Archive for the ‘discrimination’ Tag

Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate | Jeffrey A. Tucker   3 comments

Gaining the right to be married is a win for liberty because it removes a barrier to free association. But how easily a movement for more freedom turns to the cause of taking away other freedoms!

Related imageFollowing the Supreme Court decision mandating legal same-sex marriage nationwide, the New York Times tells us that, “gay rights leaders have turned their sights to what they see as the next big battle: obtaining federal, state and local legal protections in employment, housing, commerce and other arenas.”

In other words, the state will erect new barriers to freedom of choice in place of the old ones that just came down!

To make the case against such laws, it ought to be enough to refer to the freedom to associate and the freedom to use your property as you see fit. These are fundamental principles of liberalism. A free society permits anything peaceful, and that includes the right to disassociate. Alas, such arguments seem dead on arrival today.

So let us dig a bit deeper to understand why anti-discrimination laws are not in the best interests of gay men and women, or anyone else. Preserving the ability to discriminate permits the market system to provide crucial information feedback to a community seeking to use its buying power to reward its friends and noncoercively, nonviolently punish those who do not share its values.

Ever more, consumers are making choices based on core values. Does this institution protect the environment, treat its workers fairly, support the right political causes? In order to make those choices — which is to say, in order to discriminate — consumers need information.

In the case of gay rights, consumers need to know who supports inclusion and who supports exclusion. Shutting down that information flow through anti-discrimination law robs people of crucial data to make intelligent buying decisions. Moreover, such laws remove the competitive pressure of businesses to prove (and improve) their commitment to community values, because all businesses are ostensibly bound by them.

A market that permits discrimination, even of the invidious sort, allows money and therefore success and profits to be directed toward those who think broadly, while denying money and profitability to those who do not. In this way, a free market nudges society toward ever more tolerant and inclusive attitudes. Money speaks far more persuasively than laws.

Notice that these proposed laws only pertain to the producer and not the consumer. But discrimination is a two-edged sword. The right can be exercised by those who do not like some groups, and it can be exercised by those groups against those who do not like them.

Both are necessary and serve an important social function. They represent peaceful ways of providing social and economic rewards to those who put aside biases in favor of inclusive decision making.

If I’m Catholic and want to support pro-Catholic businesses, I also need to know what businesses don’t like Catholics. If I’m Muslim and only want my dollars supporting my faith, I need to know who won’t serve Muslims (or who will put my dollars to bad use). If a law that prohibits business from refusing to serve or hire people based on religion, how am I supposed to know which businesses deserve my support?

It’s the same with many gay people. They don’t want to trade with companies that discriminate. To act out those values requires some knowledge of business behavior and, in turn, the freedom to discriminate. There is no gain for anyone by passing a universal law mandating only one way of doing business. Mandates drain the virtue out of good behavior and permit bad motivations to hide under the cover of law.

Here is an example from a recent experience. I was using AirBnB to find a place to stay for a friend. He needed a place for a full week, so $1,000 was at stake. The first potential provider I contacted hesitated and began to ask a series of questions that revolved around my friend’s country of origin, ethnicity, and religion. The rental owner was perfectly in his rights to do this. It is his home, and he faces no obligation to open it to all comers.

On the other hand, I found the questions annoying, even offensive. I decided that I didn’t want to do business with this person. I made a few more clicks, cancelled that query, and found another place within a few minutes. The new renter was overjoyed to take in my friend.

I was delighted for two reasons. First, my friend was going to stay at a home that truly wanted him there, and that’s important. Force is never a good basis for commercial relationships. Second, I was able to deny $1K to a man who was, at best, a risk averse and narrow thinker or, at worst, an outright bigot.

Declining to do business with him was my little protest, and it felt good. I wouldn’t want my friend staying with someone who didn’t really want him there, and I was happy not to see resources going toward someone whose values I distrusted.

In this transaction, I was able to provide a reward to the inclusive and broad-minded home owner. It really worked out too: the winning rental property turned out to be perfect for my friend.

This was only possible because the right to discriminate is protected in such transactions (for now). I like to think that the man who asked too many questions felt a bit of remorse after the fact (he lost a lot of money), and even perhaps is right now undergoing a reconsideration of his exclusionary attitudes. Through my own buyer decisions I was actually able to make a contribution toward improving cultural values.

What if anti-discrimination laws had pertained? The man would not have been allowed to ask about national origin, religion, and ethnicity. Presuming he kept his room on the open market, he would have been required under law to accept my bid, regardless of his own values.

As a result, my money would have gone to someone who didn’t have a high regard for my friend, my friend would have been denied crucial information about what he was getting into, and I would not be able to reward people for values I hold dear.

