Religious Freedom, The Market Place and the Role of Government

Dictionary.com: Discrimination "an act or instance of discriminating, or of making a distinction."

The latest controversy over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana demonstrates how the deconstruction of language and shared meaning is hurting public debate. 

Before the ink was even dry on the Indiana RFRA, which essentially provides limited protection to business owners attempting to live in accordance with their sacred beliefs, the cry of "Discrimination!" was leveled at anyone who holds the crazy idea that people shouldn't be threatened with government violence for choosing to withhold their talents or property from those who wish to benefit from them. 

To discriminate is to make a distinction. Essentially every decision you make in favor of one thing or action over another is a form of discrimination. For instance, the moment liberals decided to boycott certain bakeries and pizzerias they were engaging in discrimination against those select establishments. Did that make their actions automatically immoral or wrong? Like the words "equality" or "tolerance", they have no inherent moral meaning outside of a larger context. Discrimination can be good, discrimination can be bad. Equality can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing, etc. etc. So what about Indiana's law?

Ultimately we have to ask ourselves a very simple question. Should the government choose who stays in business or should consumers? Should government tell companies how to run their businesses or should the people who actually own the property, developed the product or provide the service do that? This is not a question of "solutions", it is a question of trade offs. Pass all the laws you want, you won't end racism or sexism tomorrow because you have a law against it. The trade off liberals seem very comfortable with at the moment is this: "We will give the government the power to destroy any business that doesn't coincide with our liberal preferences concerning who to serve." Ok, fair enough. What is the inherent trade off? Well, it could be that a minority business owner is now forced to provide a service to an openly racist organization. Or it could be that a different group of people, with different preferences later on down the road use this very same principle to force out businesses that don't share their particular preferences. Before you say that is an extreme example, I will remind you that it wasn't that long ago that the Democratic Party not only advocated racial segregation but actually enforced it through law...that is until Republicans made them stop. The point is there are a lot of potential second and third order consequences of giving politicians the power to decide which businesses succeed and which do not based off of their arbitrary preferences. 

The left in this country simply can't seem to embrace the fact that mankind is flawed, and no amount of government tinkering is going to fix it, largely because politicians are selected from the same genetic stream as the rest of mankind. Furthermore, they don't seem to appreciate that laws are not magical talismans which supernaturally end bad things and promote good things. Laws are essentially a threat of violence against something or in favor of something. And because we are talking about violence, we need to be careful how we use it.

Might I recommend a different trade off for our liberal friends. Instead of running to expand the role of government and encouraging violence against anyone who doesn't share your particular worldview, why don't you show a little "tolerance" and "coexist" with your neighbors. Don't resort to violence, simply vote with your dollars. Or better yet, if you think a market is being under-served due to inappropriate discrimination, open up your own business and make a profit by providing a good or service people want. The free market provides an environment where the best and most efficient ideas can rise to the top, without anyone resorting to violence, and that is something we should all be able to support. 

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