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[TBT] The Right to Discriminate

March 4, 2014 Leave a comment

It sounds ugly, it really does – allowing a private business or individual to deny their service to a specific person or group of people. At face value it seems ridiculous; perhaps immature. However, in the name of preserving liberty, there is merit to permitting discrimination in the private sector. The merit is found in the protection of personal liberty.

Before I venture further, it should be clarified that all public goods and services are to be available to everyone. Places such as public buildings, schools, libraries, hospitals, access to public officials, representatives and due process of law, as well as the services of police, medical emergency, fire emergency, et cetera, where funded by taxpayers and/or guaranteed by the Constitution should be accessible to all legal citizens.

In our hyper-sensitive, politically correct world it is taboo for someone to be denied in any way because of the beliefs of someone else. It can certainly seem asinine to anyone who does not share the perspectives of the person denying someone else. No doubt, given the choice, some businesses would abuse the right to deny people based on unfair and senseless discrimination. Still, the fundamental premise of the right to deny is to protect the right of individuals to freely act in a way that does not violate their personal principles. While it is unfortunate that discrimination has been abused for outrageous reasons, such as racism, in the past (and sometimes even today), the alternative is far worse. That alternative is forcing the compliance of individuals and private businesses, to go against their own beliefs.

To illustrate the issue, let us look at two hypothetical situations from either side in their worst case scenarios. One with forced compliance and one with discrimination permitted.

Example 1: John is a restaurant owner in the deep south. His establishment has been in his family for generations. John is also a racist. In this example, there is no law restricting his right to discriminate against his patrons. So John does what he wants and denies service to black, Hispanic and Asian people. He crafts a large sign to hang outside the restaurant that reads “WHITES ONLY”. As a result of his actions, only white people come to eat there. When someone of a different ethnicity arrives, they leave once they realize they are not welcome. Understandably upset, they take their money to a different restaurant.

Now let’s look at the other extreme.

Example 2: Saul is a Rabbi at his local Synagogue. Recently in his state, gay marriage was legalized. However, Saul, as a practicing follower of Judaism, knows that his faith considers homosexuality a sin and gay marriage to be unacceptable. A gay couple in the Jewish community comes to his synagogue and asks to be married by the Rabbi in the Jewish tradition. In this example, the law requires that all businesses and private establishments must offer their services equally to all and the Synagogue is not excluded. But the Rabbi does not comply with the law. It violates the teachings of his faith. The gay couple goes to the authorities who respond by warning Saul that if he denies the couple their right to be married, he will be punished. Saul still refuses to comply on principle. He is then fined for his actions, according to the local statute. The Rabbi and the members of his congregation agree that they should not have to pay this fine and refuse to pay it. The situation escalates and for failing to pay the fine, Saul is thrown in jail. The gay couple is still not married by that synagogue, and now the Rabbi is sitting in jail for refusing to violate the precepts of his religious beliefs.

Those two examples are concoctions of worst case scenarios from either side of the issue. In the first example, the victims (potential patrons of John’s restaurant) are forced to go somewhere else for the services they desire. In the second example, the victim (Rabbi Saul) loses his freedom to practice his faith and is jailed. While atrocities like racism and homophobia are deemed unacceptable by our society, a free country must seek to protect all personal liberties – even the offensive ones.

The freedom to act according to our deepest convictions and beliefs is one of the fundamental ideas the United States was founded upon. Without it, the vision of liberty is tarnished and weak. Sometimes legalizing freedom will offend or inconvenience others. However, to restrict the right of the individual from practicing his core values is strictly un-American.

The freedom to make our own choices is not supposed to be issued only to those we deem good and right. It also extends to the vile and disgusting among us. We might not agree with them, and we might even loathe them, but we cannot pick and choose who gets what liberties because freedom in and of itself can’t be discriminatory. Personal principles and beliefs will include religious beliefs, cultural traditions, political motivation, pro-homosexual, anti-sexist and anti-racist tendencies…in addition to racism, sexism and homophobia.

The catch

In a free country, business and individuals choose whom they interact with. But that does not mean there is a void of consequences for making those choices. I speak of the free market.

The free market is that unseen animal, the invisible beast, that lurks in the shadows of the deregulated, unstimulated, capitalist economy. It exists in the relationship between producer and consumer. The business and the client. The buyer and the seller. It dictates which establishments rise and which fail.

In a free market, the potential customers are unrestricted in their search for the goods and services they desire. They have their choice and how they make that choice depends on their preferences. Those preferences could be price, quality, quantity, accessibility or even how they feel about the company or person they patronize.

