Tag Archives: tolerance

Terror in Paris and Open Borders

My recent exchange with Bryan Caplan about tolerance (see here, here and here) suddenly seems terribly topical in light of events in France last month, where 12 people were killed in a murderous attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, by gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The attacks may strengthen anti-immigration parties in Europe, and they have provoked attacks against Muslims. They seem to lend support to the tolerance=>migration restrictions argument that I mentioned at the end of the last post in my back-and-forth with Caplan:

2. Tolerance => Migration restrictions. Tolerant moral and social values are a distinctive Western achievement which will be diluted if we let in foreigners from less tolerant cultures. So we should keep  most foreigners out.

Now, you don’t have to think tolerance, as a concept, does much useful work in ethical or political argument, to think this kind of intolerance is a big problem. In one sense, tolerance is beside the point: what France needs to do isn’t so much to promote tolerance as to prevent murder. Still, if intolerant attitudes were the motive for murder, promoting tolerance might promote public safety. But public safety would be equally promoted if intolerance were kept peaceful. And peaceful intolerance– scorn and ostracism– for the kinds of attitudes and views that lead to violent intolerance, might be an effective way of making such attitudes scarce.

My take on tolerance, Islam, and open borders may sound paradoxical. I view Islam as inherently, and perhaps incorrigibly, intolerant and violent. But I nonetheless believe that the West and the world generally should be much more open to Muslim immigrants. Why? Because even Muslims shouldn’t have to live under Muslim rule.

On Charlie Hebdo

The attackers were avenging the paper’s depictions of the prophet Muhammad, and most recently, a cartoon depicting two men kissing, one in Muslim dress and the other labeled “Charlie Hebdo,” with the slogan “Love is stronger than hate.” From a Muslim perspective, I suppose, the cartoon is pornographic as well as blasphemous. I agree with the attackers in considering it offensive, though obviously not in how they responded. It’s symptomatic of the contemporary West’s degradation of the old Christian virtue of love into mere sensuality, as well as of its obsession with homosexuality. And there is a bitter irony in a cartoon that pretends to proclaim love while deliberately insulting those for whom it is pretending to advocate love.

I found the pope’s remarks in the Philippines refreshing. “Killing in the name of God is wrong,” he said, but also that it is wrong to belittle someone’s religion, adding that if a friend “says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him.” I’m wary of the suggestion that violence can be an appropriate response to speech, but as a moral matter, we should have strong inhibitions against mocking what others hold sacred. If we do so– as God sometimes does in the Bible (or even more memorably, Elijah)– it should be with the loftiest of motives: to challenge evil powers, dispel myths, and save souls. But while I don’t think one should gratuitously offend Muslims by depicting Mohammed, serious criticism of Islam is another matter. We need more of it.

On Islam

It can be conceded, I suppose, that the Charlie Hebdo perpetrators don’t represent Islam: they went a bit further than most Muslims would. But the idea that Islam is a “religion of peace” is only wishful thinking; Sam Harris is closer to the truth. The advent of Islam ushered in a thousand years of tyranny in the lands the Arabs conquered, and as Rowley and I showed in a 2009 paper, there is a striking democracy deficit in the Muslim world to this day, especially in the historic heartland of Islam, the territories conquered by Islam before 800 AD. We found that there were no democracies at all in Islam’s historic heartland. Moreover, the correlation between GDP and democracy is reversed in Islam. In the non-Islamic world, higher GDP per capita is associated with a greater likelihood of democracy; in Islam, with a lesser likelihood. Islam’s freedom deficit is worse than its democracy deficit. The lack of religious freedom, in particular, is strikingly captured by the fact that apostasy is legally punishable in most Muslim countries, sometimes by death, which seems to have been the normal penalty for apostasy before the arrival of European colonialism.

Tolerance vs. freedom of conscience

I am not all that worried about Islam’s democracy deficit per se, since I regard democracy as a considerably overrated form of government. But democracy is, so to speak, overrated for a good reason, namely, that it is correlated with something much more important: freedom of conscience. But the freedom that Charlie Hebdo exercised, and that the terrorists violently cut short, is not a part of what I consider freedom of conscience.

