An update from Texas

I am still working from home. The weather has been spectacular here over the past few days. I immediately head outside with the kids at 5 o’clock. We just run around and play. The younger one likes throwing the football around in the grass. The older one likes to play with the ants in the cracks of the sidewalk.

I was looking forward to going to Oslo this fall, but I just received news that the event has been postponed. I’ve still got the inaugural family camping trip to Ouachita to plan, so that’s exciting.

The political landscape here is much different than it is on the west coast or in Austin. Authority is decentralized. There are more black and Mexican people here, and fewer other minorities (including Central Americans). I have more black friends now than I ever did in California. It’s odd. In some ways, the non-South is now more racist than the old South. I can’t put my finger on it but I swear it’s true. You can carry on a friendly conversation with anybody here, something that’s missing out west and up north.

My guess is that this has something to do with the fact that segregation was blatantly racist in the South during the Cold War, and Washington felt it had to do something about it in order to win friends (despots) abroad. The racism in the north and the west was less blatant, and as a result nothing has ever been done about it.

I mean, I didn’t grow up with any black people. Or Mexicans. There are tons of them in California, but they don’t live in white residential areas. Down south, at least in the parts of Texas I’ve lived in, this is not the case. There are still “sides” of town, but at least we all share the same town. There’s still racism here, but the racism is more honest than, say, the zoning found up north and out west. This familiarity between blacks, Mexicans, and whites is something you as an individual have to work hard on to achieve in the non-South.

The federal government forcibly dismantled Jim Crow. It did so only after it conveniently ignored the 14th Amendment for decades, but at least it finally did so. There’s a place for Washington down here in Texas. Decentralized tyrannies are still tyrannies. I just started watching Waco, the Netflix series. It’s good. Washington is responsible for the deaths of several innocent women and children. It’ll never pay the price. Those people were just too strange for the broad public to really give a shit.

It’s a never-ending balancing act: finding a comfortable equilibrium between federal, state, and local governance. The feds are better at protecting the descendants of slaves than the state and local governments. But the state and local governments are better at protecting non-conformists and religious extremists than the federal government.

Libertarianism hasn’t been able to shake its racist stigma yet. Sure, leftists call us racists all the time, but a kernal of truth is still a kernal of truth. I have witnessed several people I once respected sweep libertarianism’s ugly, recent past under the rug and then turn to grab their paycheck. Libertarian Inc. has its place in our society, but it won’t be effective so long as the racist label sticks with us. And the racist label won’t come off until we grapple with the brutal truth of what we’ve become comfortable with and what we will tolerate.

12 thoughts on “An update from Texas

  1. I have thought of myself as a libertarian since 1969. Was briefly “active” in the early 70’s, but have mostly kept to myself since then.

    So I must say it comes as something if a surprise to me that libertarianism (or libertarians if you prefer) are considered by anyone as having a racist tinge. I have never heard that before. And to be honest I find it profoundly stunning.

    The libertarianism with which I am familiar is rabidly individualist, and has no room for collectivist racist thought.

    Where has this idea that libertarians need to overcome a racist heritage originated?

    • Great question Dan.

      I agree with you that libertarianism is anti-racist, and profoundly so. It’s logic on the issue of race is one of the main reasons that I started calling myself a libertarian in the first place.

      Since you’ve been around for a while you know about the “redneck strategy” that was undertaken by a faction of libertarians back in the 1990s. Those guys wrote horrible things. They called African-Americans “animals.” The said gay people deserved to die from HIV/AIDS. And they built alliances with white supremacist groups in the name of the principle of secession (which gave a bad name to secession as well as liberty).

      Libertarians all over the United States have borne the costs of this strategy, while the individuals who wrote those things have been rewarded by the movement. In fact, the movement has protected them. It’s the ultimate free ride.

      They were never punished. They were never condemned. They continue to get invites to speaking events. They continue to direct content at Buzzfeed Libertarian sites (which is a fairly un-libertarian activity, but I digress). And libertarianism continues to be associated with racism in pop culture (Ron Swanson notwithstanding) and especially in the academy.

