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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

political correctness 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 studies; *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 law 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 rules.

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 Interpersonal *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 culture.

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 respect *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.

Could 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 arbitrary).

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



equality of wealth or income

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

equality of wealth or income 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.

First, 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.

The 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 Justice [1971]).

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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