There are a number of expressions which some hear as nearly synonymous with “tolerance,” but which, under closer scrutiny, vary in meaning, though they also overlap. “Freedom of speech” is a venerable phrase, but we don’t mean it literally. By what principle is it OK to prohibit perjury, false advertisement, inciting a crowd to violence, libel, and certain IP violations, if “freedom of speech” is sacrosanct? And on the other hand, how are Charlie Hedbo‘s cartoons protected by freedom of speech? “Freedom of thought” is very important but doesn’t demand enough: in a narrowly logical sense, a prisoner in chains is still free to think as he likes. “Free inquiry” is a noble ideal, in defense of which Socrates was martyred; but we want the freedom not only to inquire after truth, but to preach it when we find it. “Freedom of the press” makes the extension of free speech to printed material explicit; “freedom of expression” sounds vaguer but seems to cover all media.

“Freedom of religion” is narrower than freedom of speech, but includes elements of “free association” as well, e.g., the right to assemble with fellow believers to worship God. Problematically, “freedom of religion” crosses the line between speech and action, and it violates freedom of religion to be forced to bake a cake for a gay commitment ceremony even if you’re allowed to protest all the while that you don’t believe in it. It might also be a violation of freedom of religion to have to work on Sunday, or provide contraceptive coverage for one’s employees, or refrain from giving alcohol to children. Free speech sometimes crosses the speech/action divide, too, e.g., if people demand the right to conduct public protests– disrupting traffic, etc.– in the name of free speech.

My way through this confusion is to stress freedom of conscience as the key principle that explains all the others and defines their scope. Freedom of conscience is my right to obey conscience, to do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong. “Free speech,” “free press,” and “free expression” mean freedom to state the truth as I see it, in whatever medium is most expedient, to speak as conscience compels me to speak. But my conscience doesn’t necessarily deny to the government a say in what media are expedient. If, for example, all print media were prohibited for environmental reasons, “freedom of the press” in the literal sense seems clearly extinguished, but I would not regard that as a violation of freedom of conscience. “Freedom of religion” is of special importance because conscience obliges me to worship God, and more generally, for Christians, what religion commands and what conscience commands are essentially identical. “Freedom of association” requires not only that I be able to assemble with fellow believers to worship God, but also that I be able to collaborate with a team of bloggers to advocate open borders, because both of those activities arise from the demands of conscience; but it is not a violation of freedom of conscience, even if it is a curtailment of freedom of association, if I’m forbidden to found a company with a whites-only hiring policy.

I would regard an environmentalist prohibition of all print media as very foolish, and I’m skeptical about whether the government either has the right or is well-advised to prohibit workplace discrimination. But since such policies, even if unwise, do not violate freedom of conscience, I am relatively relaxed about them. But when freedom of conscience is violated, when the government commands someone to do what is wrong, or forbids someone to do what is right, a deep alienation occurs, and the social contract is shattered.

Patrick Henry’s ultimatum, “Give me liberty or give me death!” might have been a bit overwrought as a response to the mild misrule of King George III. But it is absolutely correct as a response to threats to freedom of conscience. A person who would surrender his freedom of conscience even in the face of certain death is, in the end, a person not worth knowing, a person whose actions and utterances have no real meaning, a person without value, except inasmuch as he might repent someday and become brave, become fully human, become real. Why trust a person’s utterances, when they are only a function of his circumstances? Society bribes us in all sorts of subtle ways to lie, if we’re willing to be bribed. Socrates and Jesus preferred death to denying the truth, to doing what is wrong. So should we all.

I have a tentative and vague preference for democracy over the alternatives. I have a firm, definite, and strong preference for market capitalism over the alternatives. But neither democracy nor market capitalism matters much relative to freedom of conscience. Any amount of unaccountable autocracy or needless and inefficient regulation is preferable to being forced by the state to do what one knows is wrong, or prohibited from doing what one knows is right.

In defense of Voltaire

Now, in Bryan Caplan’s recent dissent from the militant tolerance of Voltaire, I detect a reluctance to be drafted into fighting for freedom of the press as exercised by Charlie Hebdo, which I share:

If standing up for your own right to utter truth X is a grave mistake, why is standing up for someone else’s right to do the same any better?  Indeed, common sense morality says you have only modest obligations to help perfect strangers in dire need.  Why then should you assume a blanket obligation to die in defense of strangers’ rights to speak when they could easily remain silent?

