Required reading on the Hayride this morning…
Anti-discrimination laws and the laws on public accomodations were first crafted in the 1960s in response to the Jim Crow laws that appeared after the Civil War. What has been forgotten about Jim Crow laws is that they were state-mandated segregation. These were not the decisions of white business owners, instead the laws were passed by state governments.
Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 because of two provisions, Title II and Title VII. He believed the two provisions, which dealt with outlawing discrimination by business owners and discrimination in employment respectively, were unconstitutional. Both provisions violate freedom of association.
In this era of social media, anti-discrimination laws are obsolete. Just ask the folks at Memories Pizza in Indiana. After their owner told a reporter they would not cater a gay wedding, they got blasted so much on the Internet and by phone they were forced to close. While I don’t condone threats and leaving slanderous reviews of a business I have never visited, this is an example of the marketplace punishing discrimination.
Today’s anti-discrimination laws serve as employment opportunities for lawyers and bureaucrats. They also serve as a way to protect bigoted business owners by allowing them to hide their bigotry, instead of subjecting them to the punishment of the marketplace that they would suffer if they were allowed to be honest about their views.
Should a Christian florist be punished, either civilly or criminally, for refusing to work a gay wedding? Should a gay tattoo artist be required to tattoo anti-gay Bible verses on a Christian’s arm? Should a black baker be required to bake a cake for the KKK? The only acceptable answer in a free society to all three questions is no.
This is as much of an individual freedom issue as free speech. The fact of the matter is other people do not belong to you. The goods and services they produce do not belong to you. Demanding that someone else provide those goods and services by force is theft, no matter if you outsource it to the government.
We’re prepared for what’s coming, which is accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, bigotry and whatever other insults the Usual Suspects might bring to the table in the wake of what Kevin wrote. We don’t care. Somebody had to say it, because this week’s blowup over the Indiana RFRA law shows that American culture and society has once again blown past the brittle and obsolete government structure established in a previous time.
I talk about this often. If you didn’t catch the podcast interview I did with Clay Young last week, which you can hear here, I talked about it then. I also discuss it frequently here at the site. Namely, that our current regulatory state was built to govern an Industrial Age society, and we are no longer Industrial Age. We are now an Information Age society, which is something fundamentally different, and Industrial Age legal remedies don’t work.
And one of the differences between an Industrial Age society and an Information Age society is that membership in a tribe – or, if you prefer, a special-interest group – isn’t really necessary to defend yourself against the terrible abuses society can heap upon you. When you have access to Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or any of the other online outlets where regular people can act as social critics, you have the ability to retaliate against anyone who treats you badly.
We also have traditional media, particularly of the local variety, which is increasingly struggling to stay relevant by airing even the most insignificant stories of perceived injustice. The story of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana Kevin references is a perfect example. The Gay Mafia on the Left is ginning up death threats to the owners of that now-closed business for the sin of hypothetically refusing to cater a gay wedding – as though, as it’s been remarked, there is a gay couple anywhere on earth who would serve pizza at a wedding.
Neither Eich nor Pascal were accused of actually doing anything to oppress anyone. Neither Eich nor Pascal were sued for discrimination, nor were their companies. Anti-discrimination laws demanded by the civil-rights Left had nothing to do with the fall of either. Instead, it was current American culture which did them in.
And what we now know is that the culture is far more powerful than the law.
In most places, it’s against the law to smoke marijuana. Does that stop anyone from lighting up a joint? No. What stops a lot more people is the prospect of having their friends and family and society at large find out they did. Look at Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming superstar who saw his marketability fall off the table after video surfaced of him puffing on a bong. Phelps was suspended from the sport and lost endorsement opportunities following that incident; he didn’t face any particular legal trouble.
When the convenience and psychological state of transgenders and transvestites starts to become the great civil-rights cause of our era, we know that anti-discrimination is no longer an active fight in our politics. When we spend our time brooding over “hidden” racism, we know the days of Selma and Bull Connor are over.
It’s time to admit our success. It’s time to recognize that Rand Paul was right when he expressed reservations about the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s infringement upon private property and the freedom of association.
Sure, government anti-discrimination laws ought to stay on the books. But in the Information Age, when accusations of bigotry can destroy livelihoods and entire companies, what’s needed are fewer laws and more freedom in the private sector.