Liberalism and Racism

Liberalism and Racism

Racism can be defined as a view of human nature, policies, or a set of attitudes built over the perception that certain kinds of people are superior to other kinds of people. This usually revolves around ethnicity or skin color. The starting point here is that racism is any kind of discrimination – preferential or discriminatory treatment – by people of other people based on skin color or nationality.


Liberalism is not racist. The ideology is tolerant of everyone, regardless of differences in beliefs, skin color, and so on – as long as people are peaceful. While all forms of discrimination are allowed in liberalism, be they based on gender, age, skin color, or something else, there are still some important limitations:

  • Any kind of violence, defined as initiating force, against peaceful individuals, is against the law in a liberal republic
  • The constitutional government itself never has reason to discriminate, judging all people equally, regardless of social status, skin color, age, gender, and so on

How can a liberal society accept racism based on these premises?

The Individual is Inviolable

You have freedom of thought. Everyone has the right to believe and say what he or she wants, as long as this does not initiate force against other individuals. The inviolability of the individual is at the very core of liberalism. This means that we have to tolerate other people having opinions we do not like. As long as it is just an opinion, however, and not e.g. a physical act against your will, you just have to accept it.

The same is true for the government. The government must protect all peaceful individuals, and it does not discriminate. Therefore, people with racist ideas and opinions have the same right to life and liberty as everyone else. What is allowed, then?

What is Allowed

Because of property rights, for example, a racist café owner can refuse access to people with a different skin color than his or her own. It is not initiating force against anyone, and gaining access to the private cafés of others is not a human right. In other words, you cannot call the police in order to report the café owner for racism. That simply is not valid. What you can do, on the other hand, is boycott the café and encourage others to do the same.

Racists will largely be driven out of the free market. A business that only wants to hire people with a certain skin color will potentially miss out on enormous amounts of talent among people who have it – but who do not get the job because of having the «wrong» skin color. Another business that hires people according to skill and not appearance will soon be able to surpass the competing racist business in the market.

The free market and liberalism reduce racism, not because of prohibitions, but because mechanisms like boycott, competence and competitiveness are more effective – and not least peaceful – means.


  • Racism can be defined as all types of discrimination based on skin color or nationality
  • Liberalism accepts all types of private discrimination
  • A liberal government, on the other hand, has no reason to discriminate legally or otherwise
  • Every person has the right to believe and say what he or she wants, as long as this does not initiate force against others
  • Property rights allow each person to control his or her own property – such as denying access to people with another skin color
  • The free market drives racism out of the market with no need for prohibitions



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