The Praxeology of Privilege

There's been a lot of talk about white "privilege."

Some say it doesn't exist. It does.

Privilege is like the "pay it forward" line at Starbucks.

Except instead of being silly and pointless, everyone (participating) also gets a better value.

You can pay for your own privilege cash in advance, but you can buy it for someone else a lot cheaper.

If you can count on them to return the favor it ends up being a win-win.

Critics of privilege allege that it is unearned, and therefore unfair. Well, that's true, so far as it goes. I didn't earn my privilege. But I do pay for it.

Every time I'm extended privilege, I'm necessarily given the opportunity to abuse it. When I go into a store, say, and am not followed around by security, I'm given the opportunity to steal. By foregoing that opportunity, I'm bearing an opportunity cost, and in so doing, paying for my privilege, and at the same time, maintaining it as a commons for others like me to enjoy.

Now, if someone would be willing to bear that cost, but their coethnics are not, or are less willing than others, that's unfortunate for them.

But if they demand the same privilege, it is they who are demanding something unearned, and that their coethnics have not demonstrated a willingness to pay for, or at least an equal willingness to pay for. They are demanding that others take a risk for their benefit; one that has not been shown to be a good risk, one worth the cost of taking.
If you want privilege, pay for its construction as a commons. But do not attack those who do and demand that they share their privilege with you, and offer nothing in return.

Now some might object that this is "collectivism" or "collective responsibility" and we should instead only judge anyone as individuals.

But that is not a reasonable objection nor a reasonable suggestion.

I don't hold anyone accountable for the misdeeds of people who resemble them. But I can't necessarily tell them apart. There is a cost involved in telling them apart. It takes time, effort, energy, resources, etc... And even then, there is risk, because it's not foolproof.

Now, if someone doesn't want to be profiled, or discriminated against, there are three ways they can realistically attack this issue.

They can help make it easier (and therefore less costly) for me to distinguish them from less reputable elements by using signals (dress, mannerisms, speech etc...) which demonstrate that they are not a threat, that they are successful, reliable, etc...

They can increase the value of what they can OFFER me so that I have more incentive to invest in telling them apart.

Or they can suppress the misbehavior of the disreputable element within their community to reduce the NEED for me to tell them apart; to reduce the risk for me of failing to tell them apart.

But to simply demand that I presume they are not part of that element, when I have no way of knowing whether they are part of that element or not, is to demand that I take a risk. And even if that risk is a good risk, and worth my while in their case, that demand includes the demand I extend the same benefit of the doubt to all others. And that is not worth my while.

Author image
Northman is a latter-day barbarian who dwells in the frigid wastes north of the 60th parallel pondering the ills of the day, their possible remedies, and -- ever so infrequently -- dispensing the dig