L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 911, February 26, 2017
Defending Discrimination & Deportation
by J. Neil Schulman
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
In his most famous speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke in favor of discrimination.
I’m a writer. Words are what we writers use to communicate. I’m using words to communicate with you right now. So the defined meanings of the words we use matter because differences matter.
The word “discriminate” was originally used to mean an ability to recognize core differences and render judgment. A person who exhibited discriminating taste for fine food and wine, for example, would have taken the sentence, “You discriminate” as a compliment, because a judgment was being rendered between food and wine which was more enjoyable to food and wine which was mundane or disgusting.
But, as often happens for reasons of propaganda, this use of “discriminate” was replaced by a sinister meaning: to render an unjust distinction. The original use was largely buried.
Dr. King wanted the original meaning of “discrimination” to be present in the future world he fantasized about. He wanted people not to refrain from discriminating judgment, but to make such distinctions based on character, which is a measure of moral worthiness, instead of ancestry or appearance, which is largely meaningless to judging a person’s worth.
Dr. King was teaching a moral lesson, one he’d learned from his background as a Christian and from fairly recent to him exemplars of moral philosophy such as Mohandas K. Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau. These moral lessons transcended politics. Thoreau was a philosophical anarchist, Gandhi an East Indian nationalist, and King, himself, a Christian democratic socialist.
I call myself a libertarian when that term is not conflated with electoral partisans. I’ve frequently called myself an anarchist when that term is not conflated with vandals, arsonists, communists, or nihilists. I’ve called myself an Agorist since I was closely involved with launching that individualist-anarchist free-market movement founded by my friend and mentor, Samuel Edward Konkin III. Since I consider many calling themselves Agorists are instead stealth communists, I’ve recently considered newer labels such as Konkinist or—pinning it down with my own brand—Alongside Night Agorist.
But whatever label I use, I’m attempting to narrow the meaning to a moral philosophy based on natural law, natural rights, and making meaningful moral distinctions between individuals.
Be clear: the libertarianism I hold to is judgmental. Tolerance is not necessarily a virtue. It depends on what one is tolerating. My friend, author/filmmaker Brad Linaweaver, will be writing eventually about “That Hideous Tolerance,” expanding the concept from the title of his favorite C.S. Lewis novel, That Hideous Strength.
Nonetheless the libertarian moral judgment is narrowly drawn. Taste alone, such as the food and wine connoisseur’s discrimination, allows for one’s individual choice but does not allow for imposing one’s individual choice on unwilling others. So it is within my individual choice what I eat or drink but I may not choose what others may eat or drink—well, at least so far as I’m not holding cooks at gunpoint or murdering other people to drink their warm blood or eat their tasty flesh.
Rendering such moral judgments does require study, thinking, and discussion.
This could go on for volumes but I’m now going to zero in on a current controversy: the deportation of lawbreakers.
As I said, I’m an anarchist. But I do conclude that law and order is necessary even in an anarchist condition—that condition where the State no longer decrees what is punishable.
As an anarchist novelist, filmmaker, and essayist I’ve repeatedly made the point that work and travel are basic human liberties, so I reject the idea that government may rightfully (again, this is a moral discussion) restrict or license who may travel to somewhere else one is welcomed, and to exchange labor for pay when both buyer and seller of the labor freely reach an agreement.
But please remember that this essay of mine starts out by discussing discrimination—rendering judgment on essential differences.
In this instance the statist and the anarchist can agree: there is absolutely nothing wrong with expelling those who rob, rape, defraud, maim, or murder other individuals. Discriminating against others based on race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or even bad character if they have not victimized others by violence, menace, or deceit, is not a morally just reason for deportation. Having committed invasions of the rights of others and their justly- acquired property is a good reason to be a candidate for exile—allowing for mercy and mitigating circumstances.
Statistical analysis of risk that one might commit a violent offense is not a good enough reason for deportation. “Working off the books” isn’t a good enough reason. Passively accepting benefits that others have been swindled out of by politicians isn’t a good enough reason. Taking a job that someone else wants isn’t a good enough reason.
Murder is a good enough reason, assuming a response more severe than deportation isn’t called for. Planning criminal invasions of other people’s peaceful celebrations is a good enough reason.
Being an anarchist it would be neglectful of me not to make what Fox News pundits would call “moral equivalences.” Yes, the operator of a drone who kills innocent bystanders while eliminating terrorists may not be guilty of murder. But this anarchist might hold them to the same standard of negligent homicide that is used against reckless drivers.
If an anarchist can advocate for gated communities drawn up by contract, it’s hard to convince a believer in statist law-and- order that countries can’t have borders and use them to keep out enemies.
But, yes. It would also be so much easier if those same statists were able to discriminate between laws which defend people from being mugged and laws which prevent people from ingesting whatever food, drink, smoke, vapor, or chemical they have decided is necessary to their pursuit of happiness.
I seem to recall that this last was important to those who said countries should be based not on the divine right of kings but on the divine rights of everyone.
So there’s the problem. It isn’t discrimination. It’s that the wrong things, and the wrong people, are being discriminated against.
© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved. Web and email links with attribution permitted and encouraged. Other reprints permitted only with prior permission of the author. Orignally published at J Neil Schulman @ Agorist.com
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