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Trojan Horse: On “Discrimination” and Individual Rights

January 6th, 2012 by Jim May · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

In my previous post fisking Jonathan Chait, commenter Michael asks:

“How do you reconcile individual rights with something like private discrimination?”


a : the act of discriminating b : the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently
: the quality or power of finely distinguishing


Discrimination, in its original meaning, means to be carefully selective — to recognize and choose between “finely distinct” alternatives, e.g. a “discriminating” customer. We discriminate every day, as part of living — between food and poison, between the road and the shoulder, between good deals and bad ones, between the trustworthy and the untrustworthy.

Doesn’t it seem odd to you that *this* is the word has come to mean prejudicial choice, and highly evil prejudices at that — such as racism?

This isn’t an accident of semantics; it’s a clue to the ideological causality underlying and driving Leftist ideas like Jonathan Chait’s  — and to the biggest “Trojan Horse” in American ideological history.

Individual rights necessarily include and necessitate freedom. Freedom necessarily means that different individuals will reach different conclusions and therefore make different choices — including choices that you or I won’t like.

This is crucial to grasp — because it gives us insight into why the Left specifically chose “discrimination” as the term to convert into a dysphemism for “racism”.

Remember, the Left is at root collectivist, and therefore an anti-Enlightenment, anti-individualist, anti-liberty movement. That is its essential root premise. It is, therefore, the one constant that can be seen in all Leftist thought, and the one motive and goal that integrates and explains all Leftist strategies and tactics.

This explains why the Left’s putative “anti-racism” should find itself expressed most commonly as “anti-discrimination“. This is because the Left is NOT “anti-racist” — it is anti-CHOICE. “Anti-racism” is the mask; anti-choice, the underlying essential.

If one holds that Leftists are anti-racist, there are many things they do and/or tolerate nowadays that simply do not compute. Overt racism, sexism etc. are relatively easy to observe among Leftists nowadays (including in particular the ongoing return of anti-Semitism).

But if you understand the Left as Objectivists do — as primarily collectivist and anti-liberty — these things are a perfect fit, and no surprise at all. On the contrary, if they were currently not observable, ideological causality would tell us to *expect* them!

“Anti-racism” is a liberal idea, a logical outgrowth of individualism, that it shares with Objectivism. Unfortunately, liberalism was co-opted by the Left in America over the course of the last century. In addition to giving it cover, wearing the liberal mask allows the Left to perpetuate profoundly illiberal ideas under its ” brand”, Trojan Horse style. “Anti-racism” is the most devastating one of these, as it has allowed the Left to attack and erode freedom of association.

They have been so successful in this regard, that the term “discrimination” nowadays will always conjure up prejudice as its meaning. Google the word and see for yourself.

The primary payload of this exercise is to poison the well for liberty: to convince people that freedom of choice is the problem.  The pattern of this position goes: if people are left free to choose, “some percentage” will tend to make wrong, destructive choices , so they must be constrained for the good of society.  (In the wild, the clause “some percentage” varies from 1% to 100% according to the speaker’s level of hatred for mankind; the underlying premise remains constant, however.)  This is precisely what Chait is asserting when he says that “libertarian principles support racism”; he is asserting that freedom is the problem because it leaves immoral people free to make immmoral choices.  In much the same way that “to be human” is used to refer to failure despite the existence of human success, they want “freedom to choose” to be associated with immoral choices despite the fact that a man is just as free to be moral.

How pervasive is this prejudice?  Well, it’s just as common among mainstream conservatives as it is with Leftists; in fact, this view effectively defines the mainstream.  That should tell you about how “soaked in” it is.

Standing in opposition to them is, of course, Objectivism.  Objectivism specifically holds the opposite position: 

Freedom is the solution, because it leaves moral men free to make moral choices.  In other words, what is important is not to constrain the evil, but to Unchain the Good.

And *that* is the fact which Jonathan Chait and his thinkalikes among his purported enemies (Rick Santorum, I’m looking at YOU) cannot afford to see in the mainstream.  The weapon against wrong ideas like racism, is right ideas, delivered under the aegis of freedom — of thought, of communication and of association.

Freedom is its own best protection. A racist is free to discriminate? Well, so are the rest of us. The moral can discriminate against the immoral.  We can not only hire, work for, and patronize the individuals he won’t, but we can do more than that:  we can ostracize and exclude him and his supporters.   We can work to identify racists, and speak out publicly to identify them.  Above all, we can withdraw moral sanction.  Chait asserts “Social power” without defining it, and this is why: there is no such thing outside the context of culture.  In an individualist culture, complete with a free marketplace of ideas, such men have no power at all.

But what if the culture IS racist?  What if racial collectivism is mainstream?  Do the racists have the non-governmental power to keep things the way they like it?  Contra Chait, the historical evidence says no, and supports Objectivism on this point.

While the Americanist premise of individualism was undoubtedly stronger in the 1850’s than now, that culture was nonetheless less than a century removed from an era when individualism was just a novel idea held by some intellectuals, while slavery was a non-controversial, mundane fact. Unless you expect cultures to turn on a dime, it is plain that racism was part and parcel of a huge legacy of pre-Enlightenment culture going back thousands of years — not a product of any radical ideas of “freedom to discriminate” which only showed up for real, at “street level”, after 1776.

