|The Jewish community of eastern Uganda, the Abayudaya, is currently|
at risk from drought and food shortages.
Now, I want to ask you, reader, a question. If someone asked you to donate some money to a famine relief activity for one of these areas – say, for a community in eastern Uganda – would you do it?
A follow-up. Say you give them a few dollars. Not much, but what you can spare. Would you consider it your free choice? I think so. Someone explains the famine and what their organization was working on to help people, follows it up with a request for a donation, and you give some money. You’ve considered it, and chosen to do so.
But what if you decide not to. Same scenario – explanation of the famine and the organization’s relief work – but you say no. That would also be your free choice.
Now, one last question. Is the person who would help a community in such distress a better person than the one who wouldn’t?
|Peter Singer is one philosopher, quite popular in the circles where I did|
my doctorate, who has advocated that we have a moral duty to give to
charity and overcome unjust inequalities.
Yes, you’re free to be a douche if you wish. But why would you wish it?
I bring up this example because I want to discuss this point from Milton Friedman in its context. Someone who makes even a small gesture to help others in need is a better person than someone who won’t. It makes you a good person to want to improve and heal the world.
Contributing to your society’s overcoming racism is one way to heal the world. Friedman considers free markets themselves to do this, because of the inherently anti-racist character of a totally open economy. This does make sense.
When you open your society and economy to people of all ethnicities, cultures, castes, and religions and refuse to racialize any of them into an underclass, you’ve made a better society and a better market. You don’t cut anyone out of the market for any reason other than incompetence. You’ll become a customer of any business that gives you a fair deal on what you want, regardless of identity. That’s great.
|When I grew up, everyone in my education system – formal and|
informal – spoke about segregation as a terrible crime against
human dignity. Now, mainstream conservative politicians across
the United States and in Canada want to enshrine the right to
discriminate and economically marginalize others as an
essential human freedom. Fuck you.
The right to be racist is an aspect of the human right to liberty. Here is Friedman doubling down on the paradox of liberty – if my freedom includes a liberty to reject others from my society, then my inviolable liberty includes the freedom to violate others’ liberty.
If the members of a community all freely choose to run their businesses without hiring or selling to a racialized group, then that is their free choice to do so. The freedom to be racist should be respected as an uncomfortable but necessary element of liberty.
Here’s a paradox that popular libertarians can’t seem to escape. If our freedom includes the liberty to be a racist jackass, then we can freely marginalize and suppress the freedom of others.
Any business owner can choose not to allow someone to be their customer for whatever reason they want. The liberty to force someone else into exile? Into penury? Into poverty? Into the destruction of their dignity? Can liberty without obligation stand?
I don’t think so.