In his letter published in the August 2nd, 2010 edition Mr. Ken Jansen states that there is a "public accommodations principle" that requires Somali taxi drivers to pick up passengers who they find to be objectionable and that "we rightfully forbid many forms of discrimination".
In a rhetorical sleight of hand Mr. Jansen states that these taxi drivers should "get out of the public accommodation business." But the taxi drivers are not in the public accommodation business; they are in the taxi business. They have invested significant time and money in their businesses and have every right to defend their lives and property from those whom they deem objectionable.
As a more powerful example, Mr. Jansen cites laws against discrimination in hotel accommodations. What Mr. Jansen overlooks in both cases is the sanctity of property rights and that failing to offer a service or buy a service does not cause anyone harm. The fact that I buy my groceries from A instead of B does not mean that I have harmed B. Likewise, by refusing to sell a product that I own to A and not B, no matter how objectionable the reason, causes no harm to B. Real harm is physical harm; but there is no physical harm in refusing to act in a manner that "society" dictates.
In a truly free society, a business owner who discriminates for reasons that society finds objectionable would find his business in decline. My wife still refuses to eat at Denny's due to media reports years ago, whether true or not, that some restaurants discriminated on the basis of race. Our modern theory of justice has been so perverted that property rights are deemed to disappear as soon as one offers a product or service for sale. This is not justice but tyranny.
Author: Patrick Barron is an economist living in the US. This is his 22 July 2010 response to a letter published in the August 2nd 2010 edition of National Review under the title Discrimination in Public Accommodations.
For more on Property Rights see http://www.freemarketfoundation.com/issues.asp
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 20 July 2010
Patrick Barron is a private consultant to the banking industry. He has taught an introductory course in Austrian economics for several years at the University of Iowa. He has also taught at the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin for over twenty-five years, and has delivered many presentations at the European Parliament.
Publish date: 29 July 2010
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