As staunch supporters of the First Amendment, Libertarians are sometimes looked upon as supporters of hatred in our society. If we are so willing to allow for the free expression of ideas, beliefs, jokes, and any other form of expression, we must also be supporters of those who would express racist, intolerant, and all-around bigoted thoughts. However, being in favor of the natural right to free expression does not automatically translate to being in favor of hateful rhetoric. Quite the opposite as Libertarians typically prefer their racists in the open, where they can be seen, exposed, and challenged. Hence, the First Amendment.
But then how does one end hatred? Wouldn’t allowing racists, homophobes, and misogynists to continue to speak out only lead to endless debates, screaming matches, and the occasional violent flare-up? Not really. Most of the violence we have witnessed over the last few years is reactionary, based solely on an unwillingness to change hearts and minds through peaceful discussion. Some groups want to instigate violence and others are merely reluctant to find a peaceful means of reaching someone. It sounds counter-intuitive but making peace with those who hate others for arbitrary reasons puts the ball squarely in their court. In a world of truly free individuals, who pursue their ideal lives on their terms, the hateful will ultimately be left behind. I will allow a dear friend of mine to explain, paraphrasing as best I can.
Imagine that you have been gravely wounded, let’s call it a gunshot wound, to make it more urgent. You’re rolled into the ER with a paramedic attempting to keep your artery plugged with his fingers. As you’re gasping for air and looking around frantically, a nurse comes to your side as you’re prepped for surgery. She tells you, “You’re going to be okay. We have the best surgeon in the world here. Multiple degrees, twenty-five years of experience, performed thousands of these surgeries. To a great doctor, this is a flesh wound. To this doctor, this is a papercut. You’re in great hands, she’s the best there is.”
For those not paying attention and those not distracted by arbitrary characteristics, I’ll ask the question: at that moment, would you care that the doctor is a woman? Or would all you hear is the heartbeat in your ears and the comforting words of a nurse telling you that there is no one better suited for the task of saving your life than the individual scrubbing up? Probably the latter. To put it another way; if you are hanging from a cliff, screaming for help, and someone says, “Take my hand!”, are you going to even hesitate at the color of that hand? Or the accent or language of the Good Samaritan? Again, I would guess not. Human beings are fickle, but we are typically not as discerning when it matters.
Hatred is Fleeting
In a world in which everyone pursues their self-interests, it pays to be willing to accept help from all people, whether this comes in the form of a good employee, a customer or client, a tutor or coach, assistance from your neighbor, or a life-saving operation or hand. The free market is not only intended to benefit those who work to create value for other lives, thereby enriching the lives of those around them, but it also serves to punish those who would be so inclined as to express their hatred for others. A business that hangs a sign in their door that says “no blacks” or “no gays” or “no Jews,” does not deserve the business of those against whom they discriminate. Nor do they deserve the business of those who would find such discrimination appalling. Forcing them to accept money from those they hate only serves to protect their enterprise while forcing their skin-deep hatred down, where it will fester and eventually explode.
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.” This is truer than George realized, I think (perhaps not, but I will still elaborate). A coward is one who will drop their principles for their own gain or self-preservation. The reality of the racists and bigots of this world is that there are very few, if any, who would not take the hand when it mattered most. What can be fleshed out of this is that, simply put, if it does not matter when it matters most, it certainly does not matter when it matters least. Arbitrary hatred is left meaningless when the chips are down.
A Free Market Society
The free market is not just a function of economics, but a study of human interaction, as Hayek was always quick to point out. Hatred is not beneficial in either the short or long term. Not only does hate fail to provide benefit, but it can also bring disaster to such individuals. When a free marketeer is asked what to do when an industry is failing, the response is almost always, “Let it fail.” There is probably a good reason for its failure, whether a better product has come along to replace it (creative destruction), poor management or embezzlement (fraud/theft), the public no longer desires such an industry (consumer choice), or the industry has fallen into disrepute (again, consumer choice). Peace and love or peace and tolerance, at a minimum, is far more beneficial to those seeking to enrich their lives, whether financially or socially, and is by far more sustainable.
So how do Libertarians ultimately answer the question of ending hatred? We challenge the prejudices of others, calling for debate. We choose not to associate with those whose views we cannot tolerate. Above all else, we offer our hand, as any human being would do. If such a hateful person is willing to accept the hand or the doctor or the neighbor when it matters most, that moment will eat at their heart until there is no hatred left. However, should a Libertarian encounter the outlier so blinded by such meaningless emotions that they cannot stomach the thought of taking the hand that is a slightly darker shade than their own, we let them fall. We let them fall, and we let nature take its course. The world swallows whole those who would hate their brother; if our aid is refused, we will watch them meet their own end.