The Justice Argument Against Critical Theory
Welcome to the Lib Lib Report, i.e. the Liberal Libertarian Report, where we talk about news and current affairs from a liberal libertarian point of view. We aim for a practical pro-liberty politics encouraging things like free speech and free thought in the here and now, while looking for more libertarian solutions moving towards the future.
In this episode, I want to talk about how we can more effectively argue against critical theory, while holding the ground of justice. The arguments I will make here can apply to critical race theory or any other form of critical theory. Therefore, I am going to use the neutral descriptors ‘group A’ and ‘group B’ to make my argument.
To do this, we really need to dissect the core argument of critical theory opponents. Basically, the form of the argument is like this: the average outcomes of group A and group B are different. If you believe that the people in group A and group B are equally capable, then you must acknowledge that it is discrimination and oppression, including historical oppression, that has caused the difference. To not acknowledge that means that you either don’t care about oppression, or worse, you don’t actually believe that group A and group B are equal.
However, there is a major flaw with this argument. Even if we acknowledge historical disadvantages as important contributors to the inequality we observe, it doesn’t mean we should conclude that all of group A is privileged over group B, and the right way to address oppression is to pit group B against group A. For example, the better average outcomes in group A could be due to a minority of people from group A having had access to certain advantages that people in group B couldn’t access. However, the majority of people in group A also didn’t have access to these advantages. Moreover, while people in group B might have experienced a specific form of historical injustice, many in group A might have experienced other forms of historical injustice. Therefore, to label the whole group A as ‘privileged’ would be unfair, and to enact policies based on this view would be against justice. The fact is, if people in group B deserve redress for their historical oppression, so do many people in group A!
This doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about historical injustice. While I do acknowledge the importance of acknowledging historical circumstances, it would generally be unfair to consider people in groups or pseudo-classes according to immutable characteristics when we are doing that. Instead, we need to make the playing field as equal as possible for everyone. This is best done using universally applied policies. For example, a universal basic income (UBI) scheme would provide an economic safety net for everyone, and allow people the space to pursue opportunities in life. This would help in leveling the playing field for everyone disadvantaged by historical circumstances, regardless of race, gender or other immutable characteristics. It would help cancel out the historical injustice people suffer, regardless of demographics.
She is also the author of the Moral Libertarian Horizon books, which argue that liberalism is still the most moral and effective value system for Western democracies in the 21st century.