White Privilege: Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Knot

Ever since the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I have noticed the idea of “White Privilege” being put forth.  I think it has been around for a while, but reading reactions to the tragedy are what brought the white privilege idea into my consciousness.  I will use this explanation from Wikipedia as I discuss this issue.

Wikipedia explains White Privilege as follows:

White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.  According to McIntosh and Lee, whites in a society considered culturally a part of the Western World enjoy advantages that non-whites do not experience.[1] The term denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.[2] These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, andspeak freely.[1] The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts.[3] The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.

The gut reaction I have witnessed white people having to this idea (that is white people that are not dedicated progressives) is that it is an unproductive thing to discuss them as a race.  They also tend to feel their personal life experience is affected by so many variables, to make it seem if they have advantage due to the color of their skin is unfair stereotyping.

I think the white reaction to being stereotyped is due in large part in how we think we are supposed to act.  I think many of us grew up duly impressed by the words from Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech, where he states,  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  That is seriously powerful and it sounds correct with other moral teachings we receive.   Clearly, we cannot be sure of any conclusions about a person’s character just by glimpsing them.  Therefore, I think a large number of white people have taken Dr. King’s words seriously and imprinted them into our social make-up of how we are to be good people.

For the people that have internalized Dr. King’s dream, the idea of white privilege seems very at odds with what we believe to be the correct approach to race relations.  Here we want to judge people by their character, and we are suddenly being judged by our color.  I think a “What’s up with that?” response is completely predictable.  It is so predictable, I have wondered if this idea is meant to help drive animosity between races. Whether it is meant to keep us divided or if it is just misguided philosophizing, I think it is important to keep our end goals in mind in response to white privilege allegations.  As libertarians, we seek peace and peaceful cooperation as our end goal.  Spending time jumping up and down upset over being stereotyped is not the way to further our ends.  And that is a mischaracterization to someone objecting to being stereotyped as having white privilege, but let’s face it, that is how the progressives are going to characterize the objectors.

There is no reason to get defensive over, what appears to us, as stereotyping terminology.   Basically, what I get from the wiki passage is that it is just saying that being in the majority confers some advantages on you that minorities do not get.  It is like my left handed son living in a right handed world, to an extent.  Things are built for the majority and he has to adjust.  Of course, my son doesn’t have the mental aspect with which to deal because he doesn’t even know about the history of left hand suppression yet.    Let us not bury our head and deny that being white does bring us some advantages, just as coming from a middle class family, or simply being born in the United States brings us advantages.

The biggest issue or advantage that white people experience, in my mind, are law enforcement efforts.  Blacks are more likely to be arrested and convicted than whites.  I’ve seen this explained away as a higher percentage of racial minorities live in poverty, and living in poverty is a major indicator of criminal activity.  As a result, police stereotype based on statistics.  However, when we look at the numbers, it becomes clear that incarceration rates don’t match up with the percentage of people in poverty.  In his Economics and Philosophy blog, Shepherd writes,  “The 2010 population estimate was, rounding 308 million, which gives us 27.8 million whites, 10.5 million African Americans, 12.2 million Latinos, and 159 thousand Native Americans living in poverty.”  We can see that the whites living in poverty are more than double the number of African Americans living in poverty.  He continues later to relate that “Blacks comprise 37% of the incarcerated population and Whites only 32%”.  His numbers come directly from the US Department of Justice.  Clearly, there are disparate results for blacks and whites in the criminal justice system.

As long as this disparity exists, then we all have a problem.  Let us acknowledge that this is a problem.  Let us not get defensive about it.  Let us try to bridge this gap by suggesting liberty-minded ideas to deal with the disparate results, such as working toward ending drug prohibition and using social media to help hold police accountable when they have clearly acted inappropriately.

If we spend our time fighting against the idea of white privilege, then we have fallen into their game of pointing at each other, instead of pointing to the real problems.

