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Libertarians!

June 06, 2009

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Libertarians!

About certain moral (and legal) matters, patriotic, freedom-loving Americans agree instinctively. For example:

When brave, border patrolmen Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean shot an illegal alien drug dealer in the derriere, they were defending their state, country and countrymen.

For hastening the descent into hell of two career criminals, who had broken into the country before breaking and entering at the home adjacent to his, Joe Horn ─ another fine Texan ─ is the best of neighbors.

Another acid test is the case of Frank Ricci, a firefighter from New Haven, Connecticut. Ricci was denied a promotion because he bested all the blacks in the department on a test 77 other candidates took. City officials didn’t like the results, so they voided the test, and put the promotion on hold until a less sensitive test could be developed – one that better screened-out proficiency and ability.

The individual with a healthy moral compass will agree that Ricci was wronged. What is licit or illicit in the natural law is inescapably obvious in the other vignettes as well.

But not to libertarian deviationists (by which I mean deviants, as opposed to dissenters).

Because many libertarians do not recognize state-enforced borders, they were silent about the injustice to border agents Ramos and Compean.

Some libertarians even went so far as to celebrate the invasion of the Southwest. And in particular, these deviants toasted the spirit of the Reconquista ad campaign, launched by Swedish vodka maker “Absolut.”

To keep its Mexican market in high-spirits, the advertising agency TERAN\TBWA had thrown in California ─ depicting it as part of Mexico. In the “Absolut” ─  i.e., perfect ─ world of La Raza libertarians, Mexicans reclaim their conquered Alta California.

Yes, the Mexican “Reconquista” is wreaking havoc on a part of the country that was built by Americans, not Mexicans. But who cares about flesh-and-blood human beings, when one can cleave to “Absolut” Abstractions.

You and I agree that Joe Horn chased down and blew away the worst of mankind. But does the libertarian anarchist’s vocabulary even accommodate the concept of evil? Perhaps. But more often than not, free will and individual agency get short shrift. For the sins of man, hard leftists blame society, and hard-core libertarians saddle the state. “The State made me do it” is how such social determinism can be summed-up.

Kookier libertarians dismiss Ricci ─ a dyslexic who came sixth among 77 test takers ─ as follows: By petitioning the courts, when they should go gentle into that good night, white men like Ricci are seeking equality of results much as blacks do through coercive civil rights laws.

This is too silly to sustain. And wicked too. Ricci was wronged for excelling. He is not petitioning for special favors; he’s petitioning against them. If anything, Ricci is asking only that the city accept inequality of outcomes; accept that not all are created equal ─ and that he, more so than his less-qualified colleagues, is most suited to fighting fires and dousing departmental flames.

The test Ricci took was both statistically valid and reliable. This means that it does what it’s supposed to do well.  Whatever the cause of the differences yielded by such a standardized test, reason dictates that someone with a higher score has more of the thing the test measures than the man with the lower score. Because, overall, blacks and Hispanics score lower on various proficiency tests, these are often considered discriminatory. The New Haven test was therefore discarded because: 1) it screened out less able candidates, and 2) more of those candidates were black than white.

In “Forbidden Grounds: The Case Against Employment Discrimination Laws,” Richard Epstein, a very good libertarian legal theorist, argued that “voluntary affirmative action is perfectly acceptable by private firms, but far more problematic when undertaken by government.” Contrary to the civil servant, the private person’s freedom of association ought to be sacrosanct. State institutions don’t have the prerogatives of private property.

“The city favored no one,” goes yet another flippant and foolish dismissal of Ricci by a libertarian. “It tossed out the test results for all races, not just for whites. So what’s the beef?”

An analogy will illustrate the vacuity (and venality) of this argument.

Cut to Beijing, 2008. Swimmer Michael Phelps is powering himself to yet another pinnacle in the 400 meters individual medley. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh comes second.  Ryan Lochte is resplendent in third place. However, a problem arises. Once again “the test” favored Phelps. We know this from the outcome: Phelps won. Acting as socialist leveler, the International Olympic Committee strips all three winners of their medals.

By this specious species of “libertarian” illogic, nobody was harmed because no one got a medal. 

So why is countering these fringe standpoints important? Simply because they may move into the most visible libertarian movement to date. 

Congressman Ron Paul has propelled libertarianism to political prominence. Many young people are being brought into freedom’s fold. The young are especially susceptible to the fantasies and follies of the old. Libertarians owe them the firmest foundation for freedom.

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