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Egalitarianism v. Private Property

Friday, January 06, 2006

Yesterday, I and a friend were having a discussion about our differing views on the use of property. He's a professed liberal, while I believe that an individual's right to life, liberty, property, and happiness is paramount (libertarianism). We were discussing some scenarios that I would throw at him and what he thought was proper for the property owner to do in each case. For example, lets say John Doe has a house for sale and the only offer came from a person who John didn't like. By saying John didn't like, I mean in the politically incorrect, un-nice way. Maybe the buyer held a religious view or lived a lifestyle that rubbed John the wrong way. It really didn't matter. What was key was that John did not want to enter into a sales agreement with this buyer simply because John didn't like the way the buyer lived his life. The question presented was: Should John Doe be compelled by law (state force) to sell his property to the buyer, or should John Doe have the right, as the holder of private property, to choose not to sell to anyone and everyone, especially if he doesn't personally agree with their lifestyle, race, religion, etc.?
This scenario tears at the very moral fiber of our society. It goes to that ugly place that many dare not speak of, but we should because it sheds light on what makes us tick as human beings. Its what causes people to band together, but also what keeps us apart. Its what the founders meant by free association when they wrote the first amendment. Its why I don't "hang out" with drug dealers, but I do "hang out" with people who share my political philosophies. But, I digress.
My friend told me that he thought it was alright for the law to impose restrictions on John Doe's choice on who he could sell to. He further backed up his argument by explaining that there were "ways" to short-circuit the law whereby allowing John Doe to get around the restrictions. He then produced an anecdote of how he once had a hard time finding a job because of his long hair. He knew that employers, by law, could not use his long hair as their excuse to not hire him, but the potential employers could skirt the law. To do this, they would let him fill out an application for employment, and then just throw his application away. Normally what would and should happen in this scenario (and use to happen) would be the employer explaining to him that unless he would be willing to cut his hair, etc., he would not be hirable. We are, after all, selling ourselves to potential employers. We are a product, and its in our interest to put the best wrapper on that product. But, the law prohibits the employers from helping my friend out by gagging them from telling him what was wrong with his product. How could they possibly say that they're unwilling to hire him due to his long hair without risking a law suit and/or fines from the state?
This morning I was reading articles posted at where I ran into an article by Wendy McElroy entitled, Abolish Anti-Discrimination Laws. This article stated that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the Santa Rosa health club Body Central. The claim has been floated that men are somehow discriminated against because the health club caters only to women. The state (force) has decided that this privately owned business must cater to both sexes or feel the wrath of the state. Her article then goes into finer detail:

At issue is whether an owner has the right to control the customer policies of his or her private business. If so, then the state cannot properly dictate whom that owner must serve or allow onto the premises. A decision to discriminate among customers would be an expression of the owner's freedom of association and of the same property rights that protect his or her home from unwelcome 'guests.'

California law denies the existence of such private rights for businesses. It asserts, instead, that the public has a civil right to access an owner's property and services even over his or her objection.

Read another way, California claims to grant privilege of operating a business within the kingdom of California. They decide who gets to be the royal candlestick maker, the royal bread baker, etc. This case smacks of Socialism at its worst. Its an abomination in a free society, and its exactly what we deserve for allowing this kind of crap to persist in our republic.

Wendy's article continues:

An ideological conflict underlies the attempt by either sex to force open the doors of 'exclusive' businesses: individual rights versus egalitarianism. Under individual rights, every human being has control over the peaceful use of his or her own body and property. Under egalitarianism, access to and use of property is equally distributed across society, with or without the consent of owners.

I come down on the side of individual rights.

In terms of Body Central, I don't believe any man or woman has a legal 'right' to exercise on someone else's private property. I do not believe anyone has a moral obligation to provide another person with exercise. Freedom of association means that individuals, including property owners, have a right to say 'yes' or 'no' at their own front door.

And this is where my story and Wendy's story cross paths. Both Body Central and the fictitious John Doe from above have the right to choose who they associate with and who they do business with. On the other hand, we have people who believe that everyone, everywhere has a claim to everything in society. These people either don't agree with or don't acknowledge the concept of 'the right to private property', so they go find a government official carrying the big stick of government's force to help them impose their will onto private persons and/or their businesses. This is simply coercion by force, or a shakedown akin to the tactics of organized crime. Its a person or a group of people utilizing the force of state to impose their will onto others where it normally wouldn't be proper in an otherwise free society. This is a perfect example of a private citizen having to yield his individual rights to public policy. Originally, our form of government was never meant to be operated in this way. But then again, that form of government has long since past from this earth. It has been replaced by a socialistic hybrid democracy.


Blogger Jake Porter said...

Great post.

Discrimination laws only cause more discrimination. We only see reverse discrimination because you have to hire so many blacks, whites, and so many other groups not who is best for the job.

4:12 PM  

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