Boaz: Calling for Limited Government is Not Racist

I read this execrable NYT op-ed by Paul Krugman today and just didn't have the stamina to tackle it; sometimes it's just too much, ya know? Luckily, David Boaz at CATO did. He starts off nailing the fundamental issue:
Some people on the left can’t see any excuse for opposition to collectivism except racism. (Which is, of course, as Ayn Rand said, “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”) [link in original]
Then he quotes someone who calls the Obama/Joker poster racist because it uses the "urban" makeup from the Heath Ledger version instead of the "urbane" makeup of Jack Nicholson's version, saying it plays on racial fears. WHAT?! "Urban" Joker makeup? Boaz appropriately says such a view is "ridiculous."

He uses as an example some criticism of a 1999 book by Cass Sunstein called The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes, making the parenthetical aside, "(and you wonder why Obama chose him?)." The quoted author, Tom Palmer, portrays Sunstein's style of argument perfectly:
[I]mmediately after gallantly conceding that ‘‘Many critics of the regulatory-welfare state are in perfectly good faith’’ they turn around to tar all critics of the welfare state with the charge of racism: "...There are many possible answers, but inherited biases — including racial prejudice, conscious and unconscious — probably play a role. Indeed, the claim that the only real liberties are the rights of property and contract can sometimes verge on a form of white separatism."
And in the closing paragraphs Boaz states the case clearly:
The classical liberal ideas of individualism, individual rights, property rights, “negative liberties,” and limited government date back hundreds, even thousands, of years. They find their roots in the Greek and Hebrew conceptions of the higher law, the Scholastic thinkers, the Levellers’ ideas of self-ownership and natural rights, the political theory of John Locke, the economic analysis of Adam Smith, and the political institutions of the American Founding. To suggest that the case for freedom and limited government — or the application of that theory to contemporary proposals for the expansion of government — must be attributable to racism is uncharitable, ahistorical, thoughtless, and indeed contemptible.

It cannot be the case that every parody of a president who happens to be black is racist. [bold added, links dropped]
And finally, he notes some significant cracks in the dike:
The good news for advocates of limited government is that our opponents are displaying a striking lack of confidence in the actual arguments for their proposals. If they thought they could win a debate on nationalizing health care, or running trillion-dollar deficits, they wouldn’t need to reach for such smears. [bold added]

Definitely read his whole article, The Boys Who Cried “Racist”.


madmax said...


Thanks for this post. The subject of racism/racialism interests me. I have followed a small subset of Paleo-Conservatives who call themselves "racialists" for over a year now. They do oppose the welfare-state and socialism by arguing for white separatism and white nationalism. They base a lot of this on IQ scores and criminal statistics and they say that the West can only be saved by becoming exclusively white.

But this racialist movement is very small and it in no way represents the dominant strain of thought on the Right (however that is defined today). But the Left does repeatedly argue that to oppose socialism / welfare-statism is to be racist. I think this is because their dominant worldview is altruism driven egalitarianism. So, since everyone must be equal in possessions (or damn close to it) and since - for whatever set of reasons - blacks and hispanics tend to occupy the lower income levels and commit the majority of crimes statistically then the conclusion that the Left draws is that unequal conditions and unequal levels of wealth must mean racial injustice. This fits their worldview.

If there were only whites in the country the Left would do the same thing but only along class or gender lines (which they do anyway). But the Left uses the lower economic conditions of minorities (Asians excluded) to advance the cause of socialism and thus their power. Its a vicious thing they are doing and of course it is extremely damaging to the very minorities they are claiming to help.

Just thinking about it, I constantly marvel at how vicious the left is. They keep blacks poor by advancing the welfare state and public education thus depriving blacks the freedom necessary to advance themselves. They keep them living as dependents which means they put blacks in the role of perpetual child that needs to beg for their daily bread. Plus they put whites in the role of guilt-ridden parent. This is the best way possible to create a climate of *hatred* between the races. Then the left keeps inner city blacks uneducated (indeed barely literate) through public education. Then they stir them up by inculcating a spirit of entitlement and black rage against whites. I can only conclude by saying that while the conservatives are for the most part a bunch of ignorant mystics, the left is totally *DEPRAVED* and evil. Look into the eyes of a committed leftist and you are staring into the face of a would-be monster.

C. August said...

Madmax, sorry for missing this comment for so long.

I agree with you about the bared fangs of the Left. There is certainly something more vicious about their brand of altruism/collectivism right now. Perhaps it boils down to their nihilism? Maybe at the core, they're all The Joker, wanting to "see the world burn?" Of course this is a gross generalization.

But upon further thought, if we were living under a Christian theocracy, like, say, during the Spanish Inquisition, we'd be talking about the horrific viciousness of the Catholics (if they hadn't tortured us to death yet). It's a bit of a stretch because it was so long ago, but I think one could classify them as "conservative" and they were definitely ignorant mystics. So, we're left with the fact that the mystic/altruist can be just as vicious.

The common denominator is altruism. When man is but a tool for the satisfaction of the needs of others, it doesn't seem to matter whether Atilla or the Witch Doctor is in power.

One other thing that interested me about your comment was that you said you "have followed a small subset of ... 'racialists' for over a year now." Are you just keeping an eye on it because it seems to have the potential to become a threat sometime down the line? Say, if the country lashes out against the Left and rather than embracing individual rights, swings to the Christian theocracy side of things?

madmax said...


Excellent point about the mystic/altruists. Yes, the Medievalists would be considered "conservatives" and they were every bit as vicious as today's leftists. More so actually because there wasn't the Enlightenment elements of a semi-free culture to restrain them as with today's left. Although if we say that the Nazis and Communists were consistent leftists (which they were) then it would be a tie as to the most ruthless in the battle between mystic-altruists and skeptic/materialist altruists. Bottom line, as you point out, altruism taken seriously is a killer.

Regarding the racialists, yes I am keeping an eye on it for the reasons you state. It seems to me that there is a very pronounced anti-white racist element to the left and that they are doing their best to stir up a class war and a race war. I fear that the racialists will be considered as "freedom fighters" by the unwary as outside of Objectivists they are the only ones challenging egalitarianism. Of course they want to replace it with racist discrimination. If the welfare state should explode and social chaos ensue, the old-school racists could become a cultural force. Of how great a magnitude I don't know.

As for them being Christian theocrats, well its interesting, some are some aren't. Some are actually pagan materialists that hate Christianity as they hate Judaism because they view it as a non-white religion which replaced the legitimate pagan religions of the white, European peoples. And these types base their calls for white nationalism on IQ scores and evolutionary arguments and the like. To me, they're even more dangerous than the Christian ones as they claim science is on their side.

And lastly I'll say that many of the secular conservatives, while not racialists, still use the same materialist arguments that the racialists do. If you go to any secular right blog you will find evolution based arguments that will say that people are best when they are in traditional social arrangements and the oldest social arrangements are along racial grounds; ie "the White European Peoples". So, in a nutshell, the racialist phenomenon concerns me. Objectivism has not addressed it yet and it may never do so explicitly. But if racialism should grow in popularity, I think it may have to.

Thanks for your reply.