But my reasons are a bit different. The conduct of Charlie Hebdo was gratuitously offensive. It certainly didn’t deserve death, but they didn’t deserve to be elevated to hero status by mass marches either, and it might, just possibly, be sensible for civilized societies to say that Charlie Hebdo kind of had it coming, and that protecting such useless, reckless, and vicious behavior isn’t the best use of scarce police resources. But when Caplan writes that…

Sure, you can devise hypotheticals where courting death by asserting the right to say X is an admirable choice.  Maybe standing up for the right to say X will, via your death, save many innocent lives, or replace an awful tyranny with something much better.  Maybe you only have ten minutes left to live, and want to go out with a noble bang.  Except in such unusual circumstances, however, throwing your life away to speak a few forbidden words seems not only imprudent, but wrong.  Any true friend would beg you to come to your senses and shut your piehole.

… he treats as odd “hypotheticals” what is really the normal situation of the courageous person speaking truth to power. Socrates and Jesus, the apostles, the Christian martyrs, and Martin Luther King all spoke truth to power and died for it. Just for that reason, their historical impact is wildly disproportionate to their numbers, and infinitely beneficent. For everyone who spoke truth to power and died for it, there are probably a hundred who spoke truth to power knowing that they might die for it, and where would the human race be without them? How much of the moral progress of mankind, in the end, is traceable to such people? Half? Nine-tenths? As the song says, “He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good, they die young.” Bryan Caplan calls himself (or at least invites others to call him) a “coward” at the end of the post, and says that “staying alive> asserting your own right to say truths.” A nation of such cowards is a nation of slaves.

The point Caplan is missing is that we all face a collective action problem, which is captured in (let’s call it) the Parable of the Playground. Suppose there are 50 Nerds in the playground, and 1 Bully. The Nerds are nice, tolerant, productive, independent-minded people who make the world a better place. The Bully is an intolerant, parasitic thug. Collectively, the Nerds are stronger than the Bully, but the Bully is stronger than any 1 Nerd alone. The Bully threatens to beat up any Nerd who speaks against him. If the Nerds think “staying alive > asserting your own right to say truths,” then no one will ever be able to tell the truth. But if the Nerds believe, with Voltaire, that “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” then as soon as the Bully enforces his rule against one Nerd, he’ll be challenged and defeated by them all. Such is the foundation of courage on which free societies are built.

So we should certainly be ready to fight for our own freedom of conscience and that of others; but what is the scope of this freedom? I have said that freedom of conscience is the freedom to do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong, but our knowledge of what is right and wrong must be fallible, since there is so much disagreement about it. So should freedom of conscience mean the freedom to do what is really right, or the freedom to do what we think is right? Here a balance must be struck: some accommodation of eccentric ideas of right and wrong is needed, but we can’t respect the freedom of conscience of the armed jihadist. It’s all manageable enough as long as there is a certain degree of right-minded consensus about what conscience demands, such as prevailed in 19th-century America, where almost everyone was a Christian of some sort. In today’s America, afflicted as it is with people who think it’s morally acceptable to force photographers to serve at gay commitment ceremonies, I have grave doubts about the sustainability of freedom of conscience.

On courage

And that is one reason why I’m relaxed about Muslim immigration: I’m less afraid of Muslim intolerance than of the home-grown sort. I’d much rather have occasional random terrorist attacks against the publishers of gratuitously offensive cartoons, than Swedish-style arrests of pastors for preaching against homosexuality. Doubtless, the Charlie Hebdo attackers wouldn’t like an outspoken Christian apologist and critic of Islam like myself. But I’m much less afraid of them than I am of the PC police and the rising LGBT state.

More importantly, though, I want freedom of conscience for Muslims, and I think they’re unlikely to get it in their home countries any time soon. If you believe, as I do, that Islam is a false religion, then you ought to be very concerned about the fact that hundreds of millions of people live in countries where they are forced to believe it, or pretend to believe it, on pain of losing civic rights or even their lives. While I’m an unapologetic supporter of the 2003 liberation of Iraq, I think it’s clear that the West can’t impose freedom, least of all religious freedom, on the Muslim world by force (even if we can and should overthrow the worst totalitarian regimes). For the foreseeable future, the path to full freedom of conscience for Muslims is emigration. The West should give them that chance, even if it involves some risk to ourselves.

And that is why I don’t believe Caplan’s confession that he’s a “coward.” He surely knows there are risks, risks to the freedom of speech which few take more advantage of than he does, in letting in tens or hundreds of millions of immigrants, but he still wants to do it. He’s got a comfortable and secure life, but he’s willing to jeopardize that for the sake of a reform that he knows would be a great leap forward for the liberty and flourishing of mankind as a whole. I call that courage. Meanwhile, the nativist cowards are in a panic to build the walls higher.

