According to Dr. Ron Paul, “racism” has the following characteristics:
- It denies individualism.
- It places a group trait above individual traits.
- It is a hasty generalization that is over-simplistic.
- It is disparaging to a group based on its racial/ethnic/religious composition.
- It leads to denying members of a disparaged group its individual rights.
- It leads to the desire to harm the disparaged group.
- It leads to the use of politics as the weapon to harm.
Doing harm, i.e., violence, against someone directly violates their liberty.
A question I have, as a reader of Liberty Defined, is if all generalizations, based on a racial/ethnic/religious composition, is necessarily hasty or disparaging. To be able to differentiate doesn’t have to be hasty. Differences between things or men imply that we can differ them in reasonable ways. The taking of an average of a group is sound, for example, and doesn’t go against methodological individualism. But if it is negative or can be interpreted that way, is it disparaging?
We can back up with statistics, e.g., that Europeans commit more violent crimes than Japanese on average. That would be a factual (and racial) statement which can be verified, but would be value free and in that sense therefore not disparaging. Yet certainly we should be disapproving of those Europeans that push those stat numbers higher. Finally, if that’s disparaging, it wouldn’t follow that we need to do harm, or want to do harm, to that group as a whole.
In any case, there is a certain ambiguity we have to work with. The thing I would point out in my review analysis, nevertheless, is that a lot of libertarians make the mistake that we can’t think about groups and their possible interests. (Ron Paul’s general analysis is still correct, but may just need modification.) A business enterprise is a group and has interests. A family is a group and has interests. It often takes personal sacrifice on the part of a individual for the family. That’s why it is obviously wrong when a libertarian only sees the individual as detached with no group attachments or interests.
(Murray Rothbard, let me note on the side, had some somewhat similar points. Here are some articles: “Nations by Consent,” “Race! That Murray Book,” and see general articles from the Rothbard-Rockwell Report which touch on this issue per se.)
So we might need to be a little more nuanced than what appears in Ron Paul’s book. And, also, I do think that a lot of libertarians need to understand that individuals can’t be seen without the context of their social and even biological nature. We are members of groups. Libertarianism isn’t against that.
Now let’s return and look at more of Ron Paul’s commentary.
- An example of racism: not granting credit to an accomplishment of a person because of what group he belongs to.
- An example of racism entering politics: Jim Crow laws.
- An example of racism involved in wars: Japanese targeted in U.S. during WWII.
- An example today: any promoting of over-generalized anti-Islamic attitudes.
See additionally our review of Ron Paul on the issue of discrimination.
In this issue we have seen two fallacies come back once again:
First, the fallacy of hasty generalization makes it appearance in this issue.
Second, an argumentum ad hominem makes another appearance.
Instead of someone making an argument against the conclusion of another and just attacks their race, that would be a fallacious argument. A racist can slip into this, just as much as making a possibly hasty generalization.
As always, Ron Paul looks at this issue in his book, and so must we, through the context of liberty.
When racism is a disparaging generalization with the desire to do violent harm, obviously that violates the liberty of that group since there is a want to aggress against their persons and other properties.