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How Libertarianism Can Deal With Discrimination

Everyone discriminates all of the time

What do I mean by this? We live in a world of scarcity and we act in an attempt to achieve our ends. The milk aisle in the supermarket has umpteen different kinds, and we regard them as different in regards to their value to us. And some people don’t drink milk at all. Everything around us is different in reality, and to each person subjectively everything is different as well. No one person views the world or themselves in the same way as another person. Incidentally, the fact that different people are different (and not equal) and have different skill sets is what enables the division of labor.

Back to milk: where does an individual’s valuation of a kind of milk come from? Humans often get in contact with different flavors. It’s almost impossible to have never tasted strawberry or vanilla if one lives in a first world country. Whole milk, skim milk, soy ‘milk’, all taste different as well, which one also learns through experience. Apart from how things taste subjectively, one learns through their life of theories of what is healthy for them; from family, friends, television, magazines, books, the internet. Each person then has to interpret and consider those different theories and make their own conclusions what to believe. Each person also has their own budgetary constraints and has to weigh all their purchasing decisions. So each person differentiates and discriminates on what they buy for their consumption.

The killing of ‘heretics’ and ‘witches’ is part of the history of Christianity. If a European was traveling to another part of the world to evangelize Christianity during those times, and the people there had heard of the killings, then they may regard that person with a higher suspicion than they would other strangers, and the Christian would find it more difficult to get around. This particular person may be part of a pacifist Christian subgroup, but at first sight others wouldn't know that and he would need to exert more energy and patience to earn their trust.

Nowadays when a European travels around Asia, for example, he may be positively discriminated against by taxi drivers. They will stop more often than for the general population and ask if he needs a ride. Europeans who are traveling are considered more likely to be in need of a ride and are likely to be able to afford it.

In our decisions to privately or commercially interact with other people, we differentiate and discriminate, because we believe it is in our interest.

The way a market society deals with the fact that different individuals are different is through formalizing personal reputation.

A résumé is an example of a formalized personal reputation. This concept can be much further expanded upon and utilized than how it exists today. One way how this mechanism is held back is that governments have by and large made it illegal for private institutions to keep track of criminal reputations. There are many privacy laws that make it difficult to keep track of people’s behavior; both bad and good, even if those people agree to it. The second part of this problem is that acting on this kind of information has been made difficult or impossible. First, governments have created large amounts of public property, which allows people to travel all over the place, no matter how bad their reputation is. Secondly, governments have turned private institutions such as storefronts and other businesses into quasi-public property; where equality laws prevent owners from disallowing others entry.

If it were legal to deal with reputational information, and roads and businesses were true private property, then an individual with a good reputation can be expected to be treated differently than a person with a bad reputation.

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    Niels van der Linden

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    Skills and ideas