By the 1960’s, that strength had severely weakened racism in America.  As time wore on after the Civil War, it became clear to the racists, again and again, that if the trends they saw with their own eyes were not stopped, they and their culture were the doomed ones.  (Can you imagine these guys going bug-eyed if someone back then told them that they had all the “social power”?)  They knew this well enough that they resorted to a familiar device in their attempt to preserve their primitive prejudices, culture and ideas: they attacked individual freedom of choice through government power. Enter the Jim Crow laws.  Enter the beginnings of gun control.  Enter nativism and the genesis of immigration law.

Even with those, the historically novel firefighters of individualism were well on their way to putting out the ancient fire of racism by the 1960’s.  The Civil Rights act, by taking out the Jim Crow laws, was poised to be the final blow.  Unfortunately, the 1960’s was the decade when American liberalism died of the Leftist tumor that had been eating it out from within since Herbert Croly and his Progressives.  Title II, the horrendous contradiction at the heart of the Civil Rights Act, was one of their first large-scale legal attack against the culture of individual rights that was killing racism.  Even as the last of America’s liberals trumpeted this defeat of racism, the Left was preserving its ultimate instrument of its survival, by undercutting the primary weapon of its real enemy.  The portents were there, too, as the 1960’s saw the first manifestations of modern Leftist racism in the form of the Black Power movement and associated groups.

While racism has since then continued to “decline” as the public recoils from the superficial forms in which it historically manifested in American culture (“Song of the South”, the “mammy” stereotype etc.), its roots now find sustenance in the rising tide of cultural collectivism being driven by the Left and in the shielding given it by the ongoing assault on individualism and liberty.  Even as they “fight the fire”, the Left is feeding its flames while eroding its enemies’ main water supply: moral individualism.

5 Comments so far ↓

  • c andrew

    Great post Jim.

    I think that in Santorum, we are seeing the genesis of what Leonard Peikoff spoke of when he referred to the Leftists as the shock troops of the anti-enlightenment. (At least I think that it was Dr. Peikoff…) And that, after the Leftists have discredited the Enlightenment, the duty-based Christians will assert their own dominion.

    Obama and his fellow travelers have made the citizenry uneasy about their future. And they’ve done it while masquerading under the liberal facade where whim-worship is the player wearing the mask of liberty. Enter, Rick Santorum, Stage Right. He offers duty and discipline and god-given certainty. Yeah, he’s a humorless SOB but then I don’t imagine that that necessarily hurts him given Obama’s Thompsonesque geniality. It probably provides useful contrast.

    I don’t know if the Left has taken the destruction far enough yet. It may be that the sanctimonious Santorum is not yet “the man meeting the moment.” But he is a type of what is to come in much the same way as the barricade of Les Miserables prefigured the greater unrest that lay in the future.

  • madmax

    I don’t know if the Left has taken the destruction far enough yet. It may be that the sanctimonious Santorum is not yet “the man meeting the moment.” But he is a type of what is to come in much the same way as the barricade of Les Miserables prefigured the greater unrest that lay in the future.

    Santorum is a Leftist!! A socially Conservative Leftist but a Leftist nonetheless. What is wrong with you “Objectivists”? Just because a person is Christian does not make him a “Conservative Theocrat”; that vapid expression that idiots like Hseih mouth all the time. Yes, Santorum does have some of the original Conservative vibe to him but he is an egalitarian. He is a welfare statist and a god-damn see-no-Islam, spread-democracy-to-the-Islamic world nation builder. These are Leftist positions *NOT* Conservative ones. He’s just like Bush only worse.

    He is not an example of the M2 theocrat that Peikoff is having delusions about. There is no M2 theocrat!! There are only D2 Leftists for heavan’s sake. Are you all that fucking dense?

    The more I read the more I am thinking that the Objectivist movement is fatally flawed and fatally fucked. Rand would spit on it if she were alive.

  • c andrew

    And here I was thinking that he was a Fascist Communist on the order of Nicolae Ceaușescu.

    I am curious, though, max. Are you saying that there are no M2 theocrats? If so, how would you describe people like Rushdooney?

    Although to be technical, I believe that Dr. Peikoff has said that describing individual persons on the DIM scale is invalid and that it is more appropriately applied to movements and cultures.

  • Neil Parille

    Mr. Max,

    I want to comment on the “theocrat” claim of certain Objectivists when it comes to Santorum, etc.

    Say the religious right got it’s way. America would be like the 50s: divorce was hard to get, abortion was illegal, contraception was hard to get, stores were closed on Sundays, and homosexuality was illegal.

    Now say what you want about that, no one would say America was a theocracy in the 50s. Rand didn’t.

    The only theocracy (rule by religious leaders) I’m aware of is Iran where (I gather) the Islamic clerics decide which people may run for office.

    Societies that many Objectivsts admire (such as Renaissance Italy and classical Greece) were closer to theocracies than anything Santorum has advocated.

  • Inspector

    I think regardless of whether theocracy looms close by, far away, or not at all, the mission for Objectivists remains the same. We need to provide a articulate argument against the Left, and a viable alternative cultural and, ultimately, political movement to fill the vacuum that will result from the efforts of the Left.

    In most cases it doesn’t really matter either way if a candidate is theocratic. He can be appropriately judged on his stance on all of the other issues, because – surprise, surprise – theocrats do not hold the principles of individual rights and are therefore terrible on all of the other issues, also.

    Even someone like Bachman holds the principles of liberty in a muddled enough way that she would do damage to the cause on those grounds alone, without even bringing up the issue of theocracy. (Also she comes across as a bit of a loony, which does a lot of damage to the cause of individual rights)

    I guess what I am saying is: six of one, half a dozen of the other. We don’t really have to fight about the theocracy issue because whether you believe that is the central issue or not, the logic should lead us all to the same place, anyway.