Yes, if a person does not like a business because of how that business conducts its business, they can take their business elsewhere. It does not even have to affect them personally; if they see a company mistreating or discriminating against another person or group of people, they can refuse to patronize it. When enough people cease to interact with an establishment, it hurts them…sometimes badly.

In the competitive business environment, such as we have in America, negative perception is not something companies want associated with their image. They want as many customers as possible to generate as much revenue as possible in order to reach their full potential. The same goes for individuals, only on a much smaller scale, and instead of revenue, community respect and personal success is often the currency. So if a business is going to discriminate against a group, it had better be for a good reason, and they should expect to deal with the consequences.

Let us go back to our previous examples

Example 1 continued: John already does not get business to his restaurant from American minorities, so his clientele is already limited. In addition, however, word gets out that he has made his business a “white only” locale. Some people will be fine with it, and might even be more inclined to dine there if they share his racist views. Others will be appalled and never set foot there again – if for no other reason than to avoid being seen as racist – but more likely because they find John’s action to be offensive. Maybe John’s restaurant survives….but maybe it does not. His fate will be dependent on how many other racist patrons he can attract to keep his business alive.

We will now look at the second example, but this time, there are no laws requiring the Rabbi to provide marriage services to the gay couple. He lives in the same world John does.

Example 2, alternate ending: The gay couple requests the wedding. Rabbi Saul refuses. The gay couple goes elsewhere for their services. They spread the word that the synagogue thinks homosexuality is a sin, and no more gay couples request the Rabbi to marry them. Saul is fine with that. Maybe he loses some of his more liberal members. Maybe he receives threats, or insults. But he is still free and still adhering to the fundamentals of his faith.

Either way, the gay couple did not get what they wanted from the Rabbi. In both versions the Rabbi stayed true to his beliefs. The only difference of substance is that in one situation, Saul was punished for his principles by the government and in the other he freely accepted the affects of others’ choices that related to him.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that there are infinite variables that could be applied to this issue and that I only chose two hypothetical models. I constructed them only to illustrate the point so it is understood in a practical sense and its real-world effects.

Freedom is not always pretty. It does not always create a utopian world where everyone gets what they want and no one’s feelings are hurt. Yet when unleashed, freedom gives us the opportunity to reach our fullest potentials and the choice to live as we see fit.

“…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It’s not just an eloquent phrase – it’s the American way.

 

 

[Tru Blu Tuesday] Gay Marriage, the Constitution, and You

April 2, 2013 2 comments

weddingrings

America, calm down! As much as I know you love to indulge in the ancient tradition of bickering amongst yourselves over controversial issues, it is time we sat down and spoke like adults. At the time of this writing, the federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) sits in front of the Supreme Court, bristling under the sharp threat of repeal. DOMA, signed into law in 1996 by then President Bill Clinton, is the official blanket law of the land on the subject of marriage in America. Recent high profile controversy from California’s Proposition 8, which sought to add the classification of marriage as being between one man and one woman to it’s state constitution, has brought this issue to a head once again. But does it have to be such an aggressive, passionate debate? Is there not a more peaceful, understanding method of resolving the issue without forcing one groups will on the other?

For a different perspective on the issue, I’d like to bring to you the words of former congressman, Dr. Ron Paul, from his book Liberty Defined. In the chapter entitled Marriage (pp 183-186) Dr. Paul addresses the issue from a neutral stance, and highlights the heart of the problem. Wouldn’t you know it, the real problem is government involvement! I humbly submit excerpts of this chapter, along with my own thoughts.

On the intrusion of government in marriage:

Most Americans do not question the requirement to obtain a license to get married. As in just about everything else, this requirement generates unnecessary problems and heated disagreements. If the government was not involved there would be no discussion or controversy over the definition of marriage. Why should the government give permission to two individuals for them to call themselves married? In a free society, something that we do not truly enjoy, all voluntary and consensual agreements would be recognized. If disputes arose, the courts could be involved as in any other civil dispute.

But look at where we are today, constantly fighting over the definition and legality of marriage. Under our system, the federal government was granted no authority over this issue. Many Americans would even amend the Constitution to deal with the argument by defining marriage. This attempt only exacerbates the emotionally charged debate on both sides. (p 183)

This brings up an important question for both sides. To those who value marriage as a religious entity and hold the position that homosexual marriage will violate the sanctity of the institution: Why do you demand a secular body of government to issue licenses and define it for you? If sanctity of marriage is your concern, you aught to first seek to rid yourself of its government regulation. Does government have a place in your personal lives and your faith? Does your faith require a license from the state for your marriage to be valid? If sanctity of marriage is truly valued, then its authority should come from the terms determined by your church body and not from congress or the Supreme Court. If that concept sounds radical to you, ask yourself this question: How would I feel if government also regulated baptisms and communion?