This is precisely why gay rights leaders should be for, not against, the right to discriminate. If you are seeking to create a more tolerant society, you need information that only a free society can provide.

You need to know who is ready to serve and hire gay men and women, so they can be rewarded for their liberality. You also need to know who is unwilling to hire and serve so that the loss part of profit-and-loss can be directed against ill-liberality. Potential employees and customers need to know how they are likely to be treated by a business. Potential new producers need to know about business opportunities in under-served niche markets.

If everyone is forced to serve and hire gays, society is denied important knowledge about who does and does not support enlightened thinking on this topic.

Consider the prototypical case of the baker who doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He is within his rights. His loss of a potential customer base is his own loss. It is also the right of the couple to refuse to give this baker business. The money he would have otherwise made can be redirected towards a baker who is willing to do this. It is equally true that some people would rather trade with a baker who is against gay marriage, and they are within their rights as well.

Every act of discrimination, provided it is open and legal, provides a business opportunity to someone else.

How does all this work itself out in the long run? Commerce tends toward rewarding inclusion, broadness, and liberality. Tribal loyalties, ethnic and religious bigotries, and irrational prejudices are bad for business. The merchant class has been conventionally distrusted by tribalist leaders — from the ancient to the modern world — precisely because merchantcraft tends to break down barriers between groups.

We can see this in American history following the end of slavery. Blacks and whites were ever more integrated through commercial exchange, especially with the advance of transportation technology and rising incomes. This is why the racists turned increasingly toward the state to forbid it. Zoning laws, minimum wage regulation, mandatory segregation, and occupational licensing were all strategies used to keep the races separate even as the market was working toward integration.

The overwhelming tendency of markets is to bring people together, break down prejudices, and persuade people of the benefits of cooperation regardless of class, race, religion, sex/gender, or other arbitrary distinctions. The same is obviously and especially true of sexual orientation. It is the market that rewards people who put aside their biases and seek gains through trade.

This is why states devoted to racialist and hateful policies always resort to violence in control of the marketplace. Ludwig von Mises, himself Jewish and very much the victim of discrimination his entire life, explained that this was the basis for Nazi economic policy. The market was the target of the Nazis because market forces know no race, religion, or nationality.

“Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda,” Mises  wrote in 1944, “did not succeed in preventing German ‘Aryans’ from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors.” So the racists turned to the totalitarian state — closing and confiscating Jewish business, turning out Jewish academics, and burning Jewish books — in order to severe the social and economic ties between races in Germany.

The biggest enemy of marginal and discriminated-against populations is and has always been the state. The best hope for promoting universal rights and a culture of tolerance is the market economy. The market is the greatest weapon ever devised against bigotry — but, in order to work properly, the market needs to signaling systems rooted in individuals’ freedom of choice to act on their values.

And, to be sure, the market can also provide an outlet for people who desire to push back for a different set of values, perhaps rooted in traditional religious concerns. Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A, In-and-Out Burger, among many others, openly push their religious mission alongside their business, and their customer base is drawn to them for this reason. This is also a good thing. It is far better for these struggles to take place in the market (where choice rules) rather than through politics (where force does).

Trying to game that market by taking away consumer and producer choice harms everyone. Anti-discrimination laws will provide more choices at the expense of more informed choices. Such laws force bigotry underground, shut down opportunities to provide special rewards for tolerance, and disable the social learning process that leads to an ever more inclusive society.

New laws do not fast-track fairness and justice; they take away opportunities to make the world a better place one step at a time.

Source: Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate | Jeffrey A. Tucker

Must a Jew Bake a Nazi Cake? | Jeffrey A. Tucker   3 comments

At the first-ever nationally televised debate between candidates for the Libertarian Party, the subject turned to a fundamental issue: the freedom not to associate. The subject concerned anti-discrimination law, particularly as it affects religion.

Image result for image of a nazi cakeGary Johnson was asked whether he, as president, would retain laws that prohibit discrimination based on religion. He said he would, especially given the current political climate in this country. There’s so much anger out there, he said, that he would be concerned about Muslims being denied access to basic utilities, for example.

Opponent Austin Petersen immediately seized on this compromise of principle. People must have the freedom to associate or disassociate based on whatever criterion. If they do not, he said, a Jewish baker would be forced to bake a cake for Nazis. Johnson agreed that non-discrimination would imply exactly that.

It was the best moment of the debate, and it sparked a thousand Reddit and Facebook discussions.

Who is right?

