What about discrimination laws?

Anarcho-IchthusDiscrimination laws—as applied to private parties—play on the fear that, without government to keep people from favoring one person or group over another, social progress would be set back by decades. They fear that protected groups would be excluded from jobs, schools, neighborhoods and places of business.

The criteria that prompt inclusion in the so-called “protected classes” are not just the old “race, creed and color” divisions. Discrimination laws continue to create more privileged categories based on national origin, age, sex, family composition, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity, and even a person’s genetic code.
These laws proliferate in a downward spiral of ridiculousness, and there is a long way to fall. Recently the government of Greece added to its definition of “disabled” persons. The list now includes the categories of pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, sadomasochists, pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs. It would be pointless trying to guess where this fire will jump next, for imagination simply fails.

discriminateMany discrimination laws seem to be advocated more for political advantage or to push a social agenda that many find abhorrent, but no one disagrees with the underlying truth that people ought to be treated with justice and dignity.

Like every law that attempts to force people to be nice to one another, discrimination laws are doomed to fail at anything but a superficial level. We may prevent or punish direct harm, but people are not made compassionate by threats of violence. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said:

It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me.

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Western Michigan University speech (1963)

The Church recognizes both the Christian duty to treat other people with respect and the inability of government to create that result by force of law:

Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.” No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a “neighbor,” a brother.

~ Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶ 1931

When considering modern anti-discrimination laws, we should be mindful that the discrimination laws of an earlier era—the malignant Jim Crow laws—were also brought to us by government: racial segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains, segregation of the military, public schools, public places, and public transportation. All of it deservedly came to an end in the sixties.

If equality under the law had been the end of it, the wounds of that injustice might have begun to heal by now, but the government hardly missed a beat in moving from segregation into a quota system and affirmative action, thereby enshrining the evil it sought to eliminate.

Discrimination laws are counterproductive. The one place that favoring one person over another ought to be forbidden is in government. Unfortunately government at its core is an institution hopelessly dedicated to favoring one man over another; taking from one and giving to another.

On the other hand, attempting to punish discrimination by private individuals is a futile exercise that does more harm than good. With the expansion of protected classes of workers, employers must be careful in hiring. Not many managers are likely to hire a person who may not work out when they know that the applicant cannot be fired without raising the possibility of a discrimination lawsuit.

Of course no employer would admit—and we will never know—how many pregnant women, blacks or old guys like me might have been given jobs if it were not for discrimination laws that make us radioactive.

The government could not have designed a better system to keep hatreds alive. If the federal government had stopped with the repeal of earlier discrimination laws, there was a chance that old hurts would heal and new resentments would not be fed, but government cannot leave well enough alone. Equality under the law might have been as simple as letting everyone stand up and be free, but within the logic of government, equality under the law is achieved just as well when every man is trampled as when every man is free.

[excerpted from Free is Beautiful]

Don't tread on your neighbor

What is a libertarian?

Anarcho-Ichthus-favSometimes it makes my head hurt to think about the labels used by libertarians. I am a libertarian. By that, I mean I oppose the initiation of violence by anyone, including the government.

When it comes to achieving this objective, I agree with Jeffrey Tucker, who wrote last spring:

“I’m interested in only one thing: progressive reductions of the role of all government power in people’s lives all the way to zero if possible. Whatever brings that about, in whatever sector it happens, and whether it happens slowly by steps or all in one fell swoop, I’m for it. I really don’t care who or what makes a contribution to this end or how it comes about, so long as it is ethical and it actually achieves the aim of human liberation, the mother of all progress, order, and higher civilization.”


Of course, we can make common cause with small-government conservatives, constitutionalists or the many varieties of minarchists (meaning “minimal rule”), but ultimately, their political goals are only pit stops along the way to a free society.

Other libertarians prefer to describe themselves as “voluntaryists,” a perfectly good term used to convey the idea that people’s interactions should be voluntary and free of government force. It’s too bad most people–quite understandably–confuse voluntaryism with with volunteerism.


Other libertarians go all out and proudly embrace the “anarchist” label, ignoring all the negative, socialist and violent associations that have been attached to that name for over a century. If that was the only problem with the term “anarchism” it might be redeemed, but there are other difficulties. Old terms are often worth salvaging, but what makes anarchism particularly prickly are the many socialists, communists and other unredeemed statists that cluster like barnacles to the ship of anarchy. One can readily get a feel for this group at places like Reddit, here and here.

They seem to understand that the word anarchism must connect with the idea of a stateless society, but they have no shame in kicking the state out the front door while leaving the back gate open for it. They want to get rid of the government and its “racist prisons and war,” and its union-busting, crony capitalism, patented GMO crops and whatever else they hate about the state. [See example: here.]

On the other hand, this variety of anarchist wants the state to break up shareholder-owned businesses and then subsidize worker buy-outs; it wants state power to weigh in on the side of labor over employers, and wants the post office to subsidize “journals of opinion.”

We quickly realize that this sort of anarchist is just a statist who hopes that someday he will get to hold the whip. It seems anarchism is a slippery brand. Perhaps it can be redeemed. Gerard Casey makes a close approach in his new book “Libertarian Anarchism: Against the State.


Another group that tries to play nice with the left side of the aisle calls themselves–not inappropriately– “Left Libertarians.” They tend toward distrust of all institutions (not just government), but they vary as to their rejection of using government-like force to achieve their objectives. Some of them are really just looking to hold the whip.

