent of a visual gag. There might even be a name for it for all I know.  Spectre of racism? Hah! No. Just like Bill Murray, I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost. Racism, here I come! Wait. “Racism, here I come”? Oh, dear. Probably could have phrased that better. Well, too late to change it now, I suppose.

Last week, Russell Taylor mentioned the Bell Curve. Mentioned it. He didn’t say he agreed with it. He didn’t reference any particular parts of it, only the title. He didn’t base any proposals on it. But, alas, this brief mention en passant was all that was required. A chap left a comment – Hello, David! – worrying about libertarians and racism (and libertarians and the disabled, too. I’ll explicitly stick to the racism stuff here because the same arguments, mutatis mutandis, apply to both).  So, then… What about libertarians and racism? Are we a bunch of racists?  Can libertarians be racist? (For those of you who already know all this stuff, I’ll make it as much fun as I can, so do stick with it. Maybe you could make a drinking game out of it – have a shot each time I use the word “libertarian”. You will need your stomach pumping afterwards, though.)

First of all lets look at this from an historical/empirical standpoint:

Ludwig von Mises – Jewish

Henry Hazlitt – Jewish

Frank Chodorov – Jewish

Ayn Rand – Jewish

Murray Rothbard – Jewish

Without these people libertarianism in it’s modern form could not exist. It’s all but impossible to be a libertarian (drink!) and not to be aware of at least three of them. And it’s absolutely impossible to be a libertarian and not be influenced to a great extent by them. Hazlitt and Chodorov are less well known, yes, but they were, and are, tremendously important. It was Hazlitt who helped Mises find a teaching post and a publisher when Mises went to America, for instance. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that without Ludwig von Mises alone libertarianism would not exist. Obviously, there are many more Jewish libertarians, past and present, but those mentioned above will do for our purposes. Admittedly this list by itself doesn’t prove that no libertarian could possibly be a racist. But, seriously – you’d have to be pretty rubbish racist to be a libertarian. (“I hate ethnic minorities, me” “But I heard you were one of them Jew libertarians” “I’m only half-libertarian!”) Anyway, to find out what actual racists, and actual far-right types think about libertarianism, why not try googling “libertarian Jews”, or “libertarianism is Jewish”, or “Jewish libertarian conspiracy.” Spoiler alert – it’s not exactly complimentary.

What about libertarianism and racism from a theoretical standpoint? Clearly, given the history of the movement being a racist who is also a libertarian is, lets say, problematic. But does being a libertarian mean you absolutely can’t be a racist? Well, as I said in the comments of Russell’s piece, no. You certainly can be a libertarian and a racist, as long as you’re not an aggressive racist. Just like you can be a libertarian and an anti-racist, as long as you’re not an aggressive anti-racist. That is, libertarianism is concerned with the legitimate use of violence (including threats of violence). Defensive violence is fine. As is violence that is voluntary, eg boxing. Aggression, on the other hand, is not fine.  Therefore, we need to know whether an action is violent, and if so whether it’s  defensive or aggressive. And for that we need to know who owns what. For instance, if you grab the hat off my head, this is aggression if the hat belongs to me. But it’s not aggression if the hat belongs to you, and I’m only wearing it today because I stole it from you yesterday.  Or again, I can wear my hat all I want, but I can’t go around slapping people in the face with it. The former damages no one else’s property, the latter does. And that’s really all libertarianism is: non-aggression plus private property rights.

So why is racism not forbidden by libertarianism? Why isn’t racism, per se, an aggressive act? Let’s look at some examples, ending with ‘The B*ll C**ve’.

A is of the opinion that his race is superior to all other races. The extent of his racism is just this – he feels himself superior to members of other races. When he encounters members of other races he deals honestly with them; outwardly he is polite and peaceable to them; but inwardly he’s contemptuous, etc. Now surely no one believes A is acting in an aggressive fashion, ie, that he is harming anyone by behaving in this way. A man’s thoughts are his own, and thinking hurts no one. Even if A is rude to members of other races, this is no different than if he is rude to members of his own race.

Lets say A gets together with fellow racists, B and C, in B’s house, and they talk about how inferior all other races are to their own. Who is harmed by this? No one. They’re all racists, they’re all enjoying themselves indulging in some racist horseplay or whatever. So, as distasteful as this all is, it’s non-aggressive.

But what if they do this in public? Clearly, this may very well prove to be offensive to some people. Now, as libertarians (drink!) we believe in free speech, and the reason we believe in free speech is because speaking isn’t an aggressive act – words damage neither body nor property. You can call me every name under the sun, and afterwards the physical integrity of my person will be as intact as it was before you began. My feelings may have been hurt, and your behaviour may have been vile, but you caused me no physical harm.

