Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yet more on politics and economics

When we mentioned libertarianism in our discussion of ideology, Prof. Johnson stated that it is inconsistent to be economically conservative and socially liberal, at least in the widely accepted modern notions of liberalism and conservatism. In an attempt to receive more fresh criticism for a small portion of my rapidly-evolving political beliefs, I would like to expand on this point, and briefly state my position.

As stated in class, libertarianism might be better described in terms of a lack of government interference. In some individuals this ideology extends to a desire to abolish government entirely. There are many extremely different schools of libertarian thought ("liberalism" and many other ideologies cover quite a broad range as well), but I will be discussing the more anarcho-capitalistic (or minarcho-capitalistic) libertarianism common in the States, as the Libertarian Party is apparently the third largest political party in the US.

The laissez-faire capitalism advocated by these libertarians is incompatible with social liberalism in addition to economic. I will admit that I personally associate social liberalism first with issues like abortion and gay marriage, so it's understandable that the Libertarian Party, which is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage in general, could have this association, but libertarianism doesn't really fit on the left-right spectrum and cannot be considered socially liberal when it rejects affirmative action, anti-discrimination and hate crime laws, welfare, expanded or universal health-care, public education and income tax or any other attempt at wealth re-distribution.

I am of the opinion that granting complete and total individual liberty, at least according to this definition, means that minorities and the poor will remain poor and oppressed. If people are allowed to refuse to hire (or provide services to) racial minorities, women and homosexuals, many would. Many, many more would refuse to hire/serve transgendered people - admittedly this is already the case in much of America. I reject that notion that the "freedoms" to discriminate and to hoard resources that others need in order to remain alive and well are worth protecting.

Making no attempt to remedy the vast gulf between the rich and the poor that keeps many ignorant, without access to healthcare and lacking career opportunties will only perpetuate the racism, classism, sexism and homophobia of our largely "socially conservative" society.


Richard Phillips said...

I disagree that granting personal liberty will facilitate discrimination. Actually, after the Civil War the free market was desegregating on its own. For example, railroad owners didn't want to have to run two trains, one for whites and another for colored people. It was too costly for them. It was actually government intervention, in the form of Jim Crow laws, that reversed that progress.

One of the tenants of capitalism is that people are rational. Refusing to hire or serve someone based on their color is completely irrational. You're passing on a good employee or turning away a customer. Sure, there will be some asinine business owners that will put their bigotry ahead of their business but they would be the exception, not the rule.

I can't speak for all libertarians but I personally am not opposed to hate crime laws. Say a guy pushes his rich uncle off a cliff in order to get a large inheritance, it's unlikely he will commit that crime again as he probably does not have another rich uncle so one could actually make the argument that he shouldn't even go to jail. However, in the case of a hate crime, say a white man lynches (sp?) a black man. He is likely to be a repeat offender given that there are more black people and his hatred probably wasn't satiated just by killing one. It makes sense that he should go to jail longer than the former criminal simply because it is more efficient to keep a likely repeat offender off the streets longer.

As far as affirmative action goes I do actually need a little explanation on that one. There is NO link whatsoever between color and intelligence, so why do we feel that people of color need help getting into school? As I understand it, affirmative action is irrational.

Richard Phillips said...

Oh, I forgot to address welfare. Again, I can't speak for all libertarians, but I'm not opposed to welfare in theory. There are A LOT of problems with the way welfare is handled in this country. It creates a lot of really wonky incentives for the poor that make it difficult for them to really improve their condition. I do tend to favor private charities over government welfare but I do think the government is capable of effective welfare.

I'd address healthcare too but there really isn't much to say. I'm in every way opposed to state run healthcare.

JonSchwartz said...

I have a big problem with what you are saying - Richard. Dev's point is that because we as free people in a theoretically libertarians society are able to choose who we employee or serve some issues arise.

First problem with your argument, people are not rational. When have you ever found an person who can act or think rationally 100 percent of the time? If you give me an answer I would be astonished. Man (and woman) struggle to find the best way to deal with simple situations like what kind of Orange juice to drink let alone cope with their social stigmas. So let is be known that people cannot be rational so even if the example of the train for both blacks and white shows how the market does not allow for racism becasue it is too costly is not totally correct.
Let me propose that this system of trains continued to exist without the Jim Crow laws, but white people felt the blacks were inferior and either A) would choose another way to travel or b) would influence the decisions of train companies, becasue white people were a larger part of income. (there are more white people in America) Second, if the system is allowed to exist the trains would set up different cars for exclusive clubs or vip and from that they could stop minorities from entering there, and finally with enough white and black supply they could separately make 2 trains.

