OPINION – A good test of a person’s commitment to the ideal of personal liberty is found in how willing he or she is to speak out in its defense. Of course, this is easy when we’re looking out for our own self interests.
A more definitive test of our personal integrity regarding liberty is found in the willingness to speak out in the defense of others whose rights are being trampled or ignored.
This is particularly true when it comes to defending the rights of those who are marginalized.
When government is abusive to racial minorities, polygamists, hippies, homeschoolers, consumers of raw milk, peaceful protestors, or any other subset of society, do we condemn the abuse or cheer the fact that it’s happening to them and not us?
Writer Dan Sanchez said that turning a blind eye to the mistreatment or oppression of others ensures that eventually our own rights will be subject to abuse when the police state is turned on its enablers.
Justice Felix Frankfurter explained why this is so; he said:
It is easy to make light of insistence on scrupulous regard for the safeguards of civil liberties when invoked on behalf of the unworthy. It is too easy. History bears testimony that by such disregard are the rights of liberty extinguished, heedlessly at first, then stealthily, and brazenly in the end.
If we truly believe that each person possesses natural rights that are universal, this shouldn’t be a problem. But the sanctity of individual rights has fallen out of fashion as an insidious form of collectivism has taken root in our society.
It’s called identity politics, and it is best described as using the power of government to further the cause of group-based movements that purport to represent the interests of a specific group rather than those relating to all members of society. Under this model, we are encouraged to divide ourselves by identity into groups based upon ethnicity, sex, religion, class, sexuality, or some other trait.
Past examples of oppression are often cited as the justification for government policies favoring one group over another.
An example of how this collectivist worldview undermines the sanctity of individual rights can be seen in the exercise of free speech.
Wendy McElroy, author and editor of ifeminists.com, wrote in an article for LewRockwell.com:
A woman benefits from the protection of free speech no less than a man does. Arguably, a history of oppression makes freedom of speech more personally important to a woman; it is part of what will allow her to rise through education and merit.
By contrast, identity politics says that women and men do not share a similar interest in freedom of speech. For example, if a man expresses sexist views, he is said to “silence” women and, so, his speech should be restrained through policies such as sexual harassment laws or campus speech codes. Thus, freedom of speech is converted from a human right into a tool of oppression that must be blunted by force.
The premise upon which identity politics is based is that all of the various groups or classes are antagonistic to the interests of the others. We are told that whites are inherently against blacks, men are against women, and the able-bodied are against the interests of the disabled.
This encourages each group to fight for its own government-granted recognition – wrongly referred to as rights – that the group claims it deserves and wants to acquire by force of law.
Rather than protecting the rights of all individuals equally, our individual rights now become subject to the approval of the collective based on which identity or group we are assigned. Invariably, public policy comes to favor some groups while punishing others with the approval of the those who hold the right identity.
Identity politics also serves as a highly effective tool to smear and marginalize those who question the policy makers by assigning an identity like “secessionist” or “misogynist” or “anti-Semite.” A shockingly high number of intelligent people buy into this deception.
Individual liberty is always superior to collectivism. Libertarian Leonard E. Read wrote:
The right way is the greatest gratifier of human wishes ever come upon — when allowed to operate. It is as morally sound as the Golden Rule. It is the way of willing exchange, of common consent, of self-responsibility, of open opportunity. It respects the right of each to the product of his own labor. It limits the police force to keeping the peace. It is the way of the free market, private property, limited government. On its banner is emblazoned Individual Liberty.
Identity politics is where many of our tolerance totalitarians inadvertently reveal their true colors through an insatiable lust to control others via the state.
The fact that their ideals must be imposed by force rather than voluntarily embraced by choice speaks volumes as to which is more compatible with liberty.
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