To those who support the marriage of homosexuals and hold that everyone should be given the choice to marry whom they please: If you are truly free, and marriage is truly a right, why do you ask for permission from an oppressive force? If you are honestly free, you would not have to ask. You would simply do as you see fit, as long as you did not deprive anyone of life or property.

On the virtues of free speech:

I’d like to settle the debate by turning it into a First Amendment issue: the right of free speech. Everyone can have his or her own definition of what marriage means, and if an agreement or contract is reached by the participants, it will qualify as a civil contract if desired. […]

I personally identify with the dictionary definition of marriage: “The social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live together as husband and wife by legal commitments or religious ceremony.” If others who choose a different definition do not impose their standards on anyone else, they have the First Amendment right to their own definition and access to the courts to arbitrate any civil disputes. (pp 183-184, 185)

As a citizen of these united States, you are granted all the privileges of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is still one of those privileges. If you so desire, you have the right to define marriage according to your own terms. Whether those terms are determined by your personal faith or your own opinion, no one has the ability to alter that definition. To the right of the issue is the claim that marriage is a product of religion, and there is significant evidence to support that argument. However, one of the beauties of this country is that its people can say and believe as they wish. If they feel differently about the subject, they have the right to say and act as such.

On the other side of free speech, is the liberty to oppose the views of others. This means that if you disagree with another person or group, you can voice your thoughts as long as they do not cause harm to someone else. It is important to note here, that disagreeing with someone, does not constitute as hate speech. The same right that enables you to say what you will, protects those who say what you wish they would not.

arguing

On the use of force through government:

The supercharged emotions are on both extremes of the issue, because neither extreme accepts the principles of a free society. One side is all too willing to have the state use the law to force a narrow definition of marriage on everyone without a hint of tolerance. The other side-a minority opinion-wants the law to help them gain social acceptance even though this is impossible for law to achieve. Those who seek social acceptance of gay marriage are also motivated by the desire to force government and private entities to provide spousal benefits. When dealing with government benefits, this becomes an economic redistribution issue- a problem that would not be found in a truly free society.

When it comes to forcing “equal” treatment in hiring or receiving insurance benefits, that problem should be solved by voluntary agreement-just as voluntary agreement provides the tolerance and understanding for those who chose lifestyles and alternative definitions of marriage. You can’t accept one without the other. […]

The definition of marriage is what divides so many. Why not tolerate everybody’s definition as long as neither side uses force to impose its views on the other? Problem solved! It doesn’t happen because of the lack of tolerance on both sides. One side wants a narrow definition for all, and the other side wants a broad definition that demands full acceptance by those who choose not to subsidize or socialize with people with whom they are uncomfortable. (pp 184, 185)

I could not have said it better myself, and that is why I let Dr. Paul explain it. You see, both sides hold their views so passionately that they would have them be forced by law onto the whole of the nation. If this were a democracy, (and it is not) then the flavor of the day would be determined by the majority rule. This has indeed been the case for this issue as the majority has, until now, been for the strictly heterosexual definition of marriage. Today, however, the tide has turned towards the other direction. If the issue had been determined by the principles of a constitutional republic (which we are), which protects minority opinion through law, all along, then this would likely have been resolved long ago. No force needed.

On the issue of marriage benefits:

Even without a truly free society….if what government provided had real Social Security accounts that could be passed on to family survivors, individuals could name whomever they wanted to be their beneficiary, just as with private insurance. It seems, though, that the Social Security system will never be a sound government-run insurance program, so choice in designating beneficiaries under today’s circumstances is nothing more than expanding a welfare program. (p 184)

The issue would be much simpler if money wasn’t involved, but alas, the current definition of marriage limits non-legally married couples from receiving the same benefits as others. This illustrates how broken the Social Security system really is. Just one more way the government manages to make your life a little more hectic.

Calm down.

We all have our opinions and differences. We all have our varied perspectives, beliefs and values. But at the end of the day we are all individuals trying to live our lives to our own contentment and happiness. For some reason, our happiness is often reliant upon our ability to limit and mold the actions of others to our own standards. If we can shrug off that perpetual human desire to force our will on others, we might actually discover more happiness for ourselves. In the end, you see, regardless of faith and fortune, we are all Americans.