individualism ≠ egalitarianism

Elsewhere someone wrote that libertarians cannot be racist or sexist because our defining tenets include individualism. I responded:

As I understand it, individualism is the moral principle that consent can be given, and obligation incurred, only by the acts of an individual, not by membership in a group (definition made up on the spot, probably flawed). I’m not convinced that it is incompatible with racism or sexism. Enlightened people reject racism/sexism because the weight of evidence says that psychological differences within groups outweigh differences between groups, not because individualism decrees a priori that it must be so.

Have I missed something?

I intentionally glossed over the distinction between personal groupism (treating members of the outgroup differently in one’s private capacity) and institutional groupism (e.g. legal disabilities), partly because the context didn’t specify.

It will be interesting to see whether egalitarian legal principles can survive contact with or creation of

  • autonomous artificial intelligences that are more capable than humans in some ways but permanently childlike in other ways;
  • uplifted animals;
  • aliens in whom the concept of ‘individual’ is fuzzy, such as Didonians (Anderson, The Rebel Worlds), Boaty-Bits (Pohl & Williamson, Farthest Star) and Tines (Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep et seq.).

3 thoughts on “individualism ≠ egalitarianism

  1. David D. Friedman Post author

    I disagree with the way you seem to be using “racism” and “sexism.” Suppose it were true, in some case, that with regard to some important characteristics the average difference between male and female was large compared to the variation within each group. Would someone who held that true belief be a sexist? Suppose it was not true, but someone had good (but mistaken) reasons for thinking it was?

    I would restrict “racist” to someone who hates or despises people because of their race, not to someone who holds factual opinions, which might be true or false, about racial differences, and similarly for “sexist.” Otherwise the term becomes a way of suppressing rational argument–of dismissing certain beliefs as wicked, whether or not true.

  2. Anton Post author

    Doesn’t despise imply a factual opinion (such as about the other’s moral character)? Seems to me that racists/sexists are necessarily a subset of believers that important differences exist.

    On another hand, I prefer (if I had my druthers) to keep Plergbistanis out of my shop because they’re always whistling music of a style that irritates me. I don’t despise them for it; I’m aware that the issue is my own taste (which is not universally shared by people otherwise like me) but I’m not motivated to make the effort to learn to like the stuff. Am I racist toward Plergbistanis or not?

  3. Temeka

    Singing worѕhip songs is god howdver that?s not the one solutіon to worshіp.?

    Daddy said, podsibly to make Larгy stop singing.
    ?There are many wayts to worship.

    Here iis my web site; Jack (Temeka)


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