I have loosely tied the right to be racist or sexist in attitudes (not in attack or aggression) with reflections on four maybe-sages (Laotzu, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus). This right to be racist or sexist (or any other -ist one wants to add) is a part of the right to associate and disassociate. Often the reaction to the freedom of association is to this fear of some individuals refusing, for illegitimate reasons, to deal with, engage with, participate with, play with, trade with others.
An interesting feature of the common fear of the freedom of association is this thought that the racists and sexists would be the winners in such freedom. This is an interesting factual presupposition of the fear. Why would one presume that in a world defined by freedom of association that those interested in excluding others for illegitimate reasons (again excluding attack and aggression which attention to freedom never permits except as defense) would win? What stops the non-racists and non-sexists from disassociating from their opposites, and refusing to play with the racists and sexists until they choose to change voluntarily? Why would the default go to the “evil”?
Among the innocently young (college students) such a default position is no doubt the product of the educational culture in which they have been, in their youth, reared. The fault then lies with the culture that instills such fear. In the elder and culture creators which would include both the coercive power of the state and the private enterprises interested in winning business the assumption is less innocent.
The state has its own interest in preservation, flourishing, and increasing its own power (the latter is due the inefficiency with which it operates and so the constant need for expansion). The state also has a power that no other player has. It may not only disassociate (wouldn’t that be something desired!), it does demand association. And within that forced association the state in addition demands time, place, reason for, price, demographic characteristics of the associations.
Why would the state take on this role? Any role the state takes it can justify charges. And it sets the prices. There is always a ready customer–he who does not like his current situation and is willing to pay at least with loyalty and at most with willingness to attack if needed. The state must take care. Its legitimacy ultimately rests on reputation and voluntary loyalty. To the degree that the state takes on the vanguard role for an extreme minority cause it risks the disassociation of a large majority.
The state has another advantage–with its intimate integration into the lives of its citizens and its power of coercive enforcement the state can make any resistance immediately painful and isolating so that any resistor is likely to feel both pain and ostracized. As long as only a few refuse to pay taxes they will be hunted by the army of tax enforcers and shamed by society at large for unwillingness to pay “fair share” (how absurd yet effective). Were a large-enough minority to refuse to pay taxes the state would immediately cease to exist. It depends on its non-contractual coercive power for its predatory and parasitic existence.
Income tax, once finally inscribed in the Constitution of the United States (1913), has been gradually increased in percentage of income, expanded to a large range of the population, and so integrated into the system that employers are willing to participate in its extraction without the voluntary consent of the taxed.
What is the incentive for “business” interests to participate in the regulation against freedom of association that the state legislates? The threat of penalty for not obeying is partly effective. But that comes late. Much earlier in unionizing and labor associations it is possible to see the efforts of the racist and sexist to protect his interests. Whether in the Northeastern United States where Yankee racists tried to protect their favorable positions against the migration of poor whites or blacks form the south, or the whites of South Africa trying to prevent the blacks of South Africa from participation in their work, it is not hard to find the advantage of turning to state power.
Had the state not been available to intervene and sanction the underbidding that the socially less-favored individuals were willing to work for those socially less-favored individuals would have made progress. The racist or sexist (or whatever -ist) businesses who were willing to pay higher wages would have been outbid and out-competed by the more open-to-profit non-racist and non-sexist businesses who were willing to employ the social outcast at a lower wage.
The market which is home to freedom of association has its own logic that makes racism and sexism less likely. Does that mean that the market will be a utopia of diversity? No. The market always prefers profit (as does every individual of whatever kind) and so ranks profit over cast or kind. It is increased quality and reduced price which constantly govern the efforts of the market and so the profit motive ranks above the loyalty to anything else.
There are no utopias except in the minds of utopians. He who wants to see heaven on earth must either demand conformity at the point of a gun or win through is attraction. Winning through attraction is a commitment to freedom of association. That those who seek to eliminate racist and sexist attitudes at the point of a gun employ the methods they do is nothing if not the admittance of their belief in the superiority of racist and sexist attitudes. And who would want people like that with such beliefs running things? Not me. I bet not you.