How about a racist employer? A refuses to hire B, because of B’s race. Why doesn’t this constitute aggression? Simply because A is only exercising his property rights, and in this specific instance B has no property rights. A is the owner of the enterprise, and it’s A who will pay the wages for the job; B owns neither the enterprise nor the money from which wages for the job will be paid – therefore B has no say in the matter whatsoever. Even if B is ‘the right man for the job’, A is under no compulsion to hire him. If A wants to hire someone, C, who is useless, but shares A’s skin colour, if he wants to piss his money up against a wall in this, or any other manner, it’s no one’s business but his own. B doesn’t own the job he doesn’t have, or the wages he isn’t paid. He is not the victim of any aggression.

Finally, lets look at the Bell Curve. Now, I’ve never read the book (for a long time I confused it with that book by Sylvia Plath). But apparently it’s about some racial groups doing better in IQ tests than other racial groups, and it treats this alleged fact like it was important for some reason. As you can tell, I think it sounds like pure nonsense. But, for the sake of argument, lets say that it is in fact true that Asians are smarter than Caucasians as a result of their genetic make up. What follows from this? For the libertarian at least, nothing! The Asian libertarian will continue to treat his Caucasian associates like human beings. He will not rob them, cheat them, beat them, enslave them. Why not? Because he is a libertarian, and as such he is forbidden from acting aggressively towards his fellows whether or not they are his intellectual equals – indeed whether or not they are libertarians, even. It is only in the hands of non-libertarians that this sort of stuff becomes dangerous. Politicians, of whatever stripe, may use it to call for exclusionary social policies, protectionist measures, prohibition of particular sorts of trade, and so on. Non-libertarian members of the public may use it in similar fashion. But libertarians cannot do so: minarchists because they don’t believe that the State should interfere; anarchists because we don’t believe  that the State should exist.

Undoubtedly our unwillingness to call for the law to be used either to punish racists, or compel them to change their ways makes us seem heartless, cold, uncaring. However, there’s all the difference in the world between this and approving of racism. As libertarians we don’t want to outlaw discrimination. But just because we think a behaviour shouldn’t be outlawed, doesn’t mean we think it should be practiced, and it doesn’t mean we can’t, and don’t, condemn it.

Aah! Its true what they say, you know. Busting does make you feel good.

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  • dr

    Mr Rocco wrote:
    “the reason we believe in free speech is because speaking isn’t an aggressive act – words damage neither body nor property. You can call me every name under the sun, and afterwards the physical integrity of my person will be as intact as it was before you began. My feelings may have been hurt, and your behaviour may have been vile, but you caused me no physical harm.”
    My question is, how do you reconcile this statement with situations like bullying, or the cases of suicide, where adolescents have committed suicide after receiving abuse on or equivalent social networking websites?

    • Rocco

      dr, I don’t see what needs “reconciling”.
      The speech act itself causes no harm. The speech act itself is not a sufficient cause. If I tell you right now to go and buy a new car, do you really think you have no choice in the matter? That you’ll go out and but a new car because someone on the internet said it?

      I’ll go further: Suicide is not even an instance of harm. Suicide is a voluntary act. And insofar as the suicide prefers death to life – as they necessarily must – no harm is done at all.

      • dr

        Mr Rocco,
        I understand that according to the definition of harm that you are employing in this piece; that it is limited to physical harm; that words of any kind will cause little damage to a person’s body or property. However, do you accept that words can and do, in our society, cause offense to other people on occasions, which can result in for example, a reduction in someone’s quality of life? If this is the case, can you see that a statement like “the reason we believe in free speech is because speaking isn’t an aggressive act” looks like a naïve statement, and is only justified by taking a limited view of aggression, that is, limiting it to the body and property.
        I note, at the end of your piece, you have stated that Libertarians can and do condemn racism, but you have provided no argument in your piece to justify a Libertarian person taking that view because they are a Libertarian, only because they have freedom of speech and so could choose to do so if they wish.

        • Rocco

          You can just call me Rocco, man, I won’t take offence.

          To answer your second point first. The reason I’ve nit provided a libertarian argument for a libertarian to condemn racism, is because no such thing exists. The libertarian position is that anyone should be allowed to say anything they want, no matter how retarded. The libertarian, qua libertarian, can not condemn a person for saying something retarded about other races without contradicting his/herself qua libertarian. As a human being with more than two brain cells to rub together they can, and in my opinion should, of course – but this has nothing to do with libertarianism per se. Although, if you’re desperate for an argument to fill the void, you might consider that racist policies tends to be only achievable via the State interfering in the economy, and enforcing laws against thought crimes etc.

