Classical liberalism and the politics of white grievance

It is an unfortunate fact that many think tanks funded by conservative plutocrats and nominally devoted to spreading free-market ideas actively foster the politics of white grievance. 

I believe the evidence for this claim is quite strong, but it is not always immediately obvious that this is happening.  Classical liberals and libertarians generally do not engage in overt race-baiting, and they make arguments with at least a thin veneer of intellectual sophistication.  This can be part of a deliberate strategy of playing the “race card” while maintaining plausible deniability, but it is possible that in some cases commentators are not fully aware that they are stoking racial resentments. 

An interesting case in point:  recently the classical liberal economist Donald Boudreaux offered up this quote from Michael Polanyi’s The Logic of Liberty, published in 1951:

A generation grew up full of moral fire and yet despising reason and justice. Believing instead in what? – in the forces which were left for them to believe in – in Power, Economic Interest, Subconscious Desire…. Compassion was turned into merciless hatred and the desire for brotherhood into deadly class-war.

He accompanied this quote – a quote about the roots of Fascism, from 1951 – with the following photograph:

This photograph, it appears, was taken at a Black Lives Matter rally in Colorado in 2020.  The photographer, Kevin Mohatt, describes it as follows:

. . . “They’re happy. People are showing that we’re going to keep marching no matter what.” Mohatt is quick to explain, however, that like others in the Black community he, too, is angry—but it’s a constructive anger from which he believes positive energy can flow. This image, taken in Civic Center Park, “sums up the demonstrations for me,” he says. “It’s peaceful, but it emphasizes that the Black community is fighting for something important.” . . .

So, the obvious question:  why would Boudreaux use this 2020 photograph of BLM protesters alongside a quote about the roots of mid-20th century Fascism?  Why not use a photograph of a Hitler rally, of Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen, or of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising?

One possibility is that Boudreaux really believes that BLM protesters are motivated by “merciless hatred” and despise “reason and justice”, just like, you know, actual Fascists.  As a sometime BLM protester myself, I’d like to see the evidence for this claim, if this is the intended message.

Another possibility is that Boudreaux knows that BLM protesters are not Fascists, but he is consciously race-baiting to bolster the Republican political coalition, which despite its imperfect support for limited government is still the political home of wealthy, small-government conservatives. 

Or maybe Boudreaux has a reactionary fear protest and social change.  Reactionary views are, of course, often associated with fear and resentment of Black people, which might explain why he used a picture of Black protesters.  (A few days after the Polanyi/BLM post, Boudreaux had another post up with a picture of mostly White women protesting with their arms in the air.  Scary!  In this case, a Google search suggests the protesters were supporting the women who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.  Boudreaux uses the picture to illustrate this quote:  “The democratic idealists of practically all schools of thought have managed to remain remarkably oblivious to obvious facts.”  I have no idea what connection he sees between the quote and the photo.)

Finally, it is also possible that Boudreaux is not fully aware that he juxtaposed a picture of peaceful Black protesters with a quote about Fascism and that he would regret doing this once it is called to his attention.  Part of the reason I post on the treatment of race by contemporary classical liberals and libertarians is that if they become more aware of what they are doing they may have second thoughts.  Or maybe not.  I will send him a link to this post and will update if he responds.