Parenting Alex Lifeson

A recent article in Freeman call What is “Libertarian Parenting”, discusses how libertarian ideals do not transfer well to family life.  Horwitz makes the case that authoritative parenting is most likely to produce kids that “value and sustain liberty.”  My parenting style would qualify as authoritative as described in this piece.  Through personal experience and a lot of thought, I arrived at my parenting style, and I feel I am doing what is best for my kids.

The other day, I ran across this video of an exchange between a young Alex Lifeson and his parents that got me thinking about parenting again.



It appears to me that Alex Lifeson had some fairly permissive parents.  From the conversation, it sounds like his parents pretty much let him come and go as he pleased.  They obviously love him, and took the time to talk to him about using drugs and having a baby out of wedlock, but young Alex admits that he did these things despite their warnings.

This led me to wonder if there would there have ever been Rush if Alex Lifeson would have had authoritative parents?  Lifeson is immensely talented.  I think his parents even commented that he was talented during the exchange.   Would he have been able to explore and expand on his talent if he had to be home in bed by 10 o’clock every night?  Could that have waited until he was older or would his creativity been squashed by more rigid structure?

One thing that really impressed me about Alex as a young man was his discussion of what he wanted from life.  He knew.  Driving a big expensive car and a conventional job were not It for him.  He wanted to do what he enjoyed, play music.  He discussed with his parents just how he could make money from it at the beginning of the clip.  I think that is kinda awesome, to have something you love doing and to be able to make some money at it.

While I like that aspect of his personality, I’m troubled by the child out of wedlock and the apparent disassociation and animosity towards the child’s mother.  Perhaps if his parents had taken a stronger hand, that could have been avoided.   Teen parenthood, out of wedlock parenthood, is something I want my kids to avoid, and I will act accordingly to do my best to prevent it.  Kids are serious business, and actions that could lead to their creation should be looked upon with the most serious of attitudes.

Back to my questions.  Would Alex Lifeson become who he did and bring so much enjoyment to so many people had he had a stricter home life?  I guess that is not answerable without an alternate universe to observe.  I can see that a discussion of it would be very Monday morning quarterbacking.  With just this little glimpse, I don’t have much to go on exactly how the family worked.  Therefore I am not going to speculate on the Lifeson family anymore.  Instead, I will postulate how you can encourage creativity and talent development without letting your teens run wild.

I think probably the best way to approach your kids talents and aspirations is to first take an interest in them.  Then, as they pursue their interests, be by their side as they begin to negotiate the more adult world.  Let’s say, you do have an aspiring rock musician on your hands.  You would go to their shows, you would be kind and interact with the people with whom your kids are coming into contact.  At some point, you would want to back off, but it would be after those critical teen years.  Of course for that to occur, you would have to have a trusting relationship with your child.  If your children regard you poorly, they are far less likely to share their interests and aspirations and more likely to reject your involvement.


What is privilege?  Why is that word thrown around so much these days?

From Merriam-Webster here are some definitions:


