Yes, you heard that right. I know it sounds crazy to modern ears, but hear my arguments. I do not claim that such discrimination is morally right or wrong, but I do claim that it should be legal (just like prideful boasting should be legal even if it is morally wrong). Recently, people are debating whether or not some businesses should be able to refuse service to gay people. An example is when a bakery decided not to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, apparently for religious belief reasons. This all started a fire storm of public outcry. Everyone’s talking about “discrimination” versus “religious freedom”. And, some states are passing various laws to apparently allow such discrimination if it’s based on religious reasons. But, I won’t discuss those laws in particular because I want to focus on a bigger question (and because, even if their general theory has some truth, those particular laws are probably riddled with nonsense in the details). Let’s back up. Let’s talk about the general question of discrimination in the private sector and personal life.
Firstly, we must realize that just because something is constitutional or legal, it doesn’t mean that it is morally appropriate in law, and it doesn’t mean that it SHOULD be in law. If we are to use morality to judge which laws should exist, we cannot simply determine if something is presently legal. After all, slavery was once legal. So, I will not resort to any argument that uses existing law as its justification. I am not here to debate whether or not the present Constitution or law currently says … this or that. I am here to debate what SHOULD be in the law and/or Constitution. I will only use moral reason to argue that all private sector discrimination should be LEGAL for any reason (even racism, sexism, anti-gay motivation, and freckles, you name it). I know, it sounds horrible, but hang on. Trust me, libertarians like myself can’t stand stupid Republicans who wish to use govt force to control other people’s lives. We believe that it is morally wrong to initiate coercive force, both private and govt force. All interactions should be mutually voluntary. This is why we disagree with Republicans when they sometimes wish to outlaw sodomy (proof that they do not care about personal freedom). This is also why we believe in de-regulating marriage and legalizing same-sex marriage, since outlawing such marriages is equivalent to initiating force to prohibit the peaceful activity of a gay couple entering into a type of contract or relationship (in fact, the govt shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all, and the word “marriage” shouldn’t even exist in any law). See here for a discussion on gay marriage. Using force to prohibit peaceful and voluntary activity is morally wrong. But, it goes both ways.
Let’s put aside the particulars of the “religious freedom” bills in question, and back up to the broader question of discrimination in private associations (including private business). And, I won’t even bring up “religious freedom” issues, since I can make my arguments complete without them. OK, here it goes:
1. It is wrong to initiate coercive force against people (self-defense is “responding” to force with force, not “initiating” force, so self-defense is permissible. Although, if you’re a Christian, you may go above and beyond even that and abstain from all force, even self-defense).
2. A business owner who wishes to not sell to or do business with a gay (or black, etc.) person is not initiating force or violence.
3. Using govt force of law to force such a business owner to trade with a gay (or black, etc.) person is therefore the INITIATION of force (not a response, and therefore not self-defense or defense of a third party from pre-existing force).
4. Therefore, using govt force in this way is immoral. Therefore, anti-discrimination laws in the private sector are immoral (of course, this is not talking about govt discrimination; laws that prohibit govt discrimination are permissible and obligatory. See here for more on that).
Notice that I did not even have to bring up religion. It’s not about religious freedom, it’s about freedom in general. Ultimately, from a legal standpoint, it should not matter what the inner motivation in people is for the reason they wish to not trade with certain people. For any reason at all, a person should be able to legally not trade with anyone they choose. No person should be forced to interact with or trade with someone that they do not wish to trade with. This is a basic principle of liberty. We should all have the freedom to choose who to interact with and who to trade with. Should we outlaw people from being close-minded and mean-spirited? No. A business is simply people trading with each other. They own their bodies that they wish to labor with in providing some service, and they own their property that they wish to sell. Therefore, they should have the right to do with their bodies (services) and trad-able property as they wish, so long as they do not initiate actual physical coercion or harm against others. If you favor anti-discrimination laws that force private businesses to trade with gay (or black, etc.) people, then you are imposing your will on others by force and committing the same evils that you rightly blame Republicans of doing in the marriage and sex arena.
Even if a certain case of discrimination is morally wrong, it is also morally wrong for a minority (or anyone) to initiate force (including govt force) against that morally wrong discriminator.
Remember, I am only talking about private sector and personal life discrimination, not govt discrimation, which should be illegal. By the way, the historical classic discrimination horrors that we lament are almost always due to govt and/or the initiation of force, directly or indirectly. Our past historical horrors were not due to private sector voluntary peaceful discrimination. We are correct in outlawing slavery and we are correct in outlawing the govt from discriminating (such as in voting laws and hiring practices in govt jobs), but we must legally allow ordinary non-govt people to associate and live their lives as they please, and this includes allowing them to discriminate in regard to who they interact and trade with.
Some may claim that private sector discrimination violates the gay (or black, etc.) person’s “civil rights”. But, this assumes that people have the natural right to initiate force and coercion against others, which they don’t, even if current laws incorrectly grant such “rights” legally. Actually, anti-discrimination laws violate the civil rights of the people who wish to discriminate because it violates the right of freedom of association, which includes the right to choose who to associate with. No one should have the legal right to force someone else to interact or trade with them.
The above describes the moral argument against anti-discrimination laws in the private sector. This trumps all other categories of arguments. However, some of you may be thinking, “Sure, theoretically speaking, it seems morally wrong to outlaw discrimination, but I just can’t accept that situation in society because I’m afraid that, if we do, we would live in a highly segregated society, and avoiding this practically negative consequence should take priority instead of following morally pure rules”. This is false (although, we must accept the fact that, in a free society, a few people will always choose to segregate themselves from others). In the future, I will provide “consequentialist” and economic arguments that describe why anti-discrimination laws are not even necessary in the practical sense in order for various minorities to live practically good lives in a well-integrated society. In fact, historically, it was govt (and sometimes private initiatory force) which fostered and/or forced segregation and hatred between races, not freedom and peace. See here for a discussion of ethics theories.