Sexism, Oppression, and Libertarianism (James E. Miller)
Tuesday January 8th, 2013
In France, minister for women's rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is demanding the social media network Twitter reform its operations to remove all hate speech that may emanate from the country. Statements deemed overly malevolent are already "prohibited by law" according to Vallaud-Belkacem. In the name of "human dignity," Twitter must go further to remove any messages decreed hateful by French officials. Some in the media are applauding this measure as a much needed step in preventing online intimidation. What these advocates of state censorship seem to miss in their quest to eliminate all hurtful language is their plain hatred of ideas. Utilizing the government to censure speech seen as mean and vicious does not guarantee that today's version of acceptable wording will be the same as tomorrow's. As Glenn Greenwald warns,
It is not possible, nor probable, but certain – 100% inevitable – that empowering the state to imprison people for the expression of “hateful” ideas will be radically abused, will be exploited to shield power factions from meaningful challenge. Demanding that Google or Twitter suppress ideas specified by the state is the hallmark of tyrants.The thought-police movement naturally expands with the state because it is inherently collective. To establish a universal mindset requires some type of enforcement. And because individuals have the capacity for free will, corralling millions into the same pool of beliefs suffocates independent judgment. The freedom of expression can't be chopped into small, permissible bits and retain its original authority. It must remain unbridled within a free society.
There are some thinkers out there who, while they promote liberty and volunteerism, also promote equality by expunging sexism and discrimination. Like supporters of state censorship, they see unequal treatment based on factors such as race and gender as forms of villainy. In response to an online video by libertarian social media star Julie Borowski, several of these self-styled advocates of fairness and free markets have demonized her take on the apprehension some females have toward libertarianism. According to Borowski, a majority of women are lured by pop culture into holding feminist views such as casual sex being empowering, abortion being perfectly legitimate, taxpayer should fund birth control, and the state should redistribute income to correct the pay gap between men and women. Just like the glut of minority news reporters that pounce on the slightest inkling of racism, the libertarian, anti-social oppression crowd took offense to Borowski's labeling of promiscuity as inappropriate behavior. In their eyes, sexism is imperious and incompatible with liberty. Economist Steve Horowitz and writer Sarah Skwire go as far as to say that women who frequently engage in casual sex should not be shamed at all for they can still live productive lives.
To "bleeding heart libertarians," any and all forms of sexism, racism, or discrimination are wrong. The act of castigating someone for behaving in a certain manner or simply acting differently on account of gender is an injustice in need of correction. Similar to their leftist counterparts, egalitarianism is the goal. What these anti-bourgeoisie libertarians don't seem to realize is that the type of justice they are seeking runs contrary to true freedom.
The equitable society movement, coupled most predominately with gender equality, is effectively blurring the line between both genders. The qualities that lead men to be attracted to women are being undermined as the politically-correct attempt to reverse nature by ostracizing those who commit the crime of noticing tendencies of difference between the two. This will eventually lead to a society of dreary sexuality. As Paul Gottfried writes,
Men and women invest each other with what Edmund Burke described as "the wardrobe" of our imagination. We see each other through social and esthetic lenses, and this may influence the power of erotic attraction as much as our hormones do. If our caring-sharing government or unisexual social elites aim at making genders indistinguishable, this would probably make women less desirable sexually. In Burke's phrase they have been "stripped" of the identity that had been attached to them.Contrary to the libertine doctrine, traditional interplay between males and females drives the sexual dynamic to a place respectful of women. They are treated both with courtesy and in a manner wholly different from male counterparts. Arranging transportation, paying the bill for dinner, sacrificing one's overcoat, and ensuring a safe return home are rituals which stem from aristocratic society. Under this interaction, the woman is placed at a higher standard and the "premium" on her beauty is maintained. Sexuality is built upon without insulting a woman's individuality because of mutual respect held for the difference in gender.
Ms. Borowski's criticizers aver that this decidedly unequal behavior is insulting to women. In their words, to make a distinction between "good" and "bad" behavior violates the "core libertarian value" of neutrality "between different conceptions of the good." But as Tom Woods points out, libertarianism is based primarily upon nonaggression. The act of engaging in regular "casual sex," though not morally wrong, is not shielded from criticism. From observance alone, it is clear that promiscuous women tend toward high time preferences in lifestyle. The desire for immediate satisfaction often manifests itself into poor financial choices and less-than-stable relationships.
Temperance as a virtue is despised by counterculture libertarians who take shelter in the idea that freedom of choice must also mean freedom from disparagement. This is not only wrong but promotes a destructive attitude. Giving in to passionate urges undermines a life of careful thought. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, the moderating of "concuiscible passion" clears the avenues of reason in the mind so as to make better choices. This facilitates a more long-lasting contentment with life whereas the benefits of short-term pleasure wane rather quickly.
Libertarianism itself says nothing about time horizons. Regard for the future comes down to plain good sense. Living strictly for the moment carries with it pernicious tendencies. It's no surprise the most well-to-do in society are people who consistently put off short-term enjoyment for the sake of future benefit. Those who rely on the government for assistance often show little self-restraint when it comes to present gratification. Within state economic policy is the embodiment of hedonism where long-run prosperity is traded for instant vote bribery. Rejecting the traditional value of temperance hardly yield the most fruitful of results. And while it may not be immoral to live in the here and now, it's certainly not wise.
The leftist-libertarians see these kinds of bourgeoisie values as oppressive. The centuries-old conception of "proper" behavior is said to weigh down upon the action of self-determined thinkers. But just as the supporters of state censorship can't see the hypocrisy in their position, neither can anti-traditional values libertarians. To lambaste discrimination or sexism is to be critical of individual choice. Their liberation means the shackling of other contrary opinion- not some splendid new world of guilt-free indulgence.
Bleeding heart libertarians should be at liberty to engage in as much sexual debauchery as they like. They are free to spend their income wildly and in excess. But they are not protected from others who look down upon such manners.
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the Editor in Chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal. He currently works in Washington D.C. as a copywriter.