      Nobody has ever suggested you were a racist because of your libertarianism? I get it all the time, Dan. What part of the country are you in?

  2. Racism seems a destructive application of a normal human behavior … Can we really expect extirpation of something so politically useful in our now thoroughly politicized society?

    • We can try, Jack. I’d like live in a world where skin color is no different than eye color or hair color. I’m trying to do that by keeping the nose of my own quadrant of the political scene clean.

  3. I’m from Oklahoma, Brandon. As I said I have kept mostly to myself. Any libertarian “learning” I have obtained has been strictly self taught. So, no, I am blissfully unaware of the redneck faction of which you speak.

    Don’t misunderstand, I have never been shy about publicly declaring my affection for libertarianism; I engage in debates on a daily basis. It’s hard to avoid in today’s political climate! But never once have I been accused of being associated with a racist philosophy. I guess I’ve been luckily living in a bubble!

    • Ah, I hope to someday reach that bubble Dan.

      I hope to someday reach Oklahoma, too!

      The Economist has a good piece up on libertarians and racism. The guys who pursued the redneck strategy did a thourough job. It’s hard to point out to non-libertarians that collectivism is racist rather than libertarianism when stuff like this is still floating around and not being condemned loudly by libertarians. (Indeed, in some way it’s being rewarded.)

      Chandran Kukathas pointed out in an unfortunately somewhat lesser-known article that Hayek’s liberalism was distinct from Rawlsian liberalism because it was not just internationalist but explicitly anti-nationalist. Hayek was anti-nationalist because the illiberal elements in Europe were based, by and large, on nationalism. In the United States, I would argue that libertarians need to be not just internationalists but anti-racists, since racism rather than nationalism is the illiberal element in our society.

  4. “In some ways, the non-South is now more racist than the old South. I can’t put my finger on it but I swear it’s true. ”

    This was my experience also. I grew up in Texas and never encountered any overt racist remarks or sentiments until I moved to Colorado for college. When I encountered them there, I was shocked, to be honest. That’s how out-of-my-experience it was.

    On “libertarianism’s ugly, recent past”, I’m like Dan Phillips. I have heard of it only because you and one or two others occasionally talk about it. I have been a libertarian since 1976, and never knew about the writings or whatever you’re talking about. I still don’t, actually. In terms of naming names, I have no idea who you’re talking about. Nor have I ever been accused of being a racist or heard the claim that libertarians are racists, other than in the standard way that seemingly all leftists think anyone who disagrees with them must be racist.

    • I agree, Dr Potts, that few libertarians have heard of libertarians being racist. The blind spot in regards to racism is so big that I consider it one of the two biggest problems within American libertarianism today (along with non-interventionism/unilateralism as a foreign policy).

      Here’s the Economist naming names and explaining the redneck strategy.

      The more I’ve dug into this recently, the more important it becomes. Chandran Kukathas pointed out in an unfortunately somewhat lesser-known article that Hayek’s liberalism was distinct from Rawlsian liberalism because it was not just internationalist but explicitly anti-nationalist. Hayek was anti-nationalist because the illiberal elements in Europe were based, by and large, on nationalism. In the United States, I would argue that libertarians need to be not just internationalists but anti-racists, since racism rather than nationalism is the illiberal element in our society.

      Libertarians have been tuning this problem out for a long time now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  5. With all due respect, Brandon, I think you are way over inflating the significance of an article published in a semi-obscure magazine from 12 years ago.

    I do hazily remember the “Ron Paul needs to apologize for associating himself with racists” so-called scandal now that you mention it. But that is so far down the memory rabbit hole as to be completely insignificant, IMO. I remember vaguely wondering what that was all about, never hearing about it again and forgetting it ever existed.

    I guess I do, indeed, live in a bubble. If you ever make it up to God’s Country, Oklahoma, look me up and I’ll buy you a beer!

    • I’ll hold you to that beer!

      I know libertarians have forgotten about the whole affair, but nobody else has. If people do remember libertarians, it will be for the racist stuff. And since nobody has had the balls to say anything about it (except me and Jacques, and Fabio Rojas), racism will continue to be what is associated with libertarians in pop culture.

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