Freedom of association is an important freedom that even some libertarians, who should be its strongest defenders, are unwilling to defend and are even, occasionally, hostile to those who defend it. I see that somewhat on blogs and I especially see it on Facebook. One outspoken libertarian, for example, whose name I won’t mention because doing so would violate my rule of not quoting FB comments without permission, has been quite vocal lately in laying into libertarians who think that employers should have the freedom to hire whoever they want on whatever criteria they choose, including race.

There’s also a strong overlap between libertarians who no longer blanket defend freedom of association and libertarians who favor much less strict laws against immigration, with the likely consequence of more immigration.

Here’s the pragmatic problem: there’s a tradeoff. The more that people’s freedom not to associate with others is reined in, especially when those others are people of different races, the less likely they are to favor immigration and, even if they never favored immigration, the more likely they are to be outspoken opponents of immigration.

If I can tell someone who doesn’t want to associate with various kinds of people that he can have enforceable restrictive covenants on his house that forbid houses in his area from being sold to certain people, and if I can tell employers and employees that the employers are free not to hire people of certain ethnic groups, I can somewhat reassure them that some of the downsides they fear from immigrants won’t happen. (My own view is that those downsides are not large, but I’m not the one who needs to be persuaded.) But if they believe that more immigration means that their freedom of association is even more violated than it is now, my task of persuasion is much harder.