One objection is that this hypothetical is wholly unlikely in any case. Why would a Nazi demand such a thing from a Jew? If the Jewish baker really refused a Nazi, could he actually expect to be prosecuted for doing so?

However unlikely this scenario would be in the United States today, it is not entirely ahistorical. In the early years of the rise of the Nazis, party members demanded boycotts of Jewish businesses. This was part of their propaganda to whip up the public into scapegoating Jews for all the sufferings of the German people. Over time, public antagonism intensified to more direct forms of attacks and exclusions, from lootings, pogroms, ghettoization, concentration camps, and finally gas chambers.

A Slippery Slope?

Supporters of anti-discrimination law cite this as a case in point. If you let people refuse service based on a religious criterion (or race, sex, disability, and so on) you create a slippery slope. What starts as a bigoted choice ends in more violent modes of exclusion. Yes, this can lead to weird results such as forbidding a black-owned hotel from barring a Klan member, and a Jewish baker forced to service to a Nazi based on religion. But this is a small price to pay, they say, for a more generalized atmosphere of tolerance.

Let’s consult the great economist Ludwig von Mises, a Jew himself, who was actually present in interwar Vienna and personally affected by the rise of anti-Semitism. It kept him from obtaining a position at the city’s great university, and it eventually drove him out of his beloved Austria. Eventually arriving in the United States, he wrote what might be considered the most anti-Nazi book ever: Omnipotent Government (1944). It opposed Nazi racism and anti-Semitism but also the entire Nazi economic policy that itself was rooted in a form of legal discrimination of some producers over others.

Choice and Coercion

Where did Mises stand on the issue of discrimination? He distinguished two kinds: that extending from choice and that imposed by law. He favored the former and opposed the latter. He went even further. He said that a policy that forces people against their will creates the very conditions that lead to legal discrimination. In his view, even speaking as someone victimized by invidious discrimination, it is better to retain freedom than build a bureaucracy that overrides human choice.

“In an unhampered market society there is no legal discrimination against anybody,” he wrote. “Everyone has the right to obtain the place within the social system in which he can successfully work and make a living. The consumer is free to discriminate, provided that he is ready to pay the cost.”

What might this principle imply?

A Czech or a Pole may prefer to buy at higher cost in a shop owned by a Slav instead of buying cheaper and better in a shop owned by a German. An anti-Semite may forego being cured of an ugly disease by the employment of the ‘Jewish’ drug Salvarsan and have recourse to a less efficacious remedy. In this arbitrary power consists what economists call consumer’s sovereignty.

These choices are up to the consumer, and, presumably, the producer too.

In a world in which people have grasped the meaning of a market society, and therefore advocate a consumer’s policy, there is no legal discrimination against Jews. Whoever dislikes the Jews may in such a world avoid patronizing Jewish shopkeepers, doctors, and lawyers.

And yet, if you have a social movement that is just dead-set against a certain group, and pushes a strategy of boycotts and exclusions, does it eventually end in harming people in devastating ways? So long as markets are working, Mises says the answer is no.

Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda did not succeed in preventing German “Aryans” from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors. They did not patronize the Jews unawares—’Aryan’ competitors were careful to tell them again and again that these people were Jews. Whoever wanted to get rid of his Jewish competitors could not rely on an alleged hatred of Jews; he was under the necessity of asking for legal discrimination against them.

Mises is arguing, in other words, that voluntary discrimination tends not to create permanent disabilities for groups. It might be wrong. It might be ugly. It might be intended to create harm. But so long as the market is working, exclusion does not work over the long run. The benefits of the division of labor are too great, and the costs of pervasive discrimination are too high, to make it worth it.

As Mises wrote elsewhere:

The market does not directly prevent anybody from arbitrarily inflicting harm on his fellow citizens; it only puts a penalty upon such conduct. The shopkeeper is free to be rude to his customers provided he is ready to bear the consequences. The consumers are free to boycott a purveyor provided they are ready to pay the costs. What impels every man to the utmost exertion in the service of his fellow men and curbs innate tendencies toward arbitrariness and malice is, in the market, not compulsion and coercion on the part of gardeess, hangmen, and penal courts; it is self-interest.

Power Will Be Used

What’s more, argues Mises, society needs a market society that includes a full range of freedom to choose precisely to prevent political violence against groups. Nazi economic policy punished importers against domestic producers, large stores against shopkeepers, large-scale industry against startups, and so on. The machinery was already in place legally to punish Jewish businesses against non-Jewish businesses.

Sacrificing principle for the sake of marginalized groups is short-sighted. If you accept the infringement of human rights as an acceptable political weapon, that weapon will eventually be turned on the very people you want to help. As Dan Sanchez has written, “Authoritarian restriction is a game much better suited for the mighty than for the marginalized.”

