Dear Aarón Shelby Baca, Mackenzie Holst, and Cory Massimino,
I would have liked to have prefaced this letter by pointing out that it is written not to condemn its recipients, but in the hope that its recipients might gain a better understanding of the freedom philosophy and of human liberty. Unfortunately, the numerous misquotations you have made as well as the anti-libertarian positions you have taken in your letter do not allow me to do this.
There is not so much an age gap in the libertarian movement as an ideological gap. This is nothing new; the thick versus thin debate has been going back and forth for decades, as have the debates between a rational versus an empirical understanding of libertarianism and a deontological versus a consequentialist ethical framework. Most recently, there has been a debate between what Jeffrey Tucker has termed humanitarianism versus brutalism. While it is true that “millennial” or “second-wave” libertarianism is not going away, to call “old-guard” or “first-wave” libertarianism obsolete simply because it is older or because it can accommodate viewpoints which are politically incorrect and/or antisocial constitutes a logical fallacy.
Let us examine the accusations you made of “racist, homophobic, and sexist undertones present in [the] writings” of Lew Rockwell, Hans Hermann-Hoppe, Walter Block, and Ron Paul. (I will not defend Gary North, as I agree that he holds many positions which are antithetical to libertarian philosophy and therefore do not consider him to be a libertarian.)
You note that Rockwell has compared the lives of people living under modern nation-states to chattel slavery. Whether this analogy offends anyone has no bearing on its truth value, and a reference to slavery does not have obvious racist undertones because there have been many instances throughout human history of slavery which was not race-based, some instances in the antebellum United States included. As for the truth value of this analogy, human farming theory goes a long way toward confirming it.
Hoppe wrote that “it is societies dominated by white heterosexual males, and in particular by the most successful among them, which have produced and accumulated the greatest amount of capital goods and achieved the highest average living standards.” This is an empirically observable historical fact. Facts are not racist, sexist, or homophobic, even if they concern results which could be partially attributed to such discrimination. After this, you take Hoppe out of context. When he says, “There can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They-the advocates of alternative, non-family-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism-will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order,” he is talking about the conditions inside of a covenant community whose residents have decided to use their private property rights and freedom of association to set standards of conduct inside of that community. These are not the conditions which would necessarily prevail throughout the entirety of a libertarian social order. There is no reason why another covenant community made up of individual hedonists, parasites, nature-environment worshipers, homosexuals, or communists would not be able to exclude people who do not agree to their standards of conduct. At issue is not puritanism, homophobia, or religious intolerance, but private property rights and freedom of association, neither of which can be rejected without committing a performative contradiction.
You have also misquoted Block once and taken him out of context twice. First, he did not say, “Feminists and gays aren’t libertarians.” He said, “[M]ost feminists are not libertarians, and neither are most gays,” which implies that some feminists and some gays are libertarians. He goes on to oppose rape and defend the rights of women to be armed so that they can protect themselves from rapists. Then, he defends the Stonewall Riots as gays acting in self-defense against aggressors. This is far from an instance of misogyny and homophobia.
Second, his full context is, with your quote in bold, “Consider a boy aged seventeen or over, where this the statutory cut off point between adults and children. The very idea of him joining the North American Man Boy Love Association, and engaging in sex with adult men, is personally repulsive to me. But as a libertarian, I have to realize that only coercive acts against such a youngster should be punishable. Not non-coercive ones. If a seventeen year old is an adult, and voluntarily wants to have sex with an adult homosexual man, I may not like it. I may be revolted by it. But gays too have rights. They should not be put in jail for consensual behavior with adults of a young age. The exact same situation should obtain for heterosexuals. That is, it should be legal for a 17 year old girl to engage in sexual relations with a male of any age, given this cut off point.” He is not being homophobic at all, but is questioning the wisdom of age-of-consent laws as they currently stand. One could even argue that he is defending gay rights more so than almost anyone else, as NAMBLA is an organization that almost no one else would touch with a ten-foot pole.
