The recent debate between Sunny and Devil’s Kitchen has once again raised the question of how to reconcile libertarianism with deep-rooted inequality. Libertarians tend to be very individualistic. That is not to say that libertarians don’t like people or groups, merely that libertarians like being treated as individuals and not stereotyped. Thus libertarians will tend to lay great stress on treating people as individuals and not as a member of a group, and tend to be uncomfortable with policies designed to favour group x, or hinder group y, as such policies are felt to contribute to people being defined not as individuals, but as members of groups, which encourages divisions.
This attitude has come in for plenty of criticism from people who argue that by calling for everyone to be treated equally, libertarians are failing to take into account that not everyone starts off from the same point, so some people have an inbuilt advantage (or â€˜privilegeâ€™, to use the jargon). The two approaches can be compared to a running race. For libertarians, the race is fair if everyone starts from the same point and at the same time. For critics, the race isnâ€™t fair, since some of the runners have had a great deal more help and training than others, and this advantage will help them throughout the race. But are the two approaches fundamentally contradictory? No.
Iâ€™m a libertarian and was attracted to Pickled Politics precisely because it preached (and continues to preach) a message of individualism: that a person doesnâ€™t have to be defined by their religion or race; that â€˜minority communitiesâ€™ shouldnâ€™t have spokesmen for their views, as there are so many different views; that attitudes which stereotype minorities do untold damage, whether itâ€™s the BNP attacking non-whites or someone claiming that â€˜honourâ€™-based violence is excusable because it is part of a culture. Now I write for the site, and I try to continue its central message.
Both â€˜sidesâ€™ need one another. Critics of libertarianism need to recognise that libertarians want what they want, which is a society where people arenâ€™t held back or pushed forward by things like gender, race or religion, but rather on their own merit. And more libertarians need to recognise that in order to have a society where people are treated as individuals and are free to be what they want, everyone needs to continue to undermine sexist and racist attitudes so that people are not held back by an inherent inequality.
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Filed in: British Identity