Commerce has a tendency to break down barriers, not create them. In fact, this is why Jim Crow laws came into existence, to interrupt the integrationist tendencies of the marketplace. Here is the hidden history of a range of government interventions, from zoning to labor laws to even the welfare state itself. The ruling class has always resented and resisted the market’s tendency to break down entrenched status and gradually erode tribal bias.

Indeed, commerce is the greatest fighter against bigotry and hate that humankind has ever seen. And it is precisely for this reason that a movement rooted in hate must necessarily turn to politics to get its way.

The real danger is not human choice but a regime that overrides it. The market is rooted in choice, which also means the right to discriminate. But so long as the state stays out of it, the discriminatory intent can’t last.

The freedom to choose implies the freedom to decline any particular choice on any grounds.

What about the Johnson scenario of a public utility that denies service to a Muslim community? One can easily imagine a private power generation company using that as an opportunity for profit.

As for the Nazis, they will just have to find someone else to bake their cakes.

Source: Must a Jew Bake a Nazi Cake? | Jeffrey A. Tucker

Another Colorado Baker Faces Discrimination Charges   5 comments

I predicted this, by the way.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/01/22/this-colorado-baker-refused-to-put-an-anti-gay-message-on-cakes-now-she-is-facing-a-civil-rights-complaint/

I don’t know Bill Jack, the man who ordered the cake, but I suspect this was a set up to do exactly what he is doing, pushing this into the courts to force Colorado courts to a major decision.

The Masterpiece Cake case last year involved a Christian who refused to bake a “wedding” cake for a same-sex couple because he believes God does not want him to participate in homosexual activities even to this degree. Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission with the backing of Colorado courts ruled that Jack Phillips had no right to exercise his freedom of religion and opt out of same- sex weddings. He has since stopped baking wedding cakes altogether.

On the surface, Bill Jack did a deplorable thing. He asked the baker to bake a wedding cake that said “God Hates Gays”. You’ll have to look back in my blog for my full position on this, but God does not hate gays, only the sexual behavior gays participate in, and Christians are not called to hate, but to live in love with God, which will sometimes put us at odds with the world. While I fully support Jack Phillips’ right to practice freedom of religion and refuse to bake a “wedding” cake for a same-sex couple, I call Bill Jack a sinner for the hateful nature of what he requested. And I fully support Marjorie Silva’s right to refuse to participate in his act of hate.

But I suspect Mr. Jack is pushing an issue that needs to be pushed. I don’t think this is about hatred of homosexuals at all. I think this is about civil rights — the right of Christians not to participate in objectionable activities through our businesses.

Jack Phillips, the Masterpiece Cake baker, chose not to bake a cake because he believes God does not approve of homosexual lifestyles, including same-sex “marriage”. He further believes that he as a Christian should not participate in homosexual lifestyles, even by giving them the tacit approval of baking a cake for a same-sex “wedding. So he refused to bake a “wedding” cake. In doing so, he stood firmly on the 1st Amendment and the Bible. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission chose to ignore the long-established definition of “freedom” and forced him and his employees to submit to “reeducation” classes and promise to be the go-to bakery for gay wedding cakes.

Now Marjorie Silva is making a stand on her right not to inscribe a hateful message on a cake. I fully support that decision and for the same reason. If Mr. Jack wanted his anti-gay cake, he could have found another baker willing to do it for him or taken Silva up on her offer to provide the tools for him to do it himself. Instead, he filed a civil rights complaint. The article I am posting insists the cases are different. I would argue that they are not. It really comes down to this:

If Christians can be forced to participate in the activities of the world that we consider to be sin — if we have no freedom of conscience to refuse — than we have no freedom of religion and we might as well be living under a totalitarian state.

In fact, I would argue that we are living in a totalitarian state and just haven’t acknowledged it yet. If you belong to a marginalized minority — which is what Christians have become in this nation — you do not have the same standing before the courts as someone who is a member of a protected class of citizens.

This case is going to prove that.

I predict the Human Rights Commission and the Colorado courts will rule in favor of Marjorie Silva, the owner of Azucar Bakery. They will pontificate that Silva was exercising the correct sort of conscience and therefore had every freedom to deny Bill Jack service. In doing so, they will make it clear that Christians are no longer considered equal citizens who have a right of conscience unless they align their beliefs with the current worldview.

See also —

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-wont-review-new-mexico-gay-commitment-ceremony-photo-case/2014/04/07/f9246cb2-bc3a-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html

 

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