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The London Libertarian

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Commentary and debate on politics, economics and culture from a libertarian perspective. To Libertarian Alliance Website >

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political correctness

Politics Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:37:12

Whatever the origins and
alternative historical usages of ‘political correctness’ (PCness) and
‘politically correct’ (PC), only the popular modern sense is discussed here.
The intended phenomena are well known to be especially prevalent in Europe and North America.
As such, the expression ‘PC’ has come to serve a useful role in identifying a
significant strand of so-called *left-wing views. But those who
are called ‘PC’ tend to view the very name as an undeserved pejorative for what
they see as merely the prevention of *offensive *language and unfair
behavior. Consequently, we have a kind of *ideology that denies
its own ideological status and any ascribed name (by contrast with, say, *conservatism, advocates
of which do embrace the name but also usually deny being any kind of ideology).

PCness is ostensibly about enlightened, egalitarian politeness and *fair treatment with
particular, but not exclusive, reference to *race and ethnicity,
sex, sexual orientation and *disability. And thus it is a subset of *egalitarianism,
which would be bad enough. But PCness is in practice more often about *bigoted, anti-dominant-culture
*authoritarianism, *privilege and *persecution. In
more detail, the propounded views include several, mistaken, egalitarian *dogmata: *equality is some
kind of substantive, rather than formal
or procedural, *social ideal; we are all more or less *naturally equal in
our *persons and abilities; all *opinions, *values, and ‘lifestyles’
are equally ‘valid’ (unless anti-PC); and *discrimination between
persons (on anti-PC grounds) is irrational and immoral and ought to be against
the *law. (Of course, these views are severally not restricted to PCness and predate
PCness itself.) However, behind the propounded views we often have the practice
of, in effect, *hypocritically granting *privileges (e.g., *rights to be
employed where one chooses, *tax-*extorted handouts, *state *propaganda and *censorship) to all
groups except, and thereby at the expense of, those from the dominant culture (who
are some combination of being white, male, high-income, heterosexual, *married,
able-bodied, middle-aged, Christian, Westerners; though PC types are themselves
often many of these). And this also entails *persecuting people
(ultimately by fines and prison) for being *‘racists’, *‘sexists’, etc., if
they try to escape the *coerced integration and privileges of PCness.

Those people who pour most scorn on the expression ‘political
correctness’ are invariably among the most extreme advocates of the position; they
prefer to think of themselves as *liberals or progressives. Yet
so pervasive is the PC *meme that even many *libertarians make
concessions to it while at the same time failing to see, or even vehemently
denying, that they are thereby being in any way PC. It is an irony that it is
not acceptable to admit to being PC. For the PC themselves have always used intended
pejoratives—such as ‘racism’, ‘sexism’ and ‘discrimination’—to trump any
disagreement. And now ‘PC’ has similarly been used against them as well. So they
have merely been hoist by their own petard. That said, in recent times a few
of the worst offenders have adopted the line that they are PC and proud of it.

See also *disabilities; *empowerment; *free speech; *freedom of
association; *hate crime; *homosexuality; *marriage; *multiculturalism; *politically-correct rights; *politically-correct speak; *politically-correct
*politically-correct taboo; *politically-correct think; *politically-incorrect thoughtcrime.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equality before the law

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:31:13

equality before the
Or equality under the law (as some *statists might prefer it). In *libertarian terms, this means people having no *privileges (due to *wealth, *class, sex, *race, fame, etc.) with respect to the *law. And ‘law’ means the enforceable rules that have
*anarchically evolved to
protect persons and their property from *aggressive
acts. All are to be equally subject to, and protected by, these defensive

In *statist terms ‘equality before
the law’ means having no privileges with respect to the state rules that
pose as law. As the elected oligarchs that rule *‘democracies’ make up most of these rules, sometimes
on an ad hoc basis, this is a dubious aspiration. And as, some of, the
oligarchs appoint the *judges, even this is
unlikely to be lived up to. See *rule of law.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equality of liberty

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:25:00

equality of liberty
*liberty might be said to involve
equality in the sense that all *persons are equally entitled
to complete liberty. But this is a strained use of ‘equality’: why not simply
say all are entitled to complete liberty? ‘Equality of liberty’ is also
open to the misinterpretation that liberty is a finite sum that admits of
redistribution by the *state to ensure that all
have equal amounts. Furthermore, any move toward liberty is to be welcomed
whether or not all share it. For instance, a *tax cut for group X (assuming they are genuine
tax-victims, and not overall tax-beneficiaries) would be a step toward liberty
and should not be rejected on the grounds that it ‘unequally’ excludes
everyone else. See *libertarian

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equal consideration of interests

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:23:15

equal consideration of interests One form of *utilitarianism
is to grant *equal
consideration of interests to all sentient beings, rather than only people
(see, for instance, the work of Peter Singer (1946- )). This is to ignore the
qualitative *moral
significance of being a *person. Like all forms of utilitarianism, it is also
prone to being misinterpreted as inherently—or at least in practice—entailing
systematic violations of *liberty in order to maximize *welfare.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equal moral worth of persons

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:21:03

equal moral worth of persons One assertion
of *egalitarians, in their attempt to find something
defensible about *equality, is that *persons are of equal *moral worth
(whatever we might feel about them personally) with the implication that they
merit equal treatment in some form.

