Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty

Only a benighted anarchist can believe that liberty consists in doing as one pleases, period. That belief, as I explain here, is antithetical to liberty.

The question then becomes this: When and how are restraints on behavior consistent with liberty? True liberty exists where restraints come in the form of voluntarily evolved social norms, which (and only which) the state enforces, and where there is voice and exit. (The preceding sentence encapsulates the argument of a series of posts, collected here.)

Therefore -- I say provocatively -- the discriminatory actions of whites toward blacks (and vice versa) may be consistent with liberty, though such actions are not necessarily libertarian, as I will come to. Why "consistent with"? Because many whites have adopted, voluntarily, a social norm which has led them to discriminate against blacks (and vice versa). But...discrimination is (obviously) anti-libertarian when it extends to slavery. Moreover, state-enforced discrimination is anti-libertarian because it does not allow for acts of non-discrimination by those who choose not to discriminate.

By the same token, if discrimination (absent slavery) is practiced widely, but voluntarily, it is libertarian. As I say here,
regardless of how many citizens agree on a particular subject, that agreement is not tantamount to state action if the subject lies outside the power granted the state. Enforcement of an extra-constitutional collective agreement rests on the voluntary submission of citizens to that agreement. The same citizens who entered the collective agreement may dissolve it piecemeal by abandoning it, one or a few at a time, whereas they cannot similarly revoke a power specifically granted the state.
I bring this up because I am weary of "anti-discrimination" measures -- extant and proposed -- all which have the stated aim of "protecting" various groups based on their color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Such measures, because they are (or would be) state-enforced, are anti-libertarian. The wrong of state-enforced discrimination against blacks does not make right any form of state-enforced discrimination for blacks -- or women or any other group. Such discrimination, when you think about it for less than a minute, is state-enforced discrimination against someone. Several wrongs do not justice make.

Continuing, from above,
I conclude that the state has no business telling its citizens how they may or may not carry their racial [or other group-related] attitudes into the conduct of their affairs, as long as that conduct is passive -- that is, as long as it takes such forms as not buying from, hiring, or otherwise associating with members of certain groups...[W]e have gone far beyond the abolition of slavery and the granting of equal civil rights. We have practically repudiated freedom of association, we have severely undermined property rights, and -- more lately with speech codes and hate-crime laws -- we have entered an early stage of thought policing.
Not to mention Euro-style behavior control.

For many, many, related posts, go to:
Affirmative Action - Immigration - Race
Constitution - Courts - Law - Justice
Leftism- Statism - Democracy
Liberty - Libertarianism - Rights
Self-Ownership... - Gender - Etc.