Choose the car you like, the woman you marry, or the supermarket you shop at, and you “discriminate.” We all discriminate every minute of our lives—to discriminate means to choose between endless options that suit your needs, values, or preferences. Personal discrimination means having the right to choose what you do with your body, values, and the money or property you own .
When we “discriminate” with our property, we exercise our right to make choices. But sometimes we make bad choices that offend others. Some people don’t wish to sell to, buy from, or associate with minorities, Catholics, old people, homosexuals, or women with children. People can be irrational or bigoted in a thousand ways.
However, respect for each other’s freedom ironically requires that we respect each other’s right to make decisions that may offend some people. For example, if a homeowner doesn’t want to rent his upstairs apartment to bald men, homosexuals, or Indonesian women, that should be his right, because it is his home.
The homeowner may be “prejudiced” against certain people, but he has the right to make that choice with his own property. The person denied the apartment, while their feelings may be offended, had no claim to that apartment, for it was not their property in the first place. In free trade between people who respect each other’s property and freedom of choice, you have the right to buy or sell anything, but only if the other person is willing to trade with you. Every trade requires the free consent of both parties.
Remember, an insulted would-be tenant also has free choice. He can decide who he rents from. Doesn’t a tenant also “discriminate” against a homeowner if he chooses not to rent the apartment because it is dirty, in a neighborhood too far from where he works, or because he doesn’t like the owner’s race or personality?
The same applies to all privately-owned property in a free country. The owner of a restaurant has the right to not serve someone who can’t order in English. It’s his restaurant. A private-school owner has the right to say, “I will only admit Asian students with wealthy parents.” It’s his school. These businessmen may be fools to believe bad things about whole groups of people, but they have the right to be fools with their own property.
A school or business owner earned the money and took the risks to buy that school or business. However, if he irrationally excludes too many people as customers, he may soon find himself out of business and bankrupt. The free market often punishes a business owner for being stupid or bigoted.
We all dislike bigots, but one man’s bigotry is another’s truth. No one has the right to dictate our opinions or moral values, or to control our property without our consent. That’s what property rights means.
Yet, anti-discrimination laws violate this principle. These laws say a man can’t choose who he wants to do business with. This means that government now presumes to control that man’s mind, hard-earned property, personal decisions, and freedom of choice. It means tyranny.
If government officials can tell us what opinions we can or can’t have about other people, it can also tell us what we can or can’t do with our bodies, property, and even our children. It can wipe out our freedom of choice. Isn’t that what compulsory public schools do against parents? Isn’t that what a suffocating web of government regulations does to all businessmen? Haven’t the bureaucrats, like a spreading cancer, eaten away ever more of our choices, our freedom, and our property rights?
Also, in the end, anti-discrimination laws end up hurting the very people they want to help. The more that government strangles businesses with a suffocating web of anti-discrimination, wage, health, and environmental regulations, the worse off minorities get. A massive Federal government needs massive deficit spending. That pumps up inflation. Inflation sharply raises the cost of living for everyone, which hurts low-income minorities most of all.
Strangling government regulations also cripple small businesses and either stop them from opening, or restrict their expansion. That means less jobs for minority workers. Also, every time Congress raises the minimum wage, small-business owners who can’t afford these raises have to fire some of their minority workers.
It is only governments, at any level, that have no right to discriminate. Government’s purpose is to protect all citizens’ liberty. Also, government bureaucrats do not earn or create property. They mostly loot money (through taxes) from some people to give to others. They therefore don’t have the right, for example, to tell all restaurant owners in white neighborhoods that they can’t serve Blacks (as some states did with Jim Crow laws). That violates the right of a non-bigoted restaurant owner to serve whoever he pleases. Such laws also violate the political and economic liberty of a black person.
One reason discrimination against Blacks lasted so long in many southern states was because Jim Crow laws legalized segregation, but these laws were created by local governments. Such laws forbid competition between bigots and non-bigots. The restaurant or bus company who serves all people makes more money and has a greater chance at success. Bigoted businessmen lose money. In the end, without government-enforced discrimination laws, the free market would wipe out most organized discrimination.
In short, we, as individuals or businesses, have the right to “discriminate” with our own minds, bodies, and property. I say this not because I agree with bigots, but to protect our most fundamental liberties, the liberties that, in the end, are the only real protection for those “discriminated” against.