I read three hit pieces on libertarianism the other day, which was interesting. It was interesting because it made me realize how little these publications care about consistency. The authors did not get the difference between what the philosophy would “allow” for, and what would actually happen. They do not understand that believing a free market will sort everything out does not preclude the possibility of businesses doing bad things, it simply allows mechanisms other than force to define the outcome. They don’t get that men with guns forcing us to do what is “right”, is worse than the possibility that people will do something “wrong”, albeit, something that does not initiate force on another person.
So the authors are all hating on Uber (the unregulated cab service) because of unethical business practices towards competitors. “See, it’s not a free market if they are trying to dishonestly disadvantage their competitors”. Uhh… no, it would still be a free market. It is the responsibility of the consumer to choose what business tactics they will put up with; that’s what a free market means. A business can do anything that does not initiate force, and the consumers can choose which businesses to keep alive. Does this mean it is possible for assholes to own successful businesses? Yep.
But what a non-libertarian philosophy says is, if 51% of people agree, we can use force to outlaw being an asshole, or get rid of a business we have convinced 51% of the population is mean…even if they aren’t really. Libertarians say, we don’t have to use force, as long as Uber didn’t use force. You don’t like what they do? Don’t buy from them, and support the other guy. Boycott, and raise awareness about how bad the company is. Don’t resort to violence to force a company or person to “be nice”, unless they are aggressing on someone else.
Apparently Uber employees were calling up a rival taxi service, then canceling, causing delays for real customers. I don’t like that they did that, it seems dishonest. But there are ways to fight back without abandoning free interaction, throwing your hands up and being like, “oh, damn, I guess we need thugs with guns to make sure businesses play nice”.
The way it is now, “official” taxi companies do not need to resort to agressive tactics like Uber, because they already have! What do you think a union is? Literally, damaging another company with the threat of violence if they encroach on your business without jumping through the right hoops, which may preclude a new business because it adds costs which have nothing to do with the sales, safety, or market demands. So somehow Uber is worse for causing their competitors trouble without using force, than state sanctioned cabbies who never allow a competitor in the first place at the threat of violence or theft by the state. Just go and try to pick someone up in NYC and charge them for a ride, and see what happens if you get caught. That is okay?
And in addition to responding with boycott and other market solutions, the rival unregulated taxi business does have recourse. They could explain to their customers what happened, and tell them that is why they are implementing a system where, say, if you reserve a cab, there is a non-refundable $5 fee that pays part of the fare if not cancelled. They could explain to their customers what happened, and encourage the public to do the same to “punish” Uber. But to say because some businesses are run by jerks that all business should be subjected to thug regulators is silly. I’d rather a business be allowed to be a jerk, than have a business that is allowed to use legal thugs with guns who can imprison you. Right now we have the latter.
“Libertarians loooooove discrimination, and are racist”. And here is where people should really see the inconsistencies. Arguing that someone should be allowed to discriminate does not mean you yourself would discriminate, nor support businesses that discriminate. I honestly can’t believe people are serious when they argue this! Do people just go through life being carried by the wind, with no more philosophical grounding than, “that seems good” or “that seems bad”. “Well I know discrimination is bad, so if someone supports it, they must be bad!”
First off, the word discriminate means to tell apart. Would you discriminate against rapists who want to come into your child’s school? I would certainly hope so! People need to realize that no one is forced to patronize a business. What if a noisy motorcycle gang always came into your pizza place, makes a mess, and scares off the usual clientele without buying much? Would it be appropriate to discriminate against bikers if your business would otherwise fail? Or is being non-judgemental more important than your livelihood? Denying someone service is not the same thing as taking something from them, and I don’t think the authors of the various libertarian hit pieces understand that.
It is popular to equate discrimination with force, with stealing. But this necessitates a philosophy that says business owners are there to serve, not to profit. It essentially says, businesses are slaves to the people who must be provided us with things. If I took the time, energy, and money to make a product, that product is not owed to anyone for less of a price than I am willing to part with it. If that willingness to part with the product or service depends on who the customer is, that just means the provider of the product does not see value in the transaction. Should he be enslaved by the state and forced to provide that product or service? That is what anti-discrimiation laws do. They say, since you chose to go into business, and provide something of value, you no longer have the right to choose who to give that thing of value to, and will provide that product or service for the same price you provide it to others.
Again, this does not mean I am pro-discrimination! But to argue that they shouldn’t have the right to deny any customer betrays the intellectual depth of a toddler. I am the one who decided to make, sell, or provide a service, and if those transactions are not free for either party to agree or disagree to, that is literally slave labor. Should airlines go out of business with half full planes because their fat customers cannot be forced to buy 2 tickets, since that would be discrimination? Or should the skinny customer be forced into only half a seat, when he paid for a full seat, because the person next to him is overflowing?
How about gun shops that are currently forced to discriminate, based on who is approved by the government? Say I can’t afford the hundreds of dollars and hours of time and transportation to get my gun license, so I am discriminated against? I mean seriously we talk as if voter ID laws discourage minorities from voting, and we are okay with more hoops, and greater costs being imposed if people want to protect themselves? So to act as if these thugs we allow to have control over our lives (government) will prevent discrimination is absurd, they currently sanction countless types of discrimination. The difference is, since there is no free market, there is nothing we can do about it!
In a free market, am I going to support a business that hangs a sign, “No Irish”? No! Do they have the right to hang the sign? YES! What is so hard to separate about things you shouldn’t do, and things you shouldn’t be allowed to do?
Woof. Anyway this is turning into a rant and I am going to try to wrap this up. The bottom line is, stop pretending libertarians are racist just because their philosophy precludes government backed force. Just because I support the right to free speech, to say WHATEVER you want, does not mean I like or enjoy racist hate rants. It means I understand the philosophical pinnings that say someone is always going to want to silence you, so let’s be consistent in allowing no one to be silenced. Let’s never allow the initiation of force, which means even when you deny a customer service because they are Jewish, men with guns will not come and arrest you, kill you, put you in jail, and put a gun to your head while you make that sandwich.
And you want to talk real world? Fine. What is more democratic than allowing a business to die because they won’t serve Jews? Or are these anti-libertarians afraid that the business would survive while being terribly prejudiced? Yes, that is what they are afraid of. Not being able to initiate force against someone when they disagree with their non-aggressive—though unsavory—actions. And THAT is what being a libertarian is about. Knowing that no matter how rude, selfish, mean, or hateful a person is, force should not be used against them to quell their behavior, until he initiates force against someone else. That is the simple line of when it is okay to use force, when responding to it. Otherwise it is all arbitrary.
For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Discrimination by a business does not legitimize locking that person in a cage, or taking their money at gunpoint. It does legitimize a social response of boycott, shunning, and lecturing; it does elicit the response of non-agressively ruining that business, and making sure every decent person knows what a horrible jerk the owner is.
I want to live in a world where people are decent because they want to be (or economic opportunity forces them to be nice out of self interest), not because there is a gun to their head. And guess what, if that world doesn’t exist without a gun to our heads, then it doesn’t actually exist with a gun to our heads either!