          As to your first point.

        • Rocco

          Sorry about that, dr. But you critising my piece has really, really upset me. So I had to go and have a good cry. And then I cut m myself a few times to feel better after you’d caused me such offence. In fact, I think your criticism, combined with calling me Mr Rocco not once but twice, will have a profound negative effect on my quality of life.

          Now, I’m messing about obviously. But, I’m also demonstrating why such a “limited” conception of harm is not naive at all, rather any wider definition is naive because unworkable. Since offence is totally subjective, and anyone can take (or claim to take) offence to anything at all, widening the definition of harm to include taking offence would make all human action impossible. There is literally nothing that might not be interpreted as offensive to someone, and as such before any action took place (including speech acts) we would hade to ask the the entire population of tte world whether our not they’d be offended by it. Not only would the human race die out before any action was performed under these conditions, action would be impossible. For asking the question “does anyone mind if I say x?” would have to be proceeded by the question “does anyone mind if I ask if anyone minds of I say x?”. But even asking this would be impossible in case it offended anyone! That is, no speech act whatsoever would new possible.

  • grumpyoldmanuk

    Is taking the piss out of the Celtic fringe heartless, cold and uncaring?

  • Rocco

    No speech act would *be* possible.

    I hope my phones auto correct didn’t cause any offence. :D

    • dr

      Rocco, thanks for the responses that you have given. Sorry for the delay in replying.
      Rocco wrote:
      “…such a “limited” conception of harm is not naive at all, rather any wider definition is naive because unworkable.”
      So, if I understand correctly, you are claiming that a definition of harm cannot be extended to include the mind in some way. I suspect, that daily we witness counter-examples to your statement that I have quoted above.
      It is worth noting at this point, that while offence is subjective, it is also learned. In addition humans are capable of empathy. They can attempt to understand the situation that another person is in, without having to totally immerse themselves in that experience.
      It is also unnecessary for our society to function in such a way that all offence must be avoided. It could be a part of our culture that we collectively accept that some offence could be caused in the process of the individuals within our society getting things done.
      For example. When I was very young, I was told that it was rude to make a “v-sign” at someone. In other words, I could expect that a person to whom I made that sign, would take offence to that sign. However, on one of my family holidays I visited Greece, and it so happens that I witnessed many bus drivers making “v-signs” at each other when buses passed on the roads. It is seen as a friendly gesture. The point is, that within a culture, things that are offensive are mutually defined, and often also graded in severity. So if I was in the U.k. and someone made a “v-sign” at me, then I could take offence, however, if I was in Greece, someone made a “v-sign” at me and I took offence, then my response would be seen as unreasonable.
      Another example. If in the U.k. today someone called someone else a “bastard”, then I might expect mild offence to be taken by the receiver of the message. But it is unlikely that I would expect any “justice” or “retribution” to be taken against the person who made the comment. An amount of offence may have been caused, but this should not be sufficient to disrupt the freedom of speech of the speaker in this case. In the event that huge offence is caused, then, by empathy, people will assume that the receiver of the message is overreacting. (Note: I am not trying to give myself a godlike privilege to determine what is or is not offensive in my culture, I am basing my judgement upon my understanding or misunderstanding of the culture in which I live. My effectiveness at doing this, can be tested by surveying a large number of my cultural peers and asking them to make the same assessment as I have of the possibility of offence. The results of this survey would reveal whether or not I am accurate.) My point is, that I believe that there must be a category of verbal transactions, where whilst offence can be taken, the majority of individuals within the culture concerned would believe that the appropriate level of offence should be a price worth paying for the preservation of freedom of speech.
      However, if a journalist decided to write a baseless article about someone, claiming that they were a paedophile, and published this on the front page of a national newspaper, then I would believe that this article would be libellous. (Again I am not trying to give myself any godlike ability to judge this.) So the culture in which I live would claim that the defamation caused by such actions, outweighs the journalists right to freedom of speech and so the offence is justified and “justice” would be sought to rectify the offence, which would be perceived as psychological damage (and possibly reputational damage aswell).
      It seems to me therefore, that the definition of harm can be extended into the domain of the mind, simply by creating a rule. So in ideological terms, the political ideology would advocate the members of a society adopting this rule into their culture so that this guides their mutual verbal / written interactions. For example, we could define “offence” to mean the stating of a verbal or written threat to kill by one person to one or more other people. So once this rule has been adopted by our example culture, we can say that any other verbal statement would never be offensive, and anyone taking offence at any other statement would be overreacting. We can also say that someone making an offensive comment, would be expected to face the consequences of making that comment in accordance with the severity determined by the members of that culture. So under these circumstances, so long as we now define harm to include “offence”, then we will have a wider definition of harm than the definition of harm that is solely based on physical damage. I assert that further rules could be created for other verbal transactions, that would extend the definition of offence, and so a consideration of “damage” to the mind can be included within the definition of harm. This is in contradiction to the statement made by Rocco, that I have quoted above.
      I note that such extensions of the definition of harm into the verbal or written domain will curtail freedom of speech. Likewise, at this point, I do not seek to advocate for any particular extension of the definition of harm into the psychological realm, I just state that it is possible.

