DISCLAIMER: I know not ALL libertarians fall into the trap I’m about to discuss here, but I’ve seen enough people claiming to be libertarians spout this nonsense that I am admittedly generalizing a bit here, but let’s begin, shall we?
Over the course of history, it has been well-documented that some human behaviors shouldn’t be tolerated; not because we want to become the Thought Police for everyone, but because when thoughts take shape into actions, there can be palpable and tangible damage to someone, and really everyone — be it emotional, physical, financial, or a hurricane nightmare of all three. Racism is the greatest example of this phenomenon. It’s taken us thousands and thousands of years to get where we are, and people are still being taught to judge a human by its cover.
If you run in neo-libertarian circles — they also call themselves “classical” liberals in an attempt, I guess, to reclaim a word that no longer applies to them — you are told that the Evil Left wants to preach tolerance of all people, to the point of writing laws (gasp!) to punish people who act on their prejudices, and that therefore makes them intolerant.
It’s a ludicrous notion to insist that being tolerant of racism, hate speech, and discrimination makes you more enlightened than someone who is appalled by distances themselves from it. I once read a piece on a classical/obsolete liberal’s website that insisted “there is nothing tolerant or liberal about contemporary leftism” because according the article’s author, the number of “disinvitations” to speak at colleges and the like have gone up in recent times.
He argues that, “Today’s illiberal left is eager to discriminate against and shut up those who disagree with them and the majority of them are willing to use the government as an instrument to silence those who voice unpopular opinions.” And when he’s done building men of straw into which he stuffs all modern liberals, he ends with this doozy, “Any concept of freedom of speech and expression is clearly lost on these people.”
The author isn’t wrong, that these incidents do show a lack of tolerance and quite an annoying level of PC-liberalism that I myself despise, not to mention utter hypocrisy, but like anything, you have to have context. The studies that the Being Classically Liberal author cites, or at least the elements that were reported on, don’t mention why people were uninvited to speak or attend, and context is everything.
For instance, if you run a college that has a large contingent of black students and you invite someone to speak at that year’s commencement, only to have that person spout anti-black rhetoric in the coming weeks before their speech, what moron would let that person still come address their school? That doesn’t mean you’re advocating for someone to be thrown in jail for being a racist. It just means you don’t invite people to troll other people for the sake of trolling.
This theme of “if you don’t tolerate intolerance you’re a bigot” is very common among libertarians, because they love to quote Voltaire (at least the author of the piece I cited correctly attributed it to a Voltaire biographer) as saying, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” which is all well and good, but I’m not about to defend a Nazi’s right to say he hates all Jews.
Yes, I am going full-Godwin and comparing all racists to Nazis, because Chicken McNuggets are still McDonald’s food, even though they’re not as unhealthy for you as sixteen Big Macs would be.
Let’s talk about the “willing to use the government as an instrument to silence” bullshit the article’s author trotted out. Find me one law that punishes people for saying or thinking anything. What I believe the author is referring to is “hate speech” laws. But hate speech isn’t regular speech, and there’s a reason hate speech has a classification all its own.
Hate speech laws don’t prevent people from saying anything. They prevent people from not facing the consequences of outright encouraging people to commit crimes against others. In that regard, hate speech isn’t merely speech anymore. It’s a form of action in and of itself. I have no problem with racists saying racist shit. I do have a problem when them saying racist shit turns into them doing racist shit.
“Freedom of speech and expression is clearly ” not lost on me. The idea of “freedom of speech and expressions” having consequences is clearly lost on them.
The modern day LOL-bertarian, even laws that are written in response to a need — like say to punish murdering people to keep them away from other people they could murder — are vile attempts by statists to rob everyone of their liberty, and not targeted responses to certain behaviors or misdeeds. I’m no authoritarian myself, but I get why laws exist. Slavery was once legal, and libertarians use that as a way to push their anti-government agenda too.
Modern liberals fight hard against discrimination because discrimination isn’t a victimless crime, and it never has been. When you keep people from participating in commerce and trade in a capitalist society, you are punishing them, and making their lives harder for no reason.
Neo-libertarians just don’t seem willing to accept that there are some viewpoints and “opinions” that aren’t good. They are toxic. Wanting all Jews exterminated, thinking of slaves as 60% of a human, and thinking of people as property in general all meet this criteria. They aren’t thoughts that should be encouraged or tolerated. Sure, morality is subjective, but if when life is stripped of its theological and religious undertones, you have no valid argument, your views aren’t tolerable; they’re just intolerance.
I don’t have to tolerate intolerable behaviors. It doesn’t make me more enlightened.
As humans, we do have the right to say, feel and think what we want. No one can stop us from that. But we also do not have the right to expect no consequences. If the consequences are being shunned or even legally punished if our speech crosses clear and obvious boundaries into incitement of violence or otherwise harmful discrimination, then that’s a good thing.
Put simply: not being tolerated for your intolerant beliefs is a consequence of your intolerance, not a dearth of tolerance toward you.