Martin van Staden

Libertarian Jurisprudence & Free Market Policy

Social freedom

When Martin co-founded the Rational Standard in January 2015, his and the other founders’ goal was to create a publication dedicated particularly to individual freedom. Individual freedom is understood to mean the ability of individuals to do as they please without being molested by government, unless they violate the same freedom of others.

RS, however, was also founded on the heels of the #RhodesMustFall movement, which threatened both reasoned discourse and social freedom. Unlike individual freedom, social freedom can be described as a characteristic of an open society, where individuals or groups can feel open about their opinions… as well as their prejudices. Government is often not a perpetrator in violations of social freedom.

#RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall, and the broader Critical Race Theory movement in South Africa rejects social freedom. This phenomenon is described by the Critical Theorist, Herbert Marcuse, in his essay “Repressive Tolerance”, thusly:

“Generally, the function and value of tolerance depend on the equality prevalent in the society in which tolerance is practiced.”

“In terms of historical function, there is a difference between revolutionary and reactionary violence, between violence practiced by the oppressed and by the oppressors. In terms of ethics, both forms of violence are inhuman and evil–but since when is history made in accordance with ethical standards? To start applying them at the point where the oppressed rebel against the oppressors, the have-nots against the haves is serving the cause of actual violence by weakening the protest against it.”

“Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”

“But I believe that there is a “natural right” of resistance for oppressed and overpowered minorities to use extralegal means if the legal ones have proved to be inadequate.”

The “Right” to which Marcuse refers is nowadays considered to include classical liberals, libertarians, and liberal democrats. The “Left” refers to those camps within left-wing thought committed to the notion of ‘social justice’ as developed by the Frankfurt School – otherwise known as ‘Critical Theory’ or ‘cultural Marxism’.

“Repressive Tolerance” is one of the texts which the social justice left bases their theory of freedom of speech upon.

At a May 2017 panel discussion about ‘who South Africa belongs to’ at the University of Johannesburg, Martin’s fellow panelists had a clear answer: South Africa belongs to the majority demographic. The views of minority demographics need not be tolerated, whether in law or in discourse.

One panelist did an extensive and informative presentation about ‘major micro-aggressions’, insinuating that the mere allegation of a ‘racist attitude’ on the part of a white individual should be actionable. The same panelist, when an audience member queried why ‘white organisations’ were not invited to the event, said “because we are tired of talking.”

This unfortunate mentality does not only apply to white individuals, however, but to black individuals who are apparently ‘colonized persons’. In other words, black people who have ‘black skins’ but believe themselves to be ‘white on the inside’. This would include black individuals who are classical liberals, libertarians, liberal democrats, or just about anything other than a Frantz Fanon-quoting socialist.

While Martin is overridingly a libertarian concerned about individual freedom from government molestation, he has written a considerable amount of articles – especially on RS – about how social freedom has become threatened in South Africa. One of the tenets of libertarianism is the ability to discriminate, and thus for individuals to ostracize others with who they do not agree. In that light, Martin and libertarians more broadly do not believe in government-enforced tolerance (social openness), however, if we aspire to more than a merely free society, then social openness, too, must be encouraged.