Posted on March 19, 2007

A Strong, But Flawed, Stand

Charles Moore, Daily News (Halifax), March 19, 2007

First, a big bravo to CJCH Radio and talk-show host Rick Howe for stepping up and providing a venue for the March 6 debate on race relations between American magazine publisher Jared Taylor and Saint Mary’s University philosophy professor Peter March. SMU’s administration had wimped out and withdrew permission to hold the event on university premises as originally scheduled.

On the basis of one nebulous, and very likely fabricated, threat of violence on an online discussion forum, SMU concluded “there is a higher level of personal risk and need for increased security than the university has the capacity to provide.”

Taylor noted that the apparent real reason for the cancellation was that “university authorities were afraid to have the question of racial diversity debated on their campus.”

In e-mail communication, Taylor told me he had “had an opportunity to tell the vice-president for public affairs at Saint Mary’s University that the university’s behaviour has been contemptible.”

Ironically, Taylor and March’s debate ended up being heard by a much wider audience than would have been the case had it proceeded at the original SMU venue, which was to have been limited to an audience of 236.

Somewhat lost in the controversy about whether and where Taylor would be permitted to express his perspectives in Halifax has been a clear picture of what he advocates.

Not working well

He marshals an impressive body of evidence collected from mainstream Canadian sources as to how racial diversity is not working well in Canada, but I remained hazy as to why he thinks it shouldn’t work in principle. I asked him to provide a concise distillation of his point, to ensure that I hadn’t misinterpreted him.

Taylor responded: “Your country has dozens of organizations set up to combat ‘racism.’ ‘Racism,’ therefore, however it is defined, appears to be a serious problem in (a country that) was overwhelmingly white until the 1970s, at which time, the government, without the slightest consultation with the Canadian people, decided the country should become multiracial and multi-cultural . . .

“The result of this kind of mixing has been . . . conflict. Human beings are tribal in nature and, except for a few bohemians, prefer the company of people like themselves. You may find this regrettable, but it is a fact of human nature.”

I do find it regrettable. It’s undeniable fact, but my hope—perhaps naively idealistic—is that civilized people can transcend tribalism and come to realize that people are just people, and that skin colour or other superficial characteristics do not determine character or worthiness as human beings any more than hair or eye colour.

Taylor says that the Halifax media have repeatedly described him as a “segregationist,” but this is not correct.

“I am for complete freedom of association,” he says. “For those who wish to mix, fine. But we should not criticize those who do not wish to mix, or force them to do so.”

“Fine,” I replied, but it depends on how broadly you define freedom of association, which in my estimation cannot legitimately encompass areas such as discrimination on the basis of race in terms of employment, where one can live, and suchlike. This is where he and I part company.


Taylor argues that “As a private employer, I should have complete freedom of choice in whom I hire. If race (or sex or age or beauty or left-handedness) is an irrational criterion for my hiring decisions, the market will punish me. It is tyranny for the government to punish me for my private decisions.

“Governments and monopolies, on the other hand, must not discriminate. The gas monopoly must serve everyone, as must the police department. Private companies should be free to discriminate for good reasons, bad reasons or no reason at all.

“Remember: If I refuse to do business with you, I have not harmed you. You are no worse off than you were before. If profits can be made by serving you, someone will do so.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

I don’t get racism. I think it’s stupid. I cherish freedom and detest coercion, but once you permit any sort of racial discrimination in, say, employment, the fact racism exists guarantees that any loopholes will be abused.

I agree we should be free to pick our friends, and if someone wants to foolishly exclude a portion of the population on the basis of skin colour, that’s their loss. But hiring criteria must be colour-blind, and if it takes government involvement to ensure that, then that much coercion is a lesser evil.