In the zeitgeist, “marginalized” seems to mean any group that a mainstram speaker must love. A loved group is typically a set of individuals who deserve some privileges required by “social justice” as understood in the chattering classes, who complain of “micro-aggressions,” and who are not sufficiently empowered to boss others around. By a strange reversal of their root meaning (“at the margin”), “marginal” and “marginalized” now often refer to those who are the current bien-pensants.

For example, I read an apparently innocuous explanation in a Wall Street Journal report (“Tucker Carlson’s Vulgar, Offensive Messages About Colleagues Helped Seal His Fate at Fox News,” April 26, 2023—my):

On air, Mr. Carlson had turned up the volume on commentary that had expanded beyond a conservative viewpoint on politics into more of an attack on marginalized groups.

From what I know about him, I don’t share Mr. Carlson’s contempt of truth nor most of his intuitions. Nor would I want to be associated with leftwing or rightwing bigotry, ignorance, and authoritarianism. But although I grant that many nuances are involved, I suggest that we should stick with the standard definition of “marginal.” In that perspective, marginal is neither necessarily bad nor necessarily good. And the most “marginalized” group is certainly the set of individuals who are not part of any politically influential faction and who have a strong preference to be left alone when they want to, who are happy to live and let live.

Moreover, “marginalized,” from the verb “marginalize,” implies some actor and some action against the marginalized. Despite John Stuart Mill’s idea that “society” can be oppressive, collective action through the state is the most effective marginalizer. Government dictates are to social pressure what aggressions are to micro-aggressions.

In an interesting conversation with Hartmut Kliemt, Anthony de Jasay said, “What economics does for you is it teaches you to think.” He had a point, even if we should admit that other disciplines, if well taught, also help with learning how to think, although not necessarily about social matters. A necessary, but obviously not sufficient, condition of rational thinking requires the use words that have a clear meaning.