Persons do have an inherent
moral worth that is not shared by beasts (here meaning all non-person *animals)
or plants, for instance. This is because persons are sufficiently
intellectually developed to be regarded as full ends-in-themselves. And so we
must not treat them as mere means to our ends, i.e., by *proactively
imposing on them. However, just because people are equal in all being
ends-in-themselves that does not make them equally valuable (of equal worth) as ends-in-themselves: for persons
are incommensurable in terms of *value (just as are many things that they personally
value). Even if persons were commensurable and equal, that would still not be a
sufficient reason to override *individual *sovereignty in an attempt at increasing overall *welfare by
increasing equality; which, in any case, various arguments for *liberty,
not least from *economics, indicate would be disastrous.

To be clear, persons are
usually equal in having moral worth
(unless, perhaps, they have negative moral worth because they immorally destroy
other persons or *property beyond possible *restitution)
rather than having equal amounts of
moral worth. And this leads to *libertarian conclusions rather than egalitarian, or
other imposed *collectivist, ones.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equality of concern and respect

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:18:49

equality of concern and
*Egalitarians sometimes stress the *morality of
the principle of equality of concern and *respect for *persons.
One criticism of this is that it is psychologically impossible to have equal
concern and respect for all people. We cannot choose to be so *undiscriminating
in our attitudes toward others, whether they are known to us or not. This
criticism might be answered by interpreting the principle of equal concern and
respect as being compatible with the *objective treatment, regardless of our actual
feelings. But it is not practical to do this either. We are bound to give
preferential treatment to the self, family, friends, preferred *charities,
etc., or we should not long remain a self or have any family, friends or
effective charities.

the *state, at least, objectively treat people thus? As is
argued throughout this work, any and all state activity will decrease overall *liberty and
*welfare. It is not clear why these ought to be
sacrificed for any *bureaucratic attempt at the dubious ideal of ‘equality
of concern and respect’. But some egalitarians think this principle is needed
to compensate people for *unfair differences (see *disabilities; *equality of outcome; *morally

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equality of wealth or income

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:14:13

equality of wealth or
If complete *equality of outcome is rejected as impossible and
appalling, then it might still appear imperative
and appealing to aim for equality of *wealth (in terms of the *market or
*monetary *value of material goods) or income. This might be
thought a way to achieve greater *utility because of the *diminishing
marginal utility of goods and money. If an equal distribution would immediately
increase *welfare, then we need only be careful to limit this by
some sensible views on the incentive effects of such complete redistribution.

it is not at all obvious that an immediate redistribution could realistically
increase welfare. Even if people over the entire world would accept the idea
without a struggle, it is not clear that it is logistically possible to break
up and redistribute what is owned in so many different ways such that, on
average, people over the entire world would be better off afterwards. And to try
to do it through financial handouts funded by increasing the *state-money
supply would result in a vast *inflation and possibly even collapse of the currency,
and productivity, with people resorting to barter until a relatively sound
currency could be reestablished.

At the
other end of things, once we begin to look at the function of unequal incomes,
profits, and ownership in the market, then it is not clear that any deviation
from them can plausibly increase welfare in the long-term. Consider only six
general reasons. 1) The signaling function of relative *prices and
incomes means that any degree of *proactively imposed equality would destroy information
that directs human and non-human resources to their most productive uses. 2)
Extreme monetary incentives are often necessary to encourage the already well-off
to engage in extra effort, risk-taking, and saving. (It might be suggested that
if their incomes are reduced through progressive taxation, then they would be
willing to work for less. But that would fall foul of 1.) And in terms of what
people are willing to pay, their efforts, risk-taking, and saving will, prima
facie, benefit others more than any known alternative. 3) Individual choices
are responsible for many differences of wealth and income. Insofar as this is
so, it is just as arbitrary *coercively to increase equality as to decrease
equality. 4) To redistribute to any degree is to *punish
productivity and reward unproductivity, which is a *perverse
incentive. 5) In practice, forcible transfers often do not come from their
intended victims (he who writes the check need not bear the burden) or reach
their intended targets. 6) *Politically vulnerable *taxpayers
tend to lose and the money tends to go to special interest groups.

All in
all, rather than attempt such equality it might be safer to have another *World War
or a major asteroid impact. See also *economic
calculation; *less developed countries; *poverty.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

equality of outcome

Philosophy Posted on Mon, April 07, 2014 18:11:36

equality of outcome Only the most *totalitarian
of *egalitarians wants genuine equality of outcome with
respect to people. Even then, there is a severe limit on how far this can be
achieved given different *genetic inheritances and unique individual
circumstances. At its extreme we see such things as the near literal *Procrusteanism
of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia,
where all suspected to be educated people (even those merely wearing glasses)
became liable for immediate execution without trial. A literary example comes
from L. P. Hartley (1895-1972), in whose dystopian novel Facial Justice (1960) the beautiful and the ugly are made to look
more average by compulsory cosmetic surgery.

ultimate goal of equal outcomes entails the destruction of all individuality
and all incentives. It might seem unlikely that anyone should see this as
appealing unless they had not given the *ideology much *critical consideration
or were profoundly *envious. Nevertheless, some people appeal to such a
principle by arguing that *equality of opportunity is not enough because it is unfair
that people should have different amounts of *welfare just
because of genetic inheritance or personal circumstances that were due to no
fault or merit of their own. This is sometimes argued to be no more than avoiding
outcomes that are ‘arbitrary from a moral point of view’ (an expression used by
John Rawls [1921-2002] in his A Theory of

But there
is probably no way that we can even adequately compensate those who are severely
*disabled, for instance, to bring them up to the level
of others. Even enslaving the able would probably not be sufficient. *Perverse
incentives and *moral hazards are also set up in any system that tries
to reach any equality of outcome. So it is a fallacy in *morals to
assert that what is not intended, and not *fair, must thereby be *morally
arbitrary in some unacceptable way.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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