I recently took part in a Q&A session at the end of Jordan Peterson’s discussion, in which Peterson addressed the issue of privilege. He agrees that there is such a thing. I do too, but he did not take Hayek’s and my point of view, which is a privilege when the government gives special treatment to someone, including the legal system.
But enough about my point of view. I want to talk about Peterson. He is a leftist, and agrees with the growing mainstream that privilege has to do with wealth, upbringing, and so on. Peterson said that if someone accuses you of being privileged, you may agree with the point, but what you mean is to do it with privilege: to help people, to be productive (which helps people), and so on. But then you have to travel extra miles to help those people and so on.
Let’s just say I agree with Peterson’s view of what privilege is. I don’t, but I want to see where it goes.
Most of the time I have seen people being accused of privileges, in response to a policy position they take. The answer here should not be Peterson – see what I’m doing with it. The answer, in general, should be that the charge is irrelevant.
So, imagine that I am arguing against the minimum wage. I note that the minimum wage keeps many unskilled workers out of the workforce and I notice that it disproportionately harms young blacks.
In response, the person I’m talking to says that he or she (from now on, I’ll use “he”) shouldn’t pay attention to what I’m saying because I’m privileged. He may also say that I do not know what it is like to work for a minimum wage because I did not. (Actually, I did, in the summer of 1972.) But suppose he doesn’t pass that mistake and rejects my argument on the basis of privilege.
What should be my response? It should be that my privilege or lack of privilege is irrelevant to the subject. Suppose I am a millionaire. Does it in any way affect the resilience of the demand for unskilled labor or any other aspect of the potential work for unskilled workers? No. So it does not affect the minimum wage result. Or to put it bluntly: I can’t have privileges without me. So, imagine I don’t exist. Will he increase or decrease the elasticity of labor demand? No.
The accused has made only one departmental error Privilege does not matter for the argument I am making about the minimum wage.
In the next few days, I’ll talk more about what I think privileges are, and I and most of the readers of this blog will talk about the main privileges.
Thanks to Charlie Hooper for the helpful discussion.