: a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

: a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud

: the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society

:  a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor

:  such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office
What people mean when they say someone is privileged, I think, is that they are the recipient of benefits that other people are not.
 An example of privilege would be as follows. A white person would generally not think he was mistreated because of his race, when he has been on the receiving end of maltreatment.  A person of color may always wonder if maltreatment by a person of a different race was because of racism.  That is said to be a privilege for the white person that they never have to really think about their race.
Another example would be someone that comes from a loving family is said to have privilege.  There was a recent article titled “Does having a loving family constitute an unfair advantage?” where a couple of philosophers, Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse, think about how good parenting is very important to well adjusted adults, but at the same time creates social inequality for the children from not such good homes.  This is how they described their process:  ‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.
Swift and Brighouse don’t use the word privilege, that I noticed.  Instead they use the word advantage, which I think is a great synonym and a more accurate term for the phenomena that people seem to be discussing when they talk about privilege.
So why does it matter if some people experience privilege or advantages that their peers do not?  I think it is very important to people that seek an egalitarian society.  People that grow up with advantages of wealth, close knit families, intellectual stimulating environments, etc. tend to be more materially successful.  These kinds of things give them a jump start that their peers do not enjoy.  In Swift’s and Brighthouse’s case, they actually want to prohibit parents from certain activities because they believe it creates unfairness for other people’s children.
I’m a little perplexed by this line of thought.  Of course, I want to give my kids everything I can to encourage them to become successful adults.  What I mean by successful adults isn’t about being rich, though.  I want them to be able to rely on themselves so they don’t have to beg or borrow or live off the state.  I want them to find a fulfilling life path where they are happy in their work.  If they are happy, self-providing, loving people, then I will feel I have done my job as a parent.
I can’t stand it how they turn this around and make it sound like this is somehow conferring an unfair advantage on my kids.  This is what all parents should, at the very least, want for their progeny and try to achieve.  If they don’t do the things like reading to their kids, act lovingly, and provide a stable home, that is a problem with those people.  It is not a problem with the people that do!!
What these guys are suggesting is taking away private elite schooling from a parent’s arsenal in preparing their children for adulthood.  I have to imagine that the percent of children going to elite schools is minimal, so as to be a really arbitrary thing.  Banning elite schools isn’t going to stop those so inclined from hiring tutors to achieve the same objective.   Would these philosophers ban that as well?  And what about the home schoolers?  We, too, are trying to confer advantage upon our young through education.  I can’t get over the gall of these fellows to think they should be able to limit how much a parent can do for their children.
Hatchet, Axe & Saw

Privatizing Marriage: Do we need the state?

Shikha Dalmia at Reason Magazine writes that privatizing marriage is a terrible idea.  He thinks it will further the culture wars, because what if some guru decided to pronounce 19 people married or a consenting adult son & mother might get married.  This is silliness, because such people could act as if they were married with no approval from the state.  A license isn’t going to keep people from forming private unions which the majority might not think is appropriate.

He also points to that getting the state out of the marriage business would mean no more marriages by the justice of the peace.  He states, “This would mean that couples would be subjected to community norms, many of them regressive, without any exit option.”  He believes that “Just as property rights (at least in principle) establish the scope and limits of state power over an individual, marriage does something similar for couples. It basically establishes their right to jointly own property and inherit it from each other, keep and raise their children, and make medical decisions for the other when one is incapacitated.”
I think this is a weak argument.  Anyone can draw up a contract to jointly own property.   People that aren’t married raise children together all the time.  I recall encountering a number of couples through the years that chose to not get married, but live and raise children together.  There is no need to contractually work out every detail of a relationship in advance.  Couples have been cohabiting without a declaration of marriage since time immemorial.  Dalmia is worried about legal issues if a marriage breaks up.  It isn’t like there is not precedent to deal with these situations, as roughly 40% of children in the US are born out of wedlock.

I wonder if Dalmia is upset with all the havoc caused by the break-up of unmarried parents raising children.

Like Democracy? Embrace Free Markets

You know how the political system is dominated by two parties that do a horrible job representing average citizens interests?  That is not democracy.  Democracy is billed as this governmental system where the people have the power, not a group of elite rulers.  Yet what people call democracy is a system where we are ruled by a group of elites that can be very unresponsive to the desires of the people.  Recent examples of this are the Bail Outs during the financial crisis and ACA.  People were overwhelming against the bail-outs, yet those were passed because apparently the elites think they know what is better for the populace than the people that voted for them.  In the case of ACA, people hated it for different reasons, but still surveys said people didn’t want it.  Yet here we are with ObamaCare.  People didn’t get what they desired despite voting for people to represent them in the government.  It makes you think that democracy is a fiction.

