Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, May 28, 2010

TGIF: Libertarianism = Anti-racism

Rand Paul’s comments regarding the federal ban on racial discrimination in public accommodations have brought the libertarian position on civil rights to public attention.
Read TGIF here.


Anonymous said...


Great article. I do have a some criticisms, though. It's early so take it easy on me if I'm off base.

I think you are conflating the libertarianism vs. statism paradigm with the individualism vs. collectivism one. While it true that most, if not all, libertarians are individualists and would reject racism as a form of collectivism, wouldn't you admit that one can theoretically be a racist and a libertarian. All they would have to do is accept the non-aggression principle.

I understand what you are saying and I agree. If someone thinks they are superior to someone else because of their race, it's an easy transition to having to use government to enforce that. But then again, if someone truly believed that they were superior, they wouldn't need government to enforce it.

I also have some reservations when you say that its a lousy argument to use an analogy between one's home and one's business. Walter Block uses this argument. It may not be the best argument but I still think it's pretty strong. Your point sounds like the point that you were trying to make in a CATO Institute speech about 15 years ago. You were trying to define three classes of property: private, public and "open to the public" but still private. I think that hurts more than it helps. That said, I agree with you that defense of the restaurant owner riht to be bigoted should be made on that alone.

Sheldon Richman said...

I don't know what else to add to the point about private open-to-the-public places. Anyone walking down the streets knows the difference between a restaurant and a home (or a club). We look like idiots if we say there is "no difference." If you see harm in saying that, I don't know what I can say.

A racist could not consistently embrace the nonaggression principle based on equality of authority (Locke's and my conception of equality). Not that he will inevitably commit aggression, but that his racism would conflict with the foundation of his alleged libertarianism.

steven said...

Sheldon, I've been guilty of making that analogy between one's home and one's business. So your comments have me thinking about it quite a bit. Could you elaborate on what would be some better arguments to use in place of that analogy, perhaps sometime in another blog post?

Sheldon Richman said...

Steven, the article is my argument. What can I add? I do not deny that one's restaurant is private property and the owner should set the rules. I mere point out that there is a socially relevant distinction in terms of expectations between a restaurant and a home. That's all I did. It's as plain as day.

Tom (1st anonymous) said...


I don't use the home/business analogy myself because the people who support "Civil Rights" laws generally have a disdain for private property and because I think the right to be wrong should be defended on its own "merits". But from a libertarian/private property point of view, there is no difference between a home and a business. Socially, there is a difference and I think that's the point you are making. So I don't see any harm in saying that.

I don't know what you mean by embrace, but as long as the would-be racist lives the non-aggression principle, they are a libertarian by (one) definition. I would concede,though, that racism goes against the spirit of the individualist underpinnings of libertarianism.

Tom said...


My main argument is that people have the right to be wrong, period. We don't have to like it but we have to live with it if we want a free society.

The only other argument that you could use is the one Friedman used in "Captitalism and Freedom". It's been a while but I think he says that liberals are being inconsistent if they support the right of racists to speak or assemble but don't support their right to use their property to put those beliefs in action.

Sheldon Richman said...

You don't necessarily have the right to be wrong without consequences.

Tom said...


Of course. The word consequences is sort of like the word allowed. Provided there is no force involved,one has the right to be wrong without legal consequences but not necessarily without social consequences. My apologies for not being more clear.