      • Rocco

        I am not “claiming” anything, dr. I am proving that the concept of aggression can not be made include ‘offence’ without bringing h human actions to a total standstill. In fact, your comment supports my position in that you seem to believe that “offence” can be made to mean anything at all. Whether something is offensive or not is entirely subjective. If aggression includes offence, and aggression is forbidden, and I must know before performing an action whether I have the right to perform it, ie, whether it’s aggressive, then I must know whether it’s offensive. To know this I must ask everyone who may become aware of it if they’ll be offended. But this question might well offend someone, so I must ask if asking this will offend. But then I’d have to ask if asking if I could ask this might offend. Bt then i’d have to ask, etc, etc, etc ad infinitum.

        As to culture, it really has nothing to do with the matter whatsoever. Unless, that is, you are saying either that living in a culture determines the entirety of a persons thinking, or that the State/most vocal citizens should decide for each individual what they are allowed to be offended by. (You might even consider such notions offensive. I certainly do.)

  • therealguyfaux

    I have always heard “racism,” defined by the yardstick of “Some races possess more of quality x than do others” might be descriptive, but not prescriptive. That is to say, the “general run” of Oompa Loompas (assuming one can even use the term), may be a particular way, but that “fact” will give you no way to know (given the variations in qualities amongst all humans everywhere) that the next Oompa Loompa will be your bog-standard, garden-variety Oompa Loompa.

    I suppose what I am saying is that a Libertarian may generalise, and may even make plans for dealing with others in a consensual transaction, based on the expectation that a particular person of a particular ethnicity may find certain foods, activities, and surroundings more congenial than others. To what degree this is genetic or cultural is of no import for the discussion. Or (s)he may choose to eschew doing so. (S)he risks loss of trade and possible pleasurable companionship for not doing so, but that’s his/her business, no-one else’s. Or (s)he may discover that the particular ethnic is atypical, and may be either amused, puzzled or offended that such effort at accommodation was being made. Again– assuming everything was consensual and at arm’s length, nobody being forced to deal with anybody, hey, you took your shot, and maybe you won, and maybe you lost.

    The galling factor for Libertarians that I see in the whole “racism” discussion is that it conflates the equal-protection-of-the-law requirement (itself disregarded in preferential state-run programmes), a requirement for governance and a check upon the power of the state, with requiring a limitation on the freedom-of-association right of individuals. It is unconscionable that the State should favour one group over another, or any individual over another, simply in virtue of their “identity.” It should be considered equally as unconscionable for the State to tell me who I must/n’t deal with on a person-to-person level, where I am not in anyway aggressing upon that person’s life, liberty, or property, nor they on mine.

  • David

    Nice and clear.

    Is it objectionable to encourage, via education, as a question of ethics, or morals to discourage the hatred of others based on race, or indeed religion etc?

    I mean if I am in the company of a group of people who start complaining about “how greedy Jews control everything and deserved everything they got”, or those “black bastards next door” – am I encroaching on their freedom if I encourage them to hate on the basis of actual disagreeable behavior, rather than what is being inferred will/has been done – “because they is paki’s innit”?

    • Rocco

      David, do you mean: Is it wrong to try and change someone’s opinion if you disagree with them? If so, the answer is no – you can attempt to convince a person of their error as much as you like. What you must not do, though, is say to them “if you don’t stop being a racist, I’m going to burn your house down!”

      On a side note, any thoughts on the titles, David?

      • David

        Well, I think that should be obvious, if you mean by racist only blabbing like an idiot.
        What if these idiots run a group that encourages lynching though – but they dont actually do it…? etc etc ah forget it, this is not the upper sixth….

        I am a bit stumped by what you mean by the titles, sorry.

        • Rocco

          If it’s obvious why did you ask it then, dude? You never said anything about going around attacking people in your comment, and I don’t believe you’d do anything so unspeakably low as to try and trick me into saying something prejudiced, David, so I’m rather confused.

          Re: titles. I meant do you have any thoughts regarding opaque vs descriptive titles for posts. Like I said in the post, first paragraph.