Yet there could be democracy!  In the market place, you vote with your dollars by purchasing those things which you find most useful.  It is true, that you can’t purchase every thing your heart desires due to a limitation of resources.   We have to choose between competing demands, so we may not be able to go on vacation and build a new deck.  Yet we get to determine which is a priority for ourselves, and go for the priority.  Therefore, the results from voting with your dollars is much more satisfactory than representative democracy.  When I vote with my dollars, I can get a nice vacation or the food that I like or the technology that makes my life easier, etc.  I make the compromises with which I am most comfortable.

Let’s contrast that with state democracy.  The people that vote third party generally aren’t even going to have a voice at the table.  The people that vote for the two major parties have likely compromised some of what they would like by voting for them.  For instance, people against the drone war voted for Obama, the person waging it, because they felt he represented their interests better than Mitt Romney.  People that wanted to see ACA repealed voted for Mitt Romney, despite the fact he was not going to work to repeal it.  They go into the voting booth already compromised.  Even if they agreed with everything in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party platforms, they still face compromise as these two parties negotiate, so the individual dos not get to choose what issues they are willing to work a compromise.  Basically, even in a perfect representative democratic government, the individual has little control.

Enter voluntary activity.  If insurance or health care for all is the desired good, then that could be worked toward voluntarily.  Of course voluntary activity would have to be done at a local level, which is a problem for people with grand plans claiming health care is a human right.  I think this is a weird statement to say that the government needs to provide health care because it is a human right, since our government can only act to provide it with-in our territory.  What about all those places, developing countries, where basic health care is out of reach?  If we are to have grand plans to provide a certain level of health care for all, shouldn’t the entire human race be included?  I think the answer would be that we have no control over what other nations provide for their people, so we have to start smaller with our own country.   My view is that we don’t really have control of our own government, so we ought to start smaller with local voluntary solutions.  We ought to use our own dollars to vote for voluntary solutions in the free market.


Aristotle thinks there are natural slaves

Aristotle, in answering the question of whether or not slavery is natural or convention:

But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?

There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.

I guess I am pretty shocked by this statement.  I have always thought slavery a supreme evil.  It goes against the ideas I hold true, such as every person has the right to life, and therefore the right to administer their life as they best see fit.  If slavery is natural, then I don’t see how it could be natural for men to claim that all men have the right to administer their own lives.  I can’t square it.

However, it has occurred to me in the past that many people like to be ruled.  I am not sure if this is from social upbringings and what they were exposed to, or if it is a naturally human tendency.  I don’t know that there is a way to tease that out given the amount of history of social precedents where we are governed.  I can see also that there are people that don’t like to be ruled as well.  There are also areas where people accept rule and reject it in other areas.

Even if there are some people that are, by nature, marked out for subjection, as Aristotle asserts, there is no way to look into any given person’s mind and see if   it is a natural tendency or if it is how he was taught to think.  When we look at the individual, then, slavery cannot be considered a natural state, and therefore justified.  Every person should be free to be their own master, and if they so choose to be subservient to a master, they should be free to leave that circumstance at any time.

Reason Mag asks “Are the Unvaccinated Legally Responsible?”

A woman tragically dies from a measles infection which leads Ronald Bailey at Reason Magazine to ask “What legal responsibility should the unvaccinated individuals (or more likely their parents who refused inoculation) bear in these cases?”  What Mr Bailey appears to want us to consider, when thinking about this question, is the large number of people infected and the number of deaths before the measles vaccine was licensed.

This seems to me to look at the issue through the wrong lens.  It is a collective lens.   Mr. Bailey is encouraging us to look at vaccination through the frame work of how many people have not suffered through measles and death as a result of the vaccine.  It seems he wants us to consider that since vaccines have helped prevent so many people from getting sick, that somehow justifies compulsion.  Although, he isn’t outright calling for compulsion, if people are to be legally culpable for spreading disease by declining to vaccinate, that threat would be a form of legal compulsion.  Yet people (in general) do not vaccinate to prevent other people from getting sick. They vaccinate to prevent those diseases for themselves and their children.   If large swaths of people getting vaccinated does prevent the spread of those diseases, it does not mean that an individual is liable for another’s contraction of the disease if they happened to abstain from the vaccination. It simply means that the spread of disease can be reduced and it can be done so through voluntary action of individuals that choose to vaccinate because they want the benefits vaccines offer.

