Friday, November 9, 2007

Is Anti-Discrimination Anti-Freedom?

Doug Mataconis has an opinion I might not agree with for once. On employers discriminating on those who smoke at home:

Seigel obviously doesn’t want to be tagged with the word “discrimination”, but that’s because the word has become associated with things like racial and gender discrimination which are both illegal and subject to severe public disapproval. But discrimination merely means that one prefers one thing over another — if I like Diet Coke with Lime as opposed to all other soft drinks, I am discriminating against Diet Pepsi. Discrimination is a part of life because people make choices — it only becomes tagged with the connotation of being right or wrong because of value judgments that society makes about the preferences that someone has expressed.
And on the ENDA Act for LGBT non-discrimination in employment:

What they don’t need, what the rest of us don’t need, though, is the state stepping into private relationships in the manner that this bill does. Does that mean that some bigoted employer somewhere might fire someone because they’re gay ? Maybe, but why should the state concern itself with that ? We don’t live in the 1940s anymore, employers who do things like this are going to be found out and, in an era when most Americans are tolerant, they’re likely to face consequences for their actions in the marketplace.

Rather than protecting anyones rights, bills like this do nothing but reinforce the (false) idea that rights come from the state.

Ok, I understand what Doug is saying about the State's interference in private relationships. But how is this reinforcing any idea that rights come from the state? Rights are protected by the state, this being the highest reason for its existence.

I would argue that an individual ought to have the freedom from discrimination based on factors that do not have any effect on job performance. I think you would agree Doug that it is not right for me to be considered less important than a minority in employment or school admissions because of the fact that I am white, and I am male, and yet I have had a harder life than many people of color.

I know what you will say, about the state being involved, but the ethical matter here is not about the state. It is about the equal rights of individuals to pursue life, liberty, and property, and that the state has the role to protect the equal opportunity of all individuals. Notice I said opportunity, not outcome. The difference here is that all players have the same access to education and work, but it is up to them to secure it on merit.

All individuals have the right to life, liberty, and property, and any interference in this (be it via the state or otherwise) is immoral and counterintuitive to the goals of the U.S. Constitution and her founders. The fact of the matter is that two rights are at stake here: the right of individuals to equal opportunity based on merit, and the right of property owners to employ whomever they wish. I think you will agree that the consequences of choosing the former will be relatively insignificant on the latter, but in reversal, consequences are much more noticeable and severe.

This applies to individuals who smoke at home just as much. I can understand the conflict when employers cover your health insurance, but outside of this I see severe ethical and political ramifications. I think we need to consider that the state is not the only entity that can rule over individuals. I am assuming you are a Libertarian, but I think it is important for Libertarians to understand in these times that there is a role of the state to protect individuals from individuals, as well as corporate or small business entities. I do not advocate forcing employers to hire individuals, however, I am finding considerable conflict with the way you posit that employers should be able to discriminate on any level they want.

This is all I have for now; hopefully Doug will respond, because I really enjoy his writing and I would like to see his defense.

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