Libertarianism is a controversial political philosophy with many different perceptions and interpretations. Overall, the objective of Libertarianism, as an ethos, is to combat authoritarianism and minimize the state’s involvement in arenas, like markets, that it wasn’t designed to be involved with.
In other words ‘more individual liberty, less government’.
Libertarianism itself was not constructed to be a vehicle for racial oppression, segregation or racism in general, but it is often criticized (by both the left and the right) as being an “insidious pipeline to fringe groups such as the ‘alt-right’.”
With any philosophy, there’s a risk that it can be misinterpreted and utilized for purposes other than intended. Much like how Hitler cherry-picked Nietzsche’s published and unpublished works to fortify Nazi agenda.
See Also: How the Nazis Hijacked Nietzsche
Similarly, this is what happens with political philosophies like Libertarianism. It gets hijacked.
One principle of Libertarianism that is often adopted and emphasized by racists is ‘the Freedom of Association’.
Forbes magazine contributor Chris Ladd dubs the dilemma as ‘The Libertarian Civil Rights Paradox‘.
Many Libertarians have taken a pragmatic shift and began accepting the laws outlined in the Civil Rights act of 1964, which utilizes, at the federal level, government intervention to make it unlawful for businesses providing public accommodations (Lodging, Food, Water etc.) to discriminate against anyone based on race, sex, disability etc.
Other Libertarians argue that, just because the social outcomes are favorable, the government shouldn’t force a business to contract labor or provide services to anyone. They argue the business owner should freely associate, do business with whom they choose, and allow free market forces to dictate outcomes.
Arguments proposed by philosophers like Milton Friedman suggest that, through the free market, a business that chooses to discriminate on grounds of race or sex will suffer as a result. The businesses who take a more egalitarian approach, they argue, will succeed. Thus, the market will force out racists organically without government intervention.
A rebuttal to that argument is that there is little evidence to support the real-world probability of the free market’s success in expelling racists from holding positions in private business, particularly in the mid 20th century when Civil Rights legislation was first being drafted.
Some argue the assumption of the free market’s ability to weed out racists relies on viewing society through the eyes of progress saw after enacting civil rights legislation. In short, it is argued, that if the government never stepped in, people would’ve never changed.
As such, some Libertarians (in this case ‘classical liberals’) summoned the basic principle of increasing the liberty of the people , and conceded that civil rights legislation acted against the tyranny of the majority, and thus increased liberty overall, even though it was through government intervention.
The insider debate over the proper role of government in reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has spawned a revival of the question, one that has spilled out into the mainstream. (Particularly post 2016 when the LP saw an increase of attention.)
With a greater field of observation, the Libertarian party and Libertarianism in general has been called into question by skeptics, who see the disproportionate racist adherence as alarming.
It would be easier to argue that the Libertarian objective was to fortify racism in the country if the ‘Freedom of Association’ was the only proposed principle.
However, Libertarianism as a whole is not so inviting to hate groups, white nationalists, racial separatists or racists in general. In fact, according to Libertarian writer James Taylor, you simply cannot be a racist and a Libertarian simultaneously.
The overarching framework of Libertarianism opposes acts of aggression against racial minorities, women, the LGBT community, and other marginalized groups. Ideas like racial equality, liberal feminism (women’s rights), marriage equality, and other social justice issues (that are often criticized by ultra-conservatives) are all consistent with true Libertarian philosophy.
While some Libertarians’ stance against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may be controversial and criticized, it does not inherently mean that they themselves advocate discrimination. It’s unfair to assume that they do.
There are some aspects to Libertarianism that some would deem uncomfortable, hence its overall low participation ratings, but it is most certainly not a racist political philosophy.