But I need to quickly set the scene for this. All forms of liberalism begin with the idea that what matters is a freedom of the individual to be autonomous: to have the liberty to choose to be or to do whatever, as long as it does not limit a similar liberty for others to choose to be or to do whatever.
But this raises the question of how a society of atomised, autonomous individuals each seeking their own subjective good can be successfully regulated. Although there is no single answer given by liberals, the dominant form of liberalism in the mid-1800s, classical liberalism, emphasised the idea that the market could best regulate society. Millions of individuals could participate in the free market, each seeking their own profit, but the hidden hand of the market would ensure that the larger outcome was a positive one for society.
So what went wrong? The classical liberals would say that as long as everyone had an equal opportunity to participate in the market, then everyone had an equal human dignity as an autonomous individual.
But in the later 1800s this was queried. If I am poor and uneducated do I really have the same opportunity in the market as someone who is born to private schools and so on? The new liberals thought that there needed to be a greater role for government intervention to overcome institutional disadvantage.
And so the modern left emerged. For decades there has been a right-liberal party which emphasises markets (Republicans, Tories etc.) and a left-liberal one which emphasises government programs to overcome inequality (Democrats, Labour etc.). Libertarians have mostly been purist right-liberal types, pushing for limited government, markets, and liberty understood as individual autonomy.
So it is no surprise that the Cato Institute piece on race begins as follows:
Libertarians tend to think of freedom as either a means to an end of maximum utility—e.g., free markets produce the most wealth—or, in a more philosophical sense, in opposition to arbitrary authority—e.g., “Who are you to tell me what to do?” Both views fuel good arguments for less government and more personal autonomy.
That's exactly what you would expect from someone on the liberal right. Autonomy, free markets, limited government, freedom. But look at what happens next:
Yet neither separately, nor both taken together, address the impediments to freedom that have plagued the United States since its founding. Many of the oppressions America has foisted upon its citizens, particularly its black citizens, indeed came from government actors and agents. But a large number of offenses, from petty indignities to incidents of unspeakable violence, have been perpetrated by private individuals, or by government with full approval of its white citizens.
You can tell what this is leading up to. It's leading up to the left-liberal idea that there are institutional, systemic barriers to equal participation. That disparities in outcomes are to be explained in terms of institutional oppression, racism and systemic discrimination. And that's exactly where the Cato writer goes:
Take, for example, the common libertarian/conservative trope: “We believe in equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.” Most people, outside of the few and most ardent socialists, should believe that is a fair statement. But to say such a thing as a general defense of the status quo assumes that the current American system offers roughly equal opportunity just because Jim Crow is dead. Yet, that cannot possibly be true.
Think of the phrase “Don’t go there, it’s a bad neighborhood.” Now, sometimes that neighborhood is just a little run down, doesn’t have the best houses, doesn’t have the best shopping nearby, or feeds a mediocre school. But, more often, that neighborhood is very poor, lacks decent public infrastructure, suffers from high unemployment, has the worst schools, and is prone to gang or other violence. And, in many cities—in both North and South—that neighborhood is almost entirely populated by minorities.
There are only two conclusions possible when facing the very real prospect that thousands or millions of Americans live in areas you warn your friends not to go, even by accident: Either everyone in those areas is a criminal, or is content to live among and be victimized by criminals; or there is some number of people, and probably a large one, trapped in living conditions that cannot help but greatly inhibit their opportunities for success and advancement.
He goes on at length about racism and white supremacy and how the Federal Government has helped to overcome this more than markets have. He stops a short of endorsing big government solutions, but you can see how the logic of his argument prepares the ground for this.
The mainstream left and right are not so different from each other. They both exist within the same philosophical framework, sharing the same assumptions about what human life is for. Mainstream leftism is an attempt to perfect the liberalism that came before it, to realize it in a more equitable and consistent way.
The challenge for those who dislike what the modern West has become is to step outside of the liberal framework entirely - to be neither of the left nor of the classical liberal/libertarian right.