Few would argue with the claim that self-described left-wingers are tolerant. They perceive tolerance as a virtue. What are they tolerant of? People with different skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, religion, sexual preference etc. They are not however known for tolerating differing political opinions. Just look at the amount of street brawling that has exploded since the leftist stranglehold on the narrative has been challenged by Trump’s candidacy and eventual presidency. At the same time intolerance is ascribed to people on the right. Intolerance of gays, Muslims, and tan people from south of the US-Mexico border are good examples of what most people imagine. I will not challenge the assertion that left-wingers are more tolerant on the surface compared to people on the right.
Instead I will challenge the depth of the aforementioned tolerance and the wisdom of it. Is tolerance really a virtue? At first glance it seems self-evident. We all want to be tolerant of each other, right? Not so fast. Blind tolerance ignores the normative content of people’s character. This does not enter the picture when it comes to superficial differences, such as skin color. Discriminating solely based upon melanin content of skin makes about as much sense as discriminating people based on the color of their clothes. The same with sexual preferences, if it’s between consenting adults what’s the problem? Now we get to the tricky bit. Ethnic background matters. There are significant differences between people from different regions of the world.
Stefan Molyneux has some excellent presentations on this subject over at his YouTube-channel. The differences here have a lot to do with economics. Rates of welfare usage, IQ, and prevalence for criminal behaviour are noticeable. Ethnic background is therefore relevant. The same goes for religion. We can’t ignore the differences between the religions of the world. Opinion surveys have uncovered shocking attitudes amongst the adherents of a particular religion. When was the last time you heard about a terrorist attack carries out by Sikhs? (Has there ever been one?), Jews?, Hindus?, Buddhists?. Islam is different from the other religions. I and many others were shocked upon reading the results from opinion polling about attitudes about the tenets of their religion. A significant portion on European muslims have regressive beliefs about gays, Sharia law and so on. Here we see a tolerance crash.
We are supposedly meant to strive for tolerance of all kinds of differences. Tolerance for gays, Muslims, Senegalese and so on. My question is, how tolerant are these groups of each other? Muslims are famously not tolerant of gays and lesbians. We have all heard about stoning, rooftop shoving and murders of LGBT-people in Muslim majority nations. Negative, intolerant attitudes are prevalent among European Muslims. What happens when tolerance for one group crashes with tolerance for another? Does it make sense to be tolerant of the LGBT-community and at the same time tolerant of a group that is not tolerant towards them? In practice this conflict is especially relevant in Europe. Politicians are importing large quantities of Muslims from Africa and the Middle East while at the same time espousing the virtues of the LGBT-community. Are the politicians showing tolerance or ignorance?
Taken to its logical conclusion tolerance has problems. It has to have qualifiers. A requirement for reciprocity being one. Other kinds of tolerance make sense, economic sense in particular. Let us say that I’m an employer looking to hire one person to perform a job. I could either get a person of my own skin color and ethnic background or a immigrant from far away. Unless there are other attributes that separate the candidates discrimination doesn’t make sense. To make an extreme example, let us say I only want to hire blond female Swedish big-busted supermodels. If I made that choice I would narrow my pool of applicants to an extreme degree. My competitors that didn’t discriminate in that fashion would be able to pick qualified prospects from a vastly greater pool of people. This rule applies also in less extreme cases than the example mentioned here.
I believe we must separate tolerance of superficial differences with tolerance of substantial normative differences of values and beliefs. To do otherwise would be a huge disservice to the other groups we wish to be respectful of.