By Eli Harman, from his blog
(Note from John Mark: Eli Harman is one of the leading Propertarians, and he is the best of us at doing and explaining “full accounting” - identifying what is actually going on in any given human interaction, and fully accounting for all the costs imposed and benefits produced. I highly recommend his blog and his YouTube channel. You can also find some of his writings by searching for his name on Propertarianism.com.)
PRIVILEGE AS A COMMONS
Critics of privilege allege that it is unearned, and therefore unfair. Well, part of that’s true, so far as it goes. I didn’t earn my privilege. I inherited most of it. But I do pay to maintain it. And I must pay to add to it, so that I may pass on more to my children.
Every time I’m extended privilege, I’m necessarily given the opportunity to abuse it.
When I go into a store, say, and am not followed around by security, I’m given the opportunity to steal. By foregoing that opportunity, I’m bearing an opportunity cost, and in so doing, paying for my privilege, and at the same time, maintaining it as a commons for others like me to enjoy.
When I am pulled over by a cop, and am polite and cooperative rather than belligerent and reactive, not only do I purchase a better outcome for myself, but for everyone who resembles me (in whatever way.)
Every time I seek to do my share, rather than to shirk; to pay my way, rather than to free ride; to give, rather than take; I pay into the privilege bank. I can only ever cash in a fraction of that. But if I can count on others like me to do likewise, we all come out ahead.
Now, if someone would be willing to bear those costs, but their coethnics are not, or are less willing than others, that’s unfortunate for them.
But if they demand the same privilege, it is they who are demanding something unearned, and that their coethnics have not demonstrated a willingness to pay for, or at least an equal willingness to pay for. They are demanding that others take a risk for their benefit; one that has not been shown to be a good risk, one worth the cost of taking.
If you want privilege, pay for its construction as a commons. But do not attack those who do and demand that they share their privilege with you, and offer nothing in return.
Now some might object that this is “collectivism” or “collective responsibility” and we should instead only judge anyone as individuals.
But that is not a reasonable objection nor a reasonable suggestion.
Now, if someone doesn’t want to be profiled, or discriminated against, there are three ways they can realistically attack this issue.
They can help make it easier (and therefore less costly) for me to distinguish them from less reputable elements by using signals (dress, mannerisms, speech etc…) which demonstrate that they are not a threat, that they are successful, reliable, etc…
They can increase the value of what they can OFFER me so that I have more incentive to invest in telling them apart.
Or they can suppress the misbehavior of the disreputable element within their community to reduce the NEED for me to tell them apart; to reduce the risk for me of failing to tell them apart.