Will Wilkinson has a rather silly post arguing that libertarianism is not racist. Especially his sort of libertarianism, which is totally cool with intervention by the state to force people to favor certain racial, ethnic and sexual groups. Writing for The Economist must be a pretty nice gig.
As Bryan Caplan points out, before he tail-spins into his hobby horse that libertarianism requires us all to live in third world countries, Wilkinson’s sort of libertarianism justifies unlimited state intervention.
But it means well!
The more interesting question is whether or not libertarianism is racist.
People on the right tend to use a definition of racism as discriminatory thoughts or feelings or actions towards people of a different race (this is how Wilkinson uses it). People on the left have a definition of racism that’s best understood through the phrase “disparate impact.” Under this standard, racism is anything that has “a disproportionate ‘adverse impact’ on members of a minority group.” Note also that the left’s institutions get to define the various minority groups. Men, although they’re a minority, are not a minority group. Whereas women, even though they’re a majority, are a minority group.
Logically sound it is not. The point is political though, not logical.
Those on the right shoot themselves in the foot by using non-leftist definitions of racism that are operative nowhere but in the minds of rightists.
If you want to know if libertarianism is racist, the operative question (from the leftist perspective, which is the one that matters) is what would happen if libertarian policies were implemented on a large scale. There’s some room for debate here. On the one hand, many people believe that ending the drug war would benefit minorities. (I disagree with this line of reasoning. Lots of criminals would be freed if the drug war ended. Without the drug laws in effect, it would be really hard to convict these criminals of other crimes. My guess is the net effect would be bad for minority communities, as crime rates would go way up).
On the other hand, even if you wildly overestimate the minority gains associated with ending the drug war, you must acknowledge that big government is virtually synonymous with minority patronage. Just try walking through the offices of a large government bureaucracy. Welfare and other programs disproportionately benefit minorities, etc. The repeal of these sorts of programs would absolutely have a disparate impact.
Therefore, under the leftist/operative definition of racism, libertarianism is racist. What good does it do to pretend otherwise?
Even if you disagree with my line of reasoning, I’ll eventually be correct. Racism encompasses more and more things all the time. Eventually it’ll get to libertarianism.