Second think is affirmative action. You said in your previous post that:

"There is NO link whatsoever between color and intelligence, so why do we feel that people of color need help getting into school? As I understand it, affirmative action is irrational."

This is only one part of the puzzle, first thing is affirmative action does not try and say that black people or Hispanics are less intelligent, but the opposite it says that minorities are equally smart and capable, but there is some form of discrimination or that they lack all the tools to seceded like the majority. People are going to make assumptions based on the color of your skin, any ones skin. I hear all too often that of something is gonna be stolen it would most certainly be done by a black man! Comments like these are not made as jokes but as rational statements. They say look at the statistics etc. My point is if you are a high school student who is black and has a 3.5 and there is a white student the same on paper, that black student has been theoretically put through more challenges to get there. There were probably more avenues for him or her to get help.

Personally I believe that we need to expand Affirmative action to include poor Americans just as much as minorities. I have known so many intelligent and achieving students, many white, who could either not get into the right schools or could not afford to go to a proper 4-year college. They deserve to be looked at as much a viable candidate for Rhodes college as anyone else.

Richard Phillips said...

I'm not saying people act rationally 100% of the time, we are all prone to lapses and our judgment isn't perfect. I'm just saying that generally people act rationally and racism is irrational. So, generally rational people are unlikely to act based on racism, it is simply not in their interest.
And Jon, no one struggles w/ what orange juice they want to one.

Your examples about the trains are good but they simply didn't happen. Historically the free market did desegregate.

For affirmative action, I think its rather presumptuous to say that a black student has gone through more challenges. True, the white kid hasn't had to deal with racism. But I know a lot of white kids who've had pretty hellish childhoods. Why don't they get help getting into college?
And affirmative action isn't designed to overcome poverty, we have financial aid and scholarships for that.

Shannon said...

In regards to the affirmative action debate, Richard, I think it's difficult to argue with Jon's claim that the "black student has been theoretically put through more challenges."

Perhaps a better counter argument to affirmative action is the potentially retroactive effect it could have on the mentalities of both those within and outside of the majority. While affirmative action reveals a concerted, pro-active effort to address injustice, it could, in a way, reinforce ideas of white supremacy. Although you rightly point out that “there is NO link whatsoever between color and intelligence,” I’m sure that for some people, a policy like affirmative action simply confirms the existence of such a link. On the other side, what about the black person who sees himself as inferior and incapable of rising in society by his own merits?

claire said...

To get back to you, Richard, on an explanation for affirmative action - it's true that there's no link between color and intelligence, but there is a link between poverty and low standardized test scores.
Yes, I am aware that there are poor white people too (as an aside, need-based financial aid is color-blind at all the colleges I applied to, though a few merit based scholarships were only open to students of color, if I recall correctly).

Women of all colors also benefit from affirmative action, and women have been traditionally barred from certain careers and, though no longer barred, tend not to be treated equally.

Affirmative action is meant to, in some small way, compensate for the fact that some people tend to have far fewer education and career opportunities. I think it should still exist because the power imbalances still exist.

I agree that some forms of open discrimination can be so bad for business that people probably won't engage in them even without legislation.
Individual racism might be the exception rather than the rule, although I think a subtle bias is very common and thus laws are still helpful. There are, however, other forms of prejudice that ARE the rule, rather than the exception, in our society, and those people need jobs and medical care too, and sometimes they cannot get it.

Octo-hobo said...

I support Richard in that I do not have issues choosing my orange juice. I would also like to point out that, historically, America was desegregating before even the Civil War. It was that damn cotton gin that brought back slavery.

And yes, while there is no link between the melatonin in a person's body and their intelligence, there are quite a few scholarships that are based on the genuine struggle of a person of color, not just their color. That actually goes for any minority, including (but not limited to) GLBT students and foreigners. I'd like to say that this is society taking a step in the right direction, but as a member of more than one minority group (and as a recipient of scholarships based on minority status) I feel that they can be rather blind to mitigating factors or focus entirely too much on things that are just ludicrous. Yeah, my fellow nonwhites know what I'm talking about. Or maybe not...

smiga said...

Why isnt it rational for the college not to ask what race a student is, but rather accept them based only on their academic performance?(poverty is covered by finacial aid and scholarships)