As a follow-up to Friday’s post regarding the anti-freedom consequences of gay marriage legislation, I wanted to make this analogy and state, for the record, my complete and total opposition to any violations (either positive or negative) to the freedom of association of private persons by the state.
Given the ridiculous propaganda that passes for “education” these days, most peoples understanding of Jim Crow is that it was a bunch of evil, for-profit southern businessmen colluding together to forbid blacks from patronizing their businesses. These evil capitalists were so incredibly racist that they managed to establish a “whites only” cartel that absolutely nobody ever cheated on (something that has never actually happened in all of world history). Eventually, democratic government stepped in (because it cares about the rights of minorities so much) to put an end to this awful and barbaric practice and ensure justice and equality for everyone. And they all lived happily ever after.
Naturally, this is not even close to the historic reality. It is very important to remember that Jim Crow laws were in fact laws. Laws are doctrines created and enforced by the government. Businesses didn’t discriminate because they wanted to, they discriminated because they had to, under the law. The much maligned (and correctly so) case of Plessy vs Ferguson (often credited as legitimizing Jim Crow and the “separate but equal” doctrine) was a case of a private citizen being arrested by the government for boarding a racially segregated train car. Of particular note is that the private company which owned the train, the East Louisiana Railroad, opposed Jim Crow laws because they were economically inefficient. They wanted Homer Plessy’s business, and they wanted fully integrated train cars (to trim costs). Two willing parties voluntarily consented to trade under certain terms (a trip in an integrated train car) and the government used force to prevent them from doing so.
Flash forward to today. We don’t have Jim Crow laws anymore, instead we have “anti-discrimination” which are just as morally repugnant. Most people would tell you that anti-discrimination laws are the opposite of Jim Crow, but in reality they are the same. They also restrict the freedom of association and prohibit trade. In order for trade to be legitimate, it must occur voluntarily between two consenting parties. If a robber approached you with a gun and demanded “your money or your life,” you would not consider the forfeiture of your wallet in exchange for your continued lead-free existence to be a legitimate trade. You would consider yourself the victim of unjust aggression. It doesn’t matter why you didn’t desire to give the robber your wallet. It is not for anyone else to decide whether your reason for not consenting to this trade was legitimate or not.
Similarly, a business that does not desire to serve certain customers, for any reason, cannot be morally compelled to do so. When the government uses force to compel a trade in which one party is not a willing and voluntary participant, that is no trade at all. Such a transaction has much more in common with the “trade” between a robber and his victim than your purchase of fuel at a local gas station. In the case of the florist in Washington State, one party did not consent to a trade under certain terms (flowers to be used in a gay wedding) and the government plans on using force to compel them to do so.
In both cases, the freedom of association is violated. The difference between the two sets of laws is not significant, as far as individual freedom and liberty are concerned. The insinuation that somehow a business being “available to the public” compels it to obey with such laws is absurd. Association and trade are natural rights that we do not have to get permission from the government to enjoy. The government cannot require you to relinquish one right as a condition of exercising another. The notion that in order to practice free trade, you must surrender your right to free association is completely tyrannical in nature and must be labeled as such.
Freedom of trade AND freedom of association are both preconditions of a free society.
We cannot possibly describe our nation as free, or claim that freedom is a value we hold dear, so long as “anti-discrimination” laws, which are morally equivalent and structurally similar to Jim Crow laws, are on the books and strictly enforced.