Open Borders editorial note: As described on our general blog and comments policies page: “The moral and intellectual responsibility for each blog post also lies with the individual author. Other bloggers are not responsible for the views expressed by any author in any individual blog post, and the views of bloggers expressed in individual blog posts should not be construed as views of the site per se.”

UPDATE: In addition to the comments here, you might also be interested in some discussion of this blog post in the comments on an Open Borders Action Group post about the blog post.

Related reading

Open borders and tolerance

This post builds on a previous post where I was critical of conflating open borders with other migration-related beliefs. If open borders doesn’t rely too heavily on migration-related beliefs, what does it rely on? In other words, why might one have a prior in favor of open borders? By prior here, I mean a strong inclination to accept a position somewhat resembling open borders while being (as of that point in time) ignorant of large chunks of pertinent evidence. I will draw on my personal experience and belief system to answer this. These are purely my personal views, and I strive here to elucidate rather than advocate.

My own belief in open borders does not arise from any particular “pro-migrant” beliefs. Migrants are human beings, just like non-migrants (contra James Donald). There may be some systematic differences due to selection effects (which could go in a pro- or anti- direction), and the nature of these differences is likely to change if migration policy changes significantly. Ultimately, however, these differences aren’t what’s driving, or detracting from, my support for free migration in a meaningful way. So what is? Fundamentally, it’s the “commonsense libertarian” approach pioneered by the likes of Bryan Caplan. But formal libertarian theory can focus too exclusively on government and coercion. So I will step back to describe my broader philosophy.

For want of a better word, that approach is tolerance. The term has many different meanings, so I will try to sketch what I mean by it. I’m not trying to say that my usage is the correct one or that others should conform.


Image depicting tolerance, source Patheos

Tolerance as indifference

One can think of tolerance as indifference, or simply not caring. The threshold for not caring may vary. Here are some illustrative possibilites:

  • “I don’t care either way. I don’t know this person and what they’re doing isn’t affecting me (non-negligibly), so I don’t care.”
  • “I don’t care as long as it’s not tangibly harming the people involved.”
  • “I don’t care as long as they’re not harming innocent bystanders.” Such an attitude migh be tolerant of drinking too much but not of drunk driving.

What if I do care? What if a friend is drinking too much and ruining his life? What if somebody is eating unhealthily, or has some habits that I think harm other people? What authority, and what obligation, do I have to interfere? This way of thinking about tolerance doesn’t help address such questions, and insofar as such tolerance is elevated on a pedestal, it goes against a commitment to care for the world and make it a better place. Such tolerance isn’t virtuous. At best, it is tolerable.

Thin libertarian tolerance: a presumption against coercion

At minimum tolerance implies a strong presumption against coercive intervention, even if it is for the other person’s or third parties’ good, and even more so in cases where it’s just about promoting my own interests. Bryan Caplan proposes concerned tolerance in the case that people are doing something that’s not in their own or each other’s interests: inform and educate, but beware of coercion. Even if coercion seems to pass a naive cost-benefit analysis, the complexity of the world should give one pause. This is the “thin libertarian” concept of tolerance, and, at least on paper, one could “deduce” open borders from it, combining with some general beliefs about the prima facie right to migrate. But tolerance as I use the term goes beyond this thin libertarian version, and I think that the additional aspects of it really do add to our understanding of the moral need for open borders. (See here for a backgrounder on thick and thin libertarianism).

We influence each others’ environment (duh!)

Our activities influence one another all the time. Your choice of neighbors affects your quality of life in myriad ways even if you rarely have direct interactions with your neighbors. Recently, I asked the shopkeeper at the grocery store near my residence why he had stopped stocking eggplants (brinjals). He said that people don’t buy the eggplants, so he had to throw them away. My neighbors’ non-preference for eggplants was depriving me of easy access to eggplants. This is just one of thousands of ways that the tastes of one’s neighbors affect one’s quality of life. It’s tempting to call these “externalities” although mechanisms such as rents and housing prices internalize them to quite an extent.