Some of these left-libertarians call themselves “bleeding heart libertarians.” They favor a society that frees the market and empowers the poor by removing all state subsidies, protections and grants of monopoly power that now favor some people over others. The idea is that a level playing field (a “freed” market) will tip the equilibrium back toward the little guy, without using government force to correct the inequities. I find the idea appealing myself. Some left-libertarians of this type would be Gary Chartier and Roderick Long.

Recognizing a libertarian

When it comes to figuring out who is a libertarian, I have found the simplest course is to ask if a person wants to use the government to push me around. Will he or she leave me alone or will they force me to pay for their pet project? A person shows his libertarian chops–not when he want to legalize drugs because he is a dopehead–but when he wants to legalize drugs, even while disapproving of drug use.


peace signThere is one interesting group which libertarians can live with peacefully, despite significant differences. These are the pacifists, by which I mean people who reject all violence, even violence used in self-defense or the defense of others.

Sure, there are some people who call themselves pacifists, but what they mean by their “pacifism” is that they do not like war. Welcome to the club.

Other “pacifists” will not use force in self-defense, but will call on others for their defense. Let us set aside these half-baked pacifists and consider pacifists like Gandhi, Tolstoy, Ammon Hennacy or the Amish. These are perfectly good allies for libertarians.

While a libertarian does not believe that anyone (or any group) may initiate violence against another, the pacifist goes one step further. She not only refuses to aggress against another person, she refuses to use violence to respond to aggression upon herself or others.

For such a person, it follows that if she refuses to support her own government in fighting against an enemy, then surely the pacifist will not lend support to a government that uses–or threatens to use–violence against me, her neighbor. She is going to leave me alone and that is what I want.

And I will leave her alone. I may ask her to join me in protecting our neighborhood from an invader and she will refuse. As a libertarian, I have no right to force her to fight for me; no right to extort money from her for my cause. Each of us respects the other’s right to live in peace.

As I see it, not every libertarian is a pacifist, but every pacifist must be a libertarian.


How to recognize an unjust law.

Unjust lawThe initiation of violence is the very the essence of government. No one disputes this fact. It is practically the definition of the modern state.

“What essentially sets a nation-state apart,” declared candidate Barack Obama, is that it has a “monopoly on violence.”

Since the state is known for its use of violence to enforce its decrees, Catholics need to go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 1930, to understand why governments use violence to compel obedience:

1930. Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. . . .

What are these human rights? The right to private property. CCC 2304. A worker’s right to spend his earnings however he chooses. Rerum Novarum 5. The principle purpose of the state is to protect these rights and the right to personal and collective security; that is, to promote the common good. CCC 1925.

The government that “flouts” the rights of people–an unjust government–can only obtain obedience to its laws by the use of violence.

Saint Thomas Aquinas explained that an unjust law is no law at all:

ThomasAquinas“As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) “that which is not just seems to be no law at all”: wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (91, 2, ad 2). Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law.” Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 95, Art. 2.

Since natural law is recognizable to most men, many succeed in conforming their conduct to much of it without the need for punishment. One way of measuring the “justness” of a law is to ask whether most people readily obey a law even without the fear of punishment. By this measure, laws against murder, theft and assault are just laws.

Contrast these laws–which are widely respected–with laws designed to control people who are not harming anyone (except perhaps themselves). These people may be unlicensed barbers, brewers, midwives or street vendors. Or they are guilty of questionable conduct: gamblers, smokers, drug users & sellers, drunks and adulterers. Most of these people would not kill you even if they could get away with it, but they freely commit these and other offenses, none of which harm anyone but themselves.

Some of these actions are widely considered to be immoral vices, while other conduct is prohibited for various political/regulatory reasons. People are more likely to commit such offenses when the law appears arbitrary, meddlesome and paternalistic; especially if the likelihood of being caught is low.

The one law that no one obeys voluntarily

There is one demand of government that almost no one (however virtuous they may be) would obey except under the threat of violence. That demand is the payment of taxes.

DonationImagine that the United States of America sends me an annual tax bill. It’s not really a bill. It’s just a notice telling me that my family’s share of the national budget is $7,325.00. The payment is purely voluntary, but I really ought to “do my part” and send in the money. Other than the social ostracism my failure might engender, there is no penalty for non-compliance.

Would anyone pay this bill? Perhaps we would, if: 1) we heartily approve of everything the government does; and 2) we think the government is so efficient that we are not motivated to look to competing services. Realistically, this is not going to happen. Those few people who claim they would pay such a “bill,” still want a proviso that everybody else would pay too. Of course, without the threat of violence, that is not going to happen either.

The benchmark of an unjust law is the degree to which the lawgiver must threaten or use violence to enforce obedience. A law which few will obey without the threat of force is–by this measure–an unjust law. Compulsory taxation is, therefore, unjust.

Libertarian Catholic

For more on violence and government:

Taxpayers as Good Samaritans? Not really.

What has the modern welfare state to do with charity? Almost nothing. The system seems almost designed to eliminate virtue, kindness or gratitude. The taxpayer gives not through the love of his neighbor, but through fear of the government. Charity is replaced with indignation, so that when confronted with other’s needs, we may ask–like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”–“Are there no poorhouses?”

Free is Beautiful AudioBook – Chapter Six: Liberty and Economic Regulation

Catholic libertarian

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Chapter Six: Liberty and
Economic Regulation

Price Controls | Price Gouging
Minimum Wage | Street Vending

Government-made monopolies
Home-based businesses