Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Libertarian Take on Discrimination

Posted by M. C. on November 29, 2022

Harvard and UNC should be free to discriminate to their hearts’ content on the basis of race or sex or whatever other criteria they choose.  But they should not see a red penny of any tax money or other statist privileges, since, under the libertarian legal code, there should be a full and complete separation of government and education.  If they want to discriminate, let them do so on their own dime.  Private people and fully private institutions should be free to discriminate all they wish.  That is what free association is all about.  But government is constitutionally forbidden to do any such thing.

Luis Rivera

By Walter E. Block

What with the Supreme Court’s hearing of the Students for Fair Admission case against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, racial discrimination is now in the news.  Like two contending (intellectual) armies, liberals and conservatives have staked out different positions.

In the view of those on the right side of the political economic spectrum, matters are simple and straightforward: discrimination is wrong.  Period.  Stated Supreme Court justice John Roberts: “The way to end racial discrimination is to end racial discrimination.”

The perspective of the left side of the aisle is a bit more complex: discrimination is justified, but only if it helps the downtrodden: women, blacks, the “differently abled,” gays, etc.  One gets the impression, reading between the lines (although none of them, yet, has come out and exactly said this) that if the freshman intake of Harvard and UNC entirely consisted of these groups, and thus entirely excluded white males and Asians of both sexes (unless they were handicapped, of course), that would be just fine and dandy.

What, in sharp contrast to both of these viewpoints, is the libertarian position on all of this?  It too is simple: discrimination, of whatever type or variety, should be legal.

Libertarianism is a theory of just law.  There are three foundational principles of this philosophy, which must be mentioned in the present context.  One, the non-aggression principle: No one has the right to threaten or use violence against anyone else; thus, murder, rape, theft, kidnapping should be illegal.  Two, property rights are based on initial homesteading of virgin territory, à la John Locke, and any subsequent voluntary interaction — “legitimate title transfer,” in the words of Robert Nozick, such as buying, selling, lending, gift-giving.  Three, free association: No one should be compelled to associate with anyone else.  This latter explains libertarian opposition to the 1964 so-called Civil Rights Act: Woolworth’s was obligated to serve customers it wished to exclude.

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