Speaking as an individual Black American Libertarian I have always wondered about the contrast between the privilege or right to discriminate and the privilege or right not to be discriminated against.
In other words, if a person belonging to the racial majority is stupid enough to choose to become a racist do I have a right to be free of their stupidity?
I believe most would agree that in private spaces a person can be as stupid as they want as long as it is not affecting others. The harder question pertains to rights in public spaces. In my opinion, my right to be free from a racist person’s stupidity should start as soon as I enter any public space. But, this contradicts with several other rights like free speech and the right to assemble. So, I’m ok with my right to be free from racist stupidity starting as soon as I walk into any establishment open to the public anywhere in our country. This bears the following question. Should the state or the free market be responsible for the enforcement of this right?
It has been mentioned in all the answers to this question that Libertarians believe that the state should not police discrimination between private parties. Furthermore, there is a common belief that the free market will eventually resolve discrimination in the marketplace because it cost more money to be prejudice. The common example used in these type of conversations is a restaurant that refuses service to a black person, not based on character or actions but simply due to stupid racial prejudice that supersedes the owner’s interest in money.
I’ve always found this example inadequate. This example may work in modern-day Manhattan’s free market society. However, historically without state intervention, blacks have been subjected to having to leave certain areas of our country to receive service in restaurants. Not just because the owners were prejudice but also because the customers in the market that the restaurant served were prejudice.
In this scenario the restaurant’s owner and customers resided in a racist society; a society in which a person’s primary attribute is their race. In this racist society, the owner’s potential to lose money if they served blacks is higher than if they didn’t serve blacks. Furthermore, it requires a state solution to protect minorities. This is a contradiction in the belief that the free market will force the prejudice owner out of business.
Free market solutions can’t work in a racist society. In order to be effective a free market solution requires a free market society; a society in which a person’s skills, values, and social behaviors are their primary attributes.
The end of racially discriminatory laws ended the ability to have an objectively racist society in America. However, due to historical discrimination in American and modern-day political rhetoric many minorities have more faith in the existence and effectiveness of a racist society than that of a free market society. Therefore, a Libertarian’s belief in the effectiveness of free-market solutions to adequately deal with racial discrimination is often perceived by racial minorities as naive or disingenuous. Furthermore, any advocation for the right to be racist can be perceived by minorities as members of the majority being ok with history repeating itself.
There is a perception that those in the racial majority have little to lose if they take a leap of faith into the pool of the free market. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that many minorities turn a deaf ear to Libertarian views concerning discrimination, preferring to put their faith in the state to enforce their rights rather than putting their faith in the free market. No one wants that but politicians.
Here lies the conundrum: How do you get more racial minorities and others to believe in the effects of a free market society over the belief in state solutions and the effects of a racist society?
The following is an oversimplification of a solution:
1. Exposing racism as a political tool used to benefit politicians on both sides and to the detriment of their constituents.
2. Evangelizing what really makes America great and that is its Free market society.
3. When speaking to non-Libertarians about discrimination keep in mind the aforementioned.
4. Give it time and patience.