A Through The Looking Glass segment
The Constitution protects the rights of the individual. A free market imposes its own consequences.
What motivates you to work well?
Is work obtained through force as “good” as work done by choice?
To compel a shopkeeper to work against his will is possible, even justifiable with the myriad protections against discrimination with which places of public accommodation are required to comply. What is more difficult, and most likely impossible, is to require that same shopkeeper to work with the same focus and pride when compelled by force as he would on a project chosen, agreed upon by both parties (business and customer) and compelled by dignity, pride and fair trade.
The basis for the laws banning public discrimination stem from the civil rights legislation of the 1960s that sought to correct the racial injustices of years past. An issue that individualists had with these civil rights actions is that the legislative acts required not only state institutions to eliminate discrimination but privately held facilities as well. Now, I understand that an exception to the laws against discrimination for private businesses is a tough sell. A simplistic argument in favor of this position would sound something like “I believe in the right to hold prejudicial beliefs based upon superficial characteristics like skin color…but I promise I do not hold those beliefs.”???
Rand Paul, the senator from Tennessee, had an interview on MSNBC where he discussed this issue. (Watch it here) As the interview progressed it became ever the more clear that interviewer was seeking the damning soundbite. The phrase “I believe that people should be allowed to discriminate” is most likely one that Paul agrees with, given the proper context. However, the media malpractice that occurs with political interviews can spin these remarks so that Rand Paul is framed as another run-of-the-mill racist republican. And indeed, that is what occurred. (As evidenced here.) But Paul’s position is based on the antithesis of the reason that his liberal opponents would cite. It is not hate that drives this position but the love and respect of freedom.
Example: A wo/man is raised to adulthood by loving well meaning parents who, nevertheless, impart certain prejudicial views, based upon nothing deeper than skin color, unto their child. The child, now adult, carries these views while pursuing an education and starting a business. These prejudicial views may be at best unenlightened stereotypes and at worst deplorable vitriol, but they do not entitle the state to determine how this individual must use legally acquired and privately held property. Just as an individual has a right to prevent anyone from trespassing upon a home, this belief extends that standard to any office or service enterprise. It also protects the property of the mind and body, belief and skill.
Obviously, this freedom-based perspective has not won out in the world of business or the courts. Legal mandates dictate that businesses may not discriminate against anyone based upon certain legal protections. The creation of these protected groups ostensibly serves to eliminate discrimination but falls well short of both justice and equal treatment. The basic consequence of this interference in the marketplace is that these protections run counter to the government’s most basic responsibility: to protect the rights of the individual, even if that individual holds despicable points-of-view. The protections against state interference with regard to speech and religion extend beyond the printed word and the established church. They protect against the invasion of the individual, the beliefs held and the abilities possessed.
Moving into the present, cultural conditions being what they are have recently required that a Colorado baker create a cake for the wedding of two men, despite the religiously held beliefs of the baker against such a ceremony. This decision, while soundly within the law, illustrates the distinct, opposing views of state intervention. One side defers to the rights of the individual, a founding tenet of the United States, whether or not his personal views are misguided. This view recognizes the baker’s private property interests and the lack of constitutional authority held by the government to compel labor from individuals. This view also defers to the marketplace for its own consequences that are immeasurably more efficient and effective than government regulation.
The other view increases the involvement of government in business and trade between individuals. It demands that a centrally located government body determine and mandate what is best for all rather than allow the individuals to determine this for themselves. It requires that individuals act against their will, to utilize hard earned skills, engaging in acts against their most deeply held beliefs. This view requires governmental action, through compulsion and force, to control the citizenry.
Governmental action also attempts to replace any consequences that befall racist shop owners that would arise due to the natural conditions of a free market economy. If a known racist is openly hostile to potential customers, it is likely that the rate of customers would fall and the racist businessperson would no longer have a business. Government need not exert any effort, or tax dollars, in promoting consequences that could be carried out by free individuals.
But there is one area that any amount of governmental interference cannot control: it cannot compel people to care about the work they do when compelled to do it. Under the guise of equality, this interference by the state directly undermines productive, dedicated labor resulting in a product that is less than equal.
Who is served by the use of a sacred skill when the love of labor is lost?
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”