In Defense of Exclusion – Misconceptions


A key debate of our time is the merits of inclusion. Much of left-wing thought is dominated by calls for a more inclusive world. One part of the BlackLivesMatter movement recently started the Inclusive Idaho organization. The Portland Transportation Bureau just made a public promise to be more inclusive. And Band-Aid just announced a new inclusive line of bandages matching more skin tones. In some marches, “Black Lives Matter” very quickly expanded to “Black Trans Lives Matter.”

From their perspective, they are campaigning on behalf of marginalized communities for access and acceptance into society. An inclusive society is a better society. An organization that includes everyone is more diverse, and that’s a good thing (or so they argue).

And sometimes it is a good thing. Nobody likes being the odd one out. Everyone likes feeling welcome.

But sometimes inclusion is a bad thing. Even the advocates of inclusion admit this when they make it loud and clear that “Nazis are not welcome here” (a common protest chant) or when they get alleged racists fired from their jobs, often relying on Karl Popper’s “Paradox of Tolerance” to justify their own intolerance.

Though much of the right pushes back against some of the more ridiculous consequences of inclusionism (such as the All-Girl Boy Scout Troop), it is rarely argued as a defense of exclusion, rather than as an attack on extreme inclusion. But exclusion is important, and not in itself a bad thing.

Unfortunately, discrimination, a word closely connected to exclusion, is seen as a bad thing in its entirety. When thinking of discrimination, people immediately think of unfair discrimination based on race. Any defense of discrimination, no matter how valid, will quickly attract accusations of racism to the defender.

To exclude requires discrimination. Exclusion is rarely about simply excluding everyone beyond a certain number of people. It is instead about discriminating in favor of certain people and against others, a perfectly rational and fine thing to do in many circumstances.

Homeowners, by locking their doors, are ensuring themselves the right to discriminate between who should be allowed in and who shouldn’t. Thieves and other criminals are being discriminated against, in favor of friends and family.

Political organizations freely discriminate based on ideology. The Libertarian Party, on its application to join, discriminates against those that favor the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. Many religious organizations will only recruit those who subscribe to their religious beliefs. Media organizations constantly discriminate against bad writers. All of these people being discriminated against are excluded from these organizations, and we can hardly blame these organizations for doing so.

Now expand this to the local community and society in general. Even the defenders of inclusion will admit that there are certain people they don’t want in society. Everyone is opposed to including violent criminals in their society.

Defenders of liberty must ask themselves what type of world they are fighting for. Ask around and the responses can be narrowed down into two different visions. Some hold an ideal world that is global and inclusive. They picture a world where anyone, so long as they don’t initiate aggression, will feel welcome and included in any part of the free world. In this world, only the intolerant are unwelcome.

Others picture an ideal world based on freedom of association. Just as individuals deserve the freedom to disassociate from a state based on coercion, they also have the freedom to form associations with some individuals and disassociate with others. There would be a variety of different voluntary communities, clubs, and institutions based on shared values.

An issue with the pro-inclusion, anti-exclusion view is that most people favor groups that exclude, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this. While parts of the feminist movement were complaining that women weren’t welcome in certain spaces, other parts were forming women-only spaces.

Inclusion can be a good thing when not based on coercion. But the same is true for exclusion. As exclusion is under threat, defenders of freedom must not forget that a core component of freedom includes freedom to associate or disassociate. And to form a group based on any sort of shared values or history means that others will inevitably be excluded.

Inclusion is not inherently good, and exclusion is not inherently bad.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, He can be contacted by email via [email protected]