Doherty on Tolerance

In response to the flap over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality, Brian Doherty provides a useful refresher on the meaning of tolerance.

The advantages of classical liberal market cosmopolitanism–the idea that it’s best to set aside peaceful differences of opinion and creed and worries about different races, nationalities, and genders when deciding how we interact with the world–has a great track record of making us all richer and happier.

The idea that that people should be punished with boycott or losing their jobs over having wrong beliefs hobbles the flowering of tolerant classical liberal market cosmopolitanism.

There may have been a good reason why classical tolerance of expression was summed up in the epigram: “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it!”

That has a different feel than: “I disagree with what you say, I think you are evil for having said it, I think no one should associate with you and you ought to lose your livelihood, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me about all that is skating on pretty thin ice as well, but hey, I don’t think you should be arrested for it.”

Too often people forget that the idea of tolerance presumes that there is something objectionable that must be tolerated.  Toleration is not the same thing as acceptance, yet in the name of the former, many people demand the latter.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)