As it happens, my desire for easy access to eggplants is not sufficiently strong for me to be too unhappy about my neighbors’ tastes. But it wouldn’t be intolerant of me to factor this, and many other considerations, in deciding where to live. People do this all the time. It’s not intolerant to try to live in places surrounded by neighbors who share one’s values and can therefore make one’s life more pleasant, as long as one is willing to pay the price. Neither is there anything wrong about choosing a place where one’s life is perhaps not that pleasant, with non-like-minded neighbors, if one wants to cut down costs. (Some people might luck out in finding that the things they value the most can be found at a relatively cheap place). People are looking at their own preferences, understanding how their neighbors alter the landscape for them, and making (partly) informed decisions based on that.

[Sidenote: As Bill Bishop and Charles Murray have pointed out, people residentially segregate based on socio-economic status, education level, and political beliefs quite a bit in the United States, with important social, economic, and political implications, some of which they deplore. But neither of them challenge people’s fundamental freedom to choose where to live, even if they think the consequences are not always pretty.]

Is it okay to coerce people to shape their influences on your environment?

On the thin libertarian conception, it would be intolerant to attempt to coercively restrict the choices of those neighbors. On a somewhat thicker conception, I believe that it’s intolerant to be vociferously critical, or create unpleasant situations, for these neighbors on account of these choices, even though those choices do in the aggregate reduce my quality of life somewhat. While it’s within my libertarian rights to put out pamphlets shaming people for not buying eggplants, I would consider such behavior intolerant (even if it had a chance of succeeding). It would be okay for me to request people to buy eggplants so that they stay in stock — as long as I’m honest that my main motivation is personal rather than doing this for their good.

I don’t particularly love or hate the people I meet on the street, nor do I aspire to such feelings. They are people — like all the people I may not meet. They have preferences of their own, that shape the environment I live in — sometimes to my benefit, sometimes to my detriment. If I am deeply inconvenienced, I could request them to change (while being honest about whether my request is selfishly motivated, and accommodating of the fact that they are not obliged to heed my request) — and pay them if that’s necessitated. And if it gets too intolerable, I can move elsewhere. If I am not inconvenienced enough to do this, I should shrug it off.

Such tolerance is not merely for the benefit of others, but also my own — I can feel more at peace if I combine ” the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” (Bryan Caplan made a similar point here). In other words, tolerance is not just about resisting the use of coercion, but also resisting the impulses that make one want to use coercion — impulses that view others as means to ends or as creatures to be manipulated for one’s benefit. Embracing such tolerance would not merely make people support open borders (or something close), it would also lead them to feel that it’s the right thing. Note that tolerance alone doesn’t imply efforts to actively advocate for open borders — such efforts might require either a specific interest in the subject or a general altruistic character combined with some reasons for believing that open borders advocacy is worthwhile enough.

While the eggplant example might seem laughably trivial compared to the stakes involved with immigration, it’s worth noting that at least some of the complaints about immigration can seem equally trivial. Consider, for instance, that “press 1 for English” is a rallying cry for a number of complaints about immigration. See for instance here and here or just Google it. But then again, trivial inconveniences are not to be scoffed at. But more on the specific issues of language in a separate post. In the meantime, check out Nathan Goodman’s post.

[On a related note, the inconveniences that people impose on each other by living near each other is one of the ingredients in the anarcho-capitalist counterfactual. I don’t disagree with the premise that people affect each other. The premise that I do disagree with is that existing government policies force integration so heavily that we need to resort to immigration restrictions to maintain people’s freedom of association and mimic an anarcho-capitalist society. I admit this isn’t a very satisfactory response, so do read our page linked above, and for a more eloquent elaboration of my point, see Bryan Caplan’s post on association, exclusion, liberty, and the status quo.]

Tolerance of intolerance

The phrase “paradox of tolerance” has been used for the seemingly paradoxical idea that “tolerance” can include tolerance of intolerance. I don’t think it’s that paradoxical in this context. Let me elaborate.

In my view, true tolerance includes tolerance, and even empathy, for people who find open borders deeply unsettling, whether or not I agree with their particular concerns. Example: people who worry about a glut of languages being spoken around them as a result of too much migration, as discussed earlier in the post. Whether or not I share these fears, and whether or not I think that too many languages being spoken around is a good or a bad thing, there is no reason to shame people for holding the view that they find such behavior deeply unsettling. Migration liberalization as forced social engineering to change people’s preferences (for instance, to make them less racist, or more linguistically knowledgeable) is no more laudable than closed borders as forced social engineering to maintain the composition of society. It may sometimes be laudable to change people’s preferences, but such changes should be done through voluntary persuasion in an honest manner (i.e., being honest about my own motives and beliefs). My version of tolerance might strike many as too tolerant of intolerance — for instance, it is a priori critical of allegedly tolerance-increasing coercive measures such as forced desegregation (the prior may be overcome in specific cases via other arguments).

