Saturday, 15 August 2015

Tolerating Intolerance?

Are liberals required to tolerate intolerance? Is it paradoxical or hypocritical if they do not?

Tolerance is a strategy to maximise liberty, it is not an end in itself. Liberals should encourage toleration to bring about more liberty, but should be against tolerance when it reduces liberty.

Tolerating the individual lifestyle choices of others, even when you strongly disapprove of those choices, increases liberty. If people wish to wear hats, then a liberal should at a minimum avoid discouraging people from wearing hats. The result of this toleration is that people wear or do not wear hats as they wish; more liberty! A liberal should be against (i.e. intolerant of) someone trying to force others to wear hats, because their actions reduces the liberty of others.

Tolerance of intolerant views is justifiable when those views are not overly reducing the liberty of others. Liberals should be intolerant of intolerance that reduces the liberty of others. Thus, if people make bigoted statements in public about hat wearers, then those statements should be tolerated if they do not adversely impact the liberty of people who wear hats. Toleration does not preclude disagreement or debate, so the liberal can still be free to criticise hatist views. If the bigoted statements about hat wearers has the impact of restricting their liberty (e.g. it makes it more difficult for them to be in public, or to get a job) then those statements and views should not be tolerated.

Liberals are required to tolerate intolerance when that intolerance is not adversely impacting the liberty of others. It is not hypocritical to be intolerant of intolerance when the targeted intolerance is reducing liberty.

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