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August 01, 2007

Comments

dearieme

I'd extend your argument. I'd scrap discrimination laws for businesses in the marketplace, while retaining them for monopolistic organisations.
"Monopolistic" would include professional