Why Libertarians Should Champion Social Freedom Reply

The case for liberaltarianism. One of the great benefits of pan-anarchism, pan-secessionism, and pan-decentralism is that many different approaches to social organization can be accommodated.

By Jerry Taylor

Niskanen Center

My argument last week about why freedom is advanced by preventing private racial discrimination created a bit of a stir in some libertarian circles. That is no surprise. Many libertarians are firm adherents of the non-aggression principle. From that perspective, marshaling the government to combat discrimination is naked aggression. It entails employing force to tell me with whom I must associate. It is, many libertarians believe, flatly immoral no matter how well-intentioned or worthwhile the consequences might be. Ends do not justify means.

I’m skeptical, however, that there are really that many people who judge the merits of public policy based solely on its adherence to otherwise compelling ethical rules. How many of us would really embrace a social order, no matter how intellectually compelling, regardless of how much suffering or deprivation that social order produced? In short, I suspect—if pressed—we would all agree with John Rawls: “All ethical doctrines worth our attention take consequences into account when judging rightness. One that did not would be irrational, crazy.”

So let’s think hard about the consequences that follow from ignoring social freedom. This week, economics professor Miles Kimball of the University of Michigan did exactly that. He leads with an arresting quote from Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a campaigner against the truly horrific social discrimination against the Untouchables in India. “So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you.”

Prof. Kimball reminds us that Ambedkar’s observation was powerfully argued 157 years ago by none other than John Stuart Mill, one of the great patron saints of libertarianism. In Chapter 1 of On Liberty, Mill wrote:

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