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Another Liberal Blind Spot

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In another sign that liberals are becoming increasingly concerned with the growing popularity of libertarianism, a liberal named Daniela Perdomo has gone on the attack against libertarian John Stossel at Alternet.org, one of the major liberal (or “progressive,” as many liberals now label themselves) websites. In an article entitled “Is John Stossel More Dangerous Than Glenn Beck?” Perdomo has revealed a major blind spot within the liberal mind.

As I have pointed out time and time again in my articles on the minimum wage, liberals have a blind spot when it comes to economic understanding. Or to put it bluntly, when it comes to the field of economics, they have a woeful ignorance, and it is that ignorance that prevents them from recognizing the terrible harm they do to the poor, especially racial minorities, with such statist programs as the minimum wage.

In her attack on Stossel and libertarianism, Perdomo reveals another blind spot: the propensity to view a defense of freedom of choice as an endorsement of the bad, immoral, dangerous, or irresponsible choices that people end up making when they’re free to make choices.

What set Perdomo off was Stossel’s recent criticism of anti-discrimination laws. Like most other libertarians, Stossel argued that freedom entails the right of a bigot to be a bigot, including in the operation of his retail establishment.

What Perdomo’s blind spot prevents her from seeing is that one can defend freedom of choice as a principle without endorsing the wrongful choices that people make. To paraphrase Voltaire, we libertarians don’t agree with racist or bigoted choices but we will defend the right of people to make them, just as our defense of Nazi sympathizers to express their views in a public march in Skokie, Illinois, didn’t mean that we were endorsing their views.

Here is what Perdomo says about Stossel: “While he can make racist statements as well as the rest of them, he couches his particular brand of hate in his passion for libertarianism.”

Does Perdomo point to any racist statement or any expression of hate by Stossel? She does not, and the reason she doesn’t is because she can’t. Stossel didn’t make any racist statement or statement of hate. What Perdomo is essentially saying is that when a person calls for freedom of association on the basis of race, he is automatically, by virtue of taking such a position, guilty of making a racist or hate-filled statement.

Now, is that not ridiculous or what? That’s what passes for serious analysis within the liberal mind. That’s what comes from the 12-year-sentence in public (i.e., government) schools, where the mind is molded into conformity, memorization, and superficial analysis, stamping out any semblance of independent, critical thinking.

What’s really funny is that Perdomo combines her claims about Stossel’s “particular brand of hate” with his support for such things as “legalizing drugs, prostitution, abortion and assisted suicide,” which are typically liberal positions. In other words, she’s claiming that libertarianism, which shares some common positions with liberals, is a sinister way to sneak in the bigoted, racist, hate-filled right-to-discriminate position.

The reason this is so funny is because conservatives say the same thing that Perdomo and her fellow liberals say to libertarians with respect to such things as the drug war, prostitution, abortion, and assisted suicide. They have the same blind spot that Perdomo has on those particular issues.

How many times have libertarians been attacked by conservatives for favoring drug usage and drug abuse simply because we favor drug legalization? And the same for the legalization of prostitution, abortion, and assisted suicide.

The irony is that if one were to ask Perdomo whether she favors drug abuse, prostitution, abortion, and assisted suicide, she would probably say, “Oh no. As a liberal, I believe they should be legalized but that doesn’t mean I would endorse them.” The problem, again, is that her blind spot prevents her from applying the same principle to freedom of association.

Of course, this isn’t the only area where Perdomo and liberals have this particular blind spot. We libertarians see it all the time with respect to the welfare state. Whenever we call for the repeal, not reform, of such liberal socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, public housing, corporation bailouts, income taxation, and the like, and argue that people should be free to do whatever they want with their own money, what is it that liberals automatically say to us? They immediately exclaim: “You libertarians hate the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, and you would let them die in the streets!”

Again, they automatically jump to the conclusion that because libertarians favor freedom of choice in peaceful endeavors, they automatically endorse all the choices that people make.

An irony of all this in order to achieve a more moral, responsible, compassionate society, the worst thing people can do is use force to achieve it. It is through the widest ambit of freedom of choice that people are best able to achieve a higher level of conscience, consciousness, morality, and responsibility. Perhaps that’s what frightens statists, both conservatives and liberals, so much about libertarianism.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.