It’s valid to criticize a restrictionist’s embrace of coercion to make their own lives less unpleasant (e.g., restricting migration so that they don’t have to hear foreign languages spoken in the train), and also valid to criticize the restrictionist’s drawing incorrect inferences about objective indicators solely based on subjective experience (particularly when better sources of data are available; I believe such exaggeration has happened historically as well as contemporarily). However, a tolerant person would not extend such criticism to dismissing the restrictionist’s subjective experience of unpleasantness at hearing foreign languages as entirely irrelevant or a sign of moral degeneracy.

To what extent does factoring in people’s subjective concerns about open borders affect the case for open borders?

The next few paragraphs talks specifically of the attitude that somebody (like me) who is actively arguing for open borders should have. I don’t claim that every passive supporter of open borders needs to do what I think should be expected of somebody in my position. In particular, when I talk of moral obligation or responsibility below, I use it in the sense of the ethical imperative of professional excellence (for the self-chosen avocation of open borders advocate) rather than a basic obligation stemming from negative rights (per my three-tiered view, I’m talking about tier 3 rather than tier 1).

I believe that, in the calculus of determining whether open borders are the right thing, I need to account for the subjective experiences of people who find some consequences of migration deeply disturbing. But their subjective feelings enter the equation along with the subjective experiences — and rights — of many other people, including potential migrants and those who wish to invite them. I think that, when all is said and done, caring about people’s subjective experiences should lead one in an open borders-sympathetic direction. People who are unsettled by migration are neither numerically negligible nor morally inconsequential, but they aren’t utility monsters. And I do think that, even though their concerns are worth taking seriously, they should come to the table to discuss keyhole solutions or to provide some sort of reason to believe that the problems really are insurmountable.

That said, it is incumbent upon me to try to work hard to understand the objections and perform a fair and decent analysis of it, suggesting keyhole solutions where feasible and discussing the extent to which they may reasonably be applied. Even if I’m not the one responsible for existing migration restrictions (so the “blame” falls either on the restrictionist preferences of people or on some intrinsic structural reasons that migration poses dangers), I still need to work towards finding a solution (Bryan Caplan made a similar point here). To use a somewhat inappropriate drowning child analogy, the fact that I wasn’t responsible for the child beginning to drown, or the presence of other inactive bystanders, does not absolve me of the responsibility to rescue the child.

PS: Co-blogger Nathan Smith argued that it may be morally virtuous to be intolerant of some things, such as slavery, wife-beating, and mass murder. For activities that are coercive or significantly harm others, I support the use of coercion to prevent them (i.e., prevent something that has a very high probability of leading to significant harm). I also think there could be reasonable grounds for criticism and shaming of such actions, although I’m not convinced that shaming is always necessary. I think that, in general, open dissociation from corrupt or immoral institutions — the open use of exit — accomplishes more than trying to explicitly shame them (cf. exit versus voice). But that might just be semantics. One could consider the use of social pressure to end immoral institutions an example of “intolerance” done right. I believe that many aspects of the closed borders regime today are similarly worthy of intolerance. The fact that closed borders is justified by weak arguments relying on subjective preferences may deserve intolerance. But the preferences themselves don’t deserve intolerance.

PPS: To reiterate: I believe it’s legitimate and often laudable to non-coercively, consensually, and honestly help people “improve” their preferences in the direction of greater tolerance. This is not conceptually different from helping people overcome addictions or procrastination problems or anger management issues. If, however, you’re considering the use of shaming to pressure people into changing their moral views, then I believe (qua thick libertarian) that you need to clear a higher bar. And if you are considering coercion, then (qua thin libertarian) you need to clear an even higher bar.

PPPS: My co-blogger Nathan Smith has written two posts, No Irish Need Apply, and Private discrimination against immigrants is morally fine, and should be legal. The posts make the point that it is consistent to support open borders and allow private discrimination against immigrants, and in fact, allowing the latter may make the pursuit of migration liberalization more politically feasible. I am skeptical of the political feasibility point made by Nathan, but I do agree that my tolerance framework points in the direction of Nathan’s broader point.

Thanks to Sebastian Nickel, Nathan Smith, and Paul Crider for helpful comments

The Open Graph image for this post (the one you see if you share it on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter) is from Discover Nikkei.