Towards a Libertarian Theory of Anti-Racism

Michael Tanner
Show Date
December 27, 2020
Cato Institute
“But let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you - and why?” ― Walter E. Williams

I am eager to welcome the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner back to the show of ideas to discuss his recent blog post sketching the contours of a libertarian “anti-racist” policy agenda.

Last time he joined the show, we discussed his book The Inclusive Economy, which I called “the definitive book on libertarian anti-poverty policy.”

This Sunday, we will focus specifically on those laws which disproportionately harm minorities in the United States, and why a subtractive approach that leaves people “free to choose” is superior to new policies rife with unintended consequences. Tanner will explain why libertarians should embrace the banner of anti-racism, albeit by proposing alternative means to achieve it than the usual Social Justice Warrior’s approach.

I will also use the opportunity to celebrate the life of Walter E. Williams (1936-2020), the George Mason University economics professor, whose teaching brought clarity, wit and wisdom to bear on the subjects of social justice and anti-racism. Williams, perhaps more than any other figure, understood the market’s power to conquer artificial barriers like racial discrimination. Walter’s passing is huge loss for classical liberals, but his legacy lives on in the work of scholars like Michael Tanner.

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."