  • Lucy

    I’d like to be abused by Rocco ;)

    • Rocco

      Send a recent photo, Lucy. :)

    • Rocco

      Oh, I’ve just realised that that could be taken the wrong way. That perhaps I meant send a photo so that I could use it to better abuse you. I hope you didn’t take it that way, Lucy. I sincerely apologise if you did.

      I meant it in a flirty sort of way. Which – if that’s what you thought I meant – I have now just completely ruined. Either way, I feel like a right dick.

  • Rocco


    (if anyone gets that reference give yourself a gold star you absolute legends!)

    If any of you reading this haven’t done so already, make sure you read our new American columnist Terry Kinder’s article “Getting HIP to government…” It’s fantastic! The only thing that could be improved is if he capitalised the ‘S’ in State :D

  • kevinsmith2013

    I have mentioned before that I believe something should only be classed as offensive, if it was deliberately intended to be offensive. If you know a person of a certain ethnicity would be offended and upset if you call them by a certain name, then there is an element of intent. That does not mean that doing so should be deemed as illegal or a hate crime, but you may expect some form of retribution from that person, their family, their friends, other people in earshot, they may not want to be be your friend any more.
    Anyone should be entitled to hold any opinion they wish, but this may make them unpopular with many, or even despised and shunned, that would be a consequence of holding unpopulatr or unsavoury views and opinions.
    We either have freedom of speech, or we don’t, you can’t have proscribed words, because who chooses? Whose opinions trunp anothers opinions? Family, community and society can decide on the balance of opinions what is and is’nt acceptable in various situations, those who continue to abuse and offend other members of family, community, society may deserve to receive some form of punishment, in the form of social exclusion, abuse themselves, or even a good kicking.
    Football fans making monkey noises at black players is clearly delibrerately offensive (in my opinion), but these people should be shunned by other supporters, maybe banned from their clubs home games, or otherwise ostracised, they should not be fined or imprisoned by the state, that is a step too far (in my opinion).
    The State should have no place in dictating social interactions, although whilst it still exists, it can have an opnion, it can attempt to educate neanderthal knuckle-draggers (you know who you are), but it should have no right to dictate to them what they can or can’t say. Convince them with the power of your argument.
    But, we do need an awful lot less state, just enough to protect our rights, and defend our lives and liberty (in my opinion).

  • Rocco

    Kevin, the problem with defining ‘offensive’ in that way can be seen if we swap it for another word. For instance, “something should only be classed as tasty if it was intended to be tasty” Or “something should only be classed as awesome if it was intended to be awesome”.

    Offensiveness is utterly and purely subjective. Like beauty it exists only in the eye, or in this case ear, of the beholder.

    • kevinsmith2013

      Yes, totally agree, you can neither define nor prescribe what is offensive or unacceptable in any general terms, otherwise free speech can’t exist, and it very much should exist. The point I was making is that you have a friend of a different ethnicity to yourself (for instance) and they have specifically asked you not to refer to them by a name they find extremely offensive, then you are of course at liberty (in a free country) to still use that derogatory term, equally you may have to accept that person may not wish your friendship, you knew it would offend them (they told you it would) but you called them it anyway. It shouldn’t be unlawful or illegal, but there may be consequences in your life. Families, communities and wider society can develop social norms, which ultimately no-one is or should be bound to in any way, but to go against those unwritten rules may have consequences.

      Regardless of your thoughts on the BNP for instance, they should have the right to hold their views, but Nick Griffin won’t be winning any popularity contests in a guardian poll, his views (or certainly peoples perceptions of his views – true or not) mean he has consequences in his life.

      What about extreme Muslim clerics preaching death and destruction in their host country, and indoctrinating youngsters to blow themselves up taking as many infidels as they can with them, is that okay? Not having a go Rocco (honest) but its a valid question, is absolutely everything and anything okay as long as there is no violence at point of delivery? Their oration is clearly offensive to peace loving, “civilsed” people, but clearly not to Jihadists.

      • Rocco

        Yeah, Kevin, I’m not denying that there should be consequences – social consequences – for causing offense. And I’m fully in agreement with you on ostracism. As a rule of thumb, I think your definition is perfectly good. But from a technical point of view, it distracts from the subjective nature of offense.

        As to incitement, you said it yourself – we either have freedom of speech or we don’t.

  • David

    Kevinsmith2013 said what I was trying to say – only better.

    I would reply directly to your post about the titles, but there seams to be a limit (2 ?).
    Attention grabbing is always best, and just more fun – except when snarky, or can be seen as obviously getting a personal rise out of people. I don’t like that kind of thing, but of course, that is entirely subjective!

    • Rocco

      Nice one.