Libertarianism is not Egalitarianism

Please Consider Purchasing A Copy Of White, Right, and Libertarian

In recent years, the more leftist or progressivist libertarians have increasingly promoted egalitarianism. There is a sort of contemporary presumption that libertarianism requires a variety of egalitarian tendencies.  That is to say, we are told that as libertarians, we ought to vocalize our support and enthusiasm for all types of “alternative” lifestyles, cultural practices, and worldview diversity.  To do otherwise is “intolerant,” and therefore “hateful” and “unlibertarian.”

This is a mistake of the highest order.  Not only is such doctrine simply not required by the libertarian thesis (which simply states that individuals must not breach the private property rights of others), but it is also a sure way to make certain that persons with culturally conservative dispositions never adopt the libertarian view at all.  When it appears that libertarians demand cultural liberalism and social progressivism in public policy, it is profoundly off-putting to many cultural traditionalists.

First of all, tolerance does not presume agreement or approval, rather, and contrarily, it actually presupposes disagreement.  To be tolerant is to refrain from using force to prevent someone from engaging in a lifestyle or activity with which we ourselves disagree.  We are tolerant when, even if we vocally express our disapproval against an activity, we refrain from physically interfering with the activity.  Tolerance is not present in a situation of agreement and approval.

In the present age, however, the concept of tolerance has been distorted.  To most people, tolerance means that one actually accepts and endorses as morally or intellectually legitimate the views, actions, or lifestyles of all other people.  Thus, the infiltration of this bastardized version of tolerance into the libertarian movement has created a very dangerous spin.  The libertarian movement has been infected by this perverted view of tolerance to the extent that disagreements are equated with “hatefulness” and hatefulness with “intolerance.” Thus such disagreements (specifically, disagreements from Right-leaning libertarians) are alleged to be against the “libertarian spirit” (whatever this means).


Now, in a libertarian society where property rights allow the individual to discriminate based on whatever standard he finds satisfactory, libertarians generally have no problem in letting business owners make decisions about their employees and customers.  A black business owner sympathetic to the Black Panthers can legally refuse to service a White man if he so desires.  And a Church can refuse to marry a homosexual couple if their convictions lead them to such a decision.  But something interesting happens when we talk about the employment policies of a government agency.  Some libertarians want to impose a rigorous egalitarian and diversity standard on the agency on the basis that it is “public” and therefore should not be allowed to discriminate.  This desire often trickles down to public services like State-owned university education.  The standards for entry should focus, we are told, not necessarily on the individual merits of the students (regardless of race, religion, sex, etc.), but rather on the diversity of the student body as a whole. The position is that, since the State is a publicly owned entity, it does not have the same freedom to discriminate as does a private entity.

But all of this is a profoundly misguided distortion of the demands of libertarian theory.  Murray Rothbard addressed this issue during the early nineties when the Clinton administration sought the elimination of the ban on homosexuals in the military.  Must the libertarian support this?  Rothbard answers in the negative:

“The military should be considered like any other business, organization, or service; its decisions should be based on what’s best for the military, and ‘rights’ have nothing to do with such decisions.  The military’s long-standing ban on gays in the military has nothing to do with ‘rights’ or even ‘homophobia’; rather it is the result of long experience as well as common sense.”

In other words, it is not necessitated by libertarian theory, a political theory of private property rights, that some public agency has a certain standard of employment.  There is no “right” to be hired by a public agency like, say, the FDA.  Even if this agency should not exist at all in a free society according to libertarian theory, it is a non-sequitur to, therefore, argue that such an agency ought to hire individuals of every ethnicity and/or sexual orientation.  While we hold that public colleges should not exist, it is not unlibertarian to have a preference that the college’s entrance standards focus on grades, test scores, and writing ability rather than the modern progressive-egalitarian standards of racial, religious, or sexual diversity.  We breach no libertarian creed when we oppose the cultural-liberalism, moral subjectivism, and egalitarian-crusaderism that comes straight from the statist elites.

Libertarianism is not to be confused with egalitarianism, progressivism, or centrally planned and promoted cultural engineering.  This mistake occurs when progressivist libertarians misinterpret libertarian property rights or at least fail to emphasize their role as the foundation of libertarian legal theory.  Libertarianism is not about “overcoming the patriarchy,” social equality, alternative lifestyles, or opposing proper authority and longstanding natural and social institutions (so long as these institutions are not artificially propped up by the State).  The mistake is that the egalitarian libertarians draw a false parallel.  They mistakenly assume that because the State is not to interfere with the private decisions of free individuals, it follows that it must be in violation of this rule when it demands that individuals meet a certain (non-egalitarian) standard to be eligible for work in the public sector.  It becomes clear that this is a careless blunder when one recognizes that employment by the State is voluntary, i.e., no one is (except in very rare cases such as a military draft) forcibly employed by a State-funded agency.  Discrimination is a necessity.  In fact, every employee hired entails those not hired were discriminated against.

Libertarianism is about property rights.  The proper nature of rights in libertarian theory are negative, not positive.  A negative right means that an individual’s right is a “restriction” on the actions of another against the individual and his property.  That is, the individual has a right to be free of another man’s physical interference (a.k.a aggression).  Example: an individual has a right to not be stolen from or murdered.

Far too often, progressivist libertarians are seduced by positive rights ostensibly crafted and enforced to attain some “social justice” end.  A positive right is a so-called right to be provided something that requires the action or property of another individual to fulfill.  Some examples of such positive rights include a “right to healthcare,” “right to education,” and “right to a basic income.”  Positive rights are antithetical to legitimate negative rights.  The distortion of language is seen quite clearly when the progressivists pronounce what rights (more like resources and legal privilege) they believe various “oppressed” people groups (essentially all groups except conservative white cisgendered heterosexual Christian men) are entitled to.  It is important that we identify and thwart this egalitarian infection that has taken hold even in libertarian circles, lest we fall prey to the anti-libertarian cultural Marxist agenda.

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