Rediscovering and recovering lost and endangered American liberties by studying our Founders' ideas, contemporaries, and etymology – because our united States "…are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…"
A simple definition of ‘discrimination’ is:
“Recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.”
Another, more politically-charged definition is:
“The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.”
The practice of discrimination, then, can be benign OR detestable, but in today’s sensitive world, the meaning is almost always the latter definition.
There is obviously such a thing as immoral or unethical discrimination, such as refusing service to a patron because of their race or other unchangeable, innate human distinction – but shouldn’t a person (even a business owner) have the right to refuse to associate or do business with a person for any reason? Doesn’t everyone have the right to be a jerk if they want to? Anything less than complete freedom of association is not real freedom at all.
Entertainers and business owners have been exercising their freedom of association recently by refusing to do business in North Carolina – because they don’t like a newly-passed law (HB2 confines public restroom use to biological gender designations – with provisions for custodial, emergency, and guardian exceptions). These protesting business owners are essentially refusing service to patrons because of the state their customers reside in. They are within their rights to do so, and so are butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers who refuse certain customers. Forced association is not liberty.
Of course, the reason businesses are currently forced (by government) to not discriminate against customers based on race stems from the good intention to right a wrong (to stunt racism and ensure that racial minorities are not shunned by a majority – hence the 1964 Civil Rights Act). However, government cannot truly fix moral issues with legislation, and this attempt to right civil wrongs has spiraled out of control – what was meant to protect minority rights has opened a giant door that allows special interest groups to trample on many others’ civil rights. Some good can come out of such government endeavors, but forced social course corrections also sows seeds of bitterness that produces even more division.
The right sort of discrimination can be a very good thing. We discriminate consistently in order to improve our lives. We are discriminatory about the people we date, the stores we shop at, the places we work, and the food we eat. We discriminate about the neighborhoods we walk through.
We also discriminately choose our friends and associates based on age, gender, and perhaps even race (gasp!) out of familiarity or relatability. Not many people seem to see anything wrong with such selectivity, so if a person cannot be fined or jailed because of this type of harmless discrimination, then why should a business owner be punished? After all, most business owners would discriminate in this way to their own detriment – it probably wouldn’t be long before they went out of business. Ron Paul says:
“In a free market, businesses that discriminate lose customers, goodwill, and valuable employees- while rational businesses flourish by choosing the most qualified employees and selling to all willing buyers.”
Discrimination against people based on prejudice is of course a disagreeable human trait, but is the fix simply to have government make a law against it? We’ve seen a steady stream of legislation prohibiting one sort of discrimination after another in the marketplace and workplace – laws first against racial discrimination, then against gender discrimination, then age discrimination, then sexual orientation discrimination. One has to wonder what is next.
The freedom of association is a basic human right. Forced association is not the solution to social divisions. One of our basic liberties has been infringed on by government, and is in jeopardy of being legislated out of existence.