Third, his full context is, with your quote in bold, “Here, there is of course no question of legally prohibiting these actions; as we are evaluating them according to a very different standard. But still, it is of great interest how we view them. Just because a libertarian may refuse to incarcerate perverts, it does not mean he must remain morally neutral about such behavior. So, do we favor or oppose? Support or resist? Root for or against? In this dimension, I am a cultural conservative. This means that I abhor homosexuality, bestiality, and sadomasochism, as well as pimping, prostituting, drugging, and other such degenerate behavior. The basic theme…of libertarianism is that all non-aggressive behavior should be legal; people and their legitimately held private property should be sacrosanct. This does not mean that non-aggressive acts such as drug selling, prostitution, etc., are good, nice or moral activities. In my view, they are not. It means only that the forces of law and order should not incarcerate people from indulging in them.” Each person is entitled to an opinion about personal conduct, and one may disagree with Block if one chooses. One may even consider him to be a bigot. But one’s personal views on such behaviors are separate and distinct from libertarianism as long as no force is being used to impose one’s personal views on other people.
Finally, you accuse Block of racism simply for wondering whether the disparity between blacks and whites were the result of socioeconomic disparities and historical injustices towards blacks or “lower black IQ’s.” To be inquisitive is not racist. And again, facts, whatever they may be, are not racist, even if they concern results which could be partially or fully attributed to racism. I say “whatever they may be” because white slave-owners had a significant amount of power to decide which black slaves were bred together from the beginning of race-based slavery in the colonies in 1662 until the abolition of chattel slavery in 1865, and it was in their self-interest to try to breed physically superior and mentally inferior slaves. It is impossible to know exactly how effective their efforts were because these results cannot be separated out from the results of unequal educational opportunities and socioeconomic disparities.
Finally, there is Ron Paul. There are certainly many contents of the newsletters bearing his name which are indefensible, and allowing such content to go forth with his name on it does not speak well of his judgment, attentiveness, or management skills. But to blame him completely for this rather than whoever wrote the offensive content is tantamount to blaming the owner of a stolen car for a fatal accident caused by the car thief who sped away in it. You incorrectly quote Paul as having told the Dallas Morning News in 1996, “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” This was an excerpt from the newsletters, not something that he told the Dallas Morning News.
You say, “Liberty cannot exist if individuals of any group are viewed as inferior, whether it is outright, or merely in the connotations of an argument.” The only way for no individuals of any group to be viewed as inferior without such a view being false is for all people to be equal and for all opinions to be equally valid. This is logically impossible. People are not, cannot, and should not be equals. Each of us has our own strengths, weaknesses, interests, and disinterests. These are capable of making one person objectively more capable than another, or people who share a certain characteristic objectively more capable than people who share a different characteristic. This does not mean that such people have more logical rights than others, but it could mean that they are able to acquire more private property rights and thusly have more influence in society. As for the idea that all opinions are equally valid, all one must do to disprove this idea is to have the opinion that all opinions are not equally valid and show the resulting contradiction.
While Mises identified tolerance as a fundamental value of a free society, he was speaking of liberalism, not libertarianism. Libertarianism is a philosophical position on what constitutes the legitimate use of force. It says that initiating the use of force is never acceptable and using force to defend against initiatory force is always acceptable. It must also be noted that there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Libertarianism does not demand that we must have positive feelings toward every person or group of people (acceptance); it only demands that we never initiate the use of force against them to stop them from living peacefully (tolerance). Pitiful, wasteful, and unpleasant though it may be, people may use liberty “to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on politically incorrect standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms,” if they so choose. To call such ideas “evil” is an assertion made without logic or evidence and may therefore be dismissed without logic or evidence.
You say that the purpose of your letter was “never to insult or belittle the influence of leading figures of liberty,” but its content trumps your intent. You say that your goal was “to address issues that push away people who would otherwise support our ideas if it wasn’t for certain people with problematic histories and those who espouse disenfranchising ideologies,” but this is a double-edged sword. There are people who currently support libertarianism who would stop doing so were it to become a logically inconsistent hodge-podge of political correctness rather than a rigorously rational approach to understanding what constitutes preferable behavior. After all, if they may not exercise their private property rights and freedom of association as they choose, then they are the ones who are being disenfranchised. You say you “want to open up the freedom philosophy as an avenue for all marginalized people,” but this should not come at the expense of marginalizing other people. And while it is true that we must allow the most subjugated peoples a voice in order to create a better world, this does not mean that anyone should be forced to listen to that voice.
The positions taken by the three of you are more akin to the anti-propertarian, politically correct collectivism of the statist left than to libertarianism. The misquotations are sufficiently numerous to call your motivations into question. As a principled libertarian, I must therefore denounce the three of you as fake libertarians.
Sincerely and for Liberty and Logic,
Special thanks to Lucy Steigerwald, Martin Brock, and Andkon for making my research easier.