Stereotyping

by Don Boudreaux on October 23, 2017

in Myths and Fallacies

Among the gravest offenses today in modern America is to talk or to write as if certain stereotypes contain even the smallest sliver of truth.  I share with many conservatives and libertarians a disdain for the remorseless lack of humor with which the typical academic, the typical college student, and the typical “Progressive” today processes even the most innocent of jokes and comments.  Even more do I share the disgust that civilized people have for the Torquemadaian treatment dished out by the Politically Correct to any and all who are perceived as not sufficiently attentive to the tenets of Political Correctness.

But my purpose here is to bemoan neither Political Correctness nor the extremes to which it is today taken.  Instead, my purpose is to bemoan an inconsistency in Politically Correct “Progressives.”

It’s true, of course, that one problem with stereotypes is that they mask significant differences among the individuals in whatever group is stereotyped.  To stereotype is to treat a group as if it is the relevant unit of analysis.  To stereotype is to judge an individual not according to his or her own merits and demerits but, instead, according to the group to which he or she is believed to belong.  To stereotype is to ignore the individual; to stereotype is often to show a careless disregard for persons as individuals.  And sometimes, let us be honest, the stereotyping is not innocent: it is sometimes malevolent.

Yet the same “Progressives” who are on 24/7/365 intrepid patrol against certain varieties of stereotyping – varieties such as racial, ethnic, or sexual-preference stereotyping – are themselves proud practitioners of many other varieties of stereotyping.  For example, “Progressives” are especially prone to think of “workers” (or, at least, “blue-collar workers”) as a unified group – as one big blob in which each individual is identical to the rest, in which each worker’s interest is the same as any other worker’s interest.  Likewise with “big business” or “capitalists” (or “capital”): all the same in the minds of “Progressives.”  What’s good for big business A is also good for big businesses B through Z.  What’s bad for big business Z is also bad for big business A through Y.

Ditto for several other groups such as “the rich,” “the poor,” “consumers,” and “students.”

“Progressives” should be ashamed of themselves and deeply embarrassed by their regular displays of antediluvian notions.

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