The question about legal repercussions is one based on collectivism, not individual rights.  By collectivism, I am referring to the idea that everyone should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease, and you could be held liable if you do not comply and get vaccinated and a disease is traced back to you.    Which means, Mr. Bailey’s question isn’t about the liberty of the individual.  His question is about if the collective should be able to force individuals to assimilate, although it speciously appeals to the individual based on a sad and unfortunate death.

I find this idea of the collective coercing individuals with the threat of legal repercussions to vaccinate to be at odds with personal liberty.  If people have a right to life, they therefore have a right to control what they do with their body.  Someone else’s right to life is independent of what you do to your body.  If someone else can be at fault for not preventing their own illness, and thus responsible for others contracting it, that means that there is no individual right to your own body.  If you have to take a medication for someone else’s benefit, you do not own your body.  The collective owns it.

I submit that there is no legal responsibility on the part of people that choose not to vaccinate.  The collective does not own an individual’s body.

Overcharging Investigations

This week I heard the DOJ is investigating airlines for possible collusion between airlines to keep prices high.  Tonight, the news said that Whole Foods was investigated for overcharging customers.  Apparently guilty, the CEO’s apologized, but claimed these instances were honest mistakes in weighing and marking produce.

I’m just shaking my head that resources are allocated on these kinds of investigations.  We don’t really need to be protected from pricing.  You look at a price, and determine whether or not the item in question is worth it to you.

Now I do get that there could be an element of fraud in the Whole Foods case if they are stating the weight of food is different from the actual weight.  It is just that food items are typically not that much money.  What the investigation revealed was “The overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.”  That doesn’t seem a material enough amount to pursue legally, in my opinion.  I mean, what are people going to do?  Form a class action to get back their ten bucks?

This seems like the type of thing that could easily be solved by media or people on social media advising people that they need to double check weights at Whole Foods.  Most grocery stores have scales readily available to customers.  There was no need for NY Consumer Affairs to get involved.


Rush: The Band, not Limbaugh

I am on a huge Rush kick right now.  I just can’t get enough.  I started listening to  them a couple of weeks ago, after pretty much ignoring them most my life.  How could I be so unaware of just how awesome Rush is?  The guys I knew in high school all listened to Rush.  My husband loves Rush, and he says Neil Peart is the best drummer ever.  Somehow, I was just not into them.  I know a ton of Rush songs just from listening to rock stations, but I was only hearing them without true appreciation.

What would lead me to start listening to a band I was well aware of, but never into? First, I heard Tom Woods talked about Rush, but still I dismissed them as a “guy thing”.    Then, I read a  Reason blog that mentioned how Rush wanted Rand Paul to quit quoting The Trees in his speeches, and commented that Neil Peart had gone through a Randian phase and how some of his lyrics were influenced by Ayn Rand. The libertarian lyric hook got me listening.  I love lyrics, especially ones that make sense and/or tell a story.  Rush generally make sense, add to that the utter rocking out of their music, and I am hooked.

I really dig the diversity of their lyrics.  There is fantasy, political commentary, life on the road, life as a star, love songs, and life advice.  I’ve only been listening to the stuff released in the 70’s and Moving Pictures.  I’ve yet to explore their later releases.  My two favorite songs currently are By-tor & the Snow Dog and Something for Nothing.  The musical battle in By-tor & the Snow Dog blows me away.  I am awed by the theme and intensity of Something for Nothing.

I know some people that can’t get into Rush because of Geddy Lee’s voice.  I get that it is different, but I don’t find it grating like other people.   Even as I had not been into Rush in the past, I did at least admire the intensity with which he sings. When he sings Peart’s lyrics, it comes across as genuine.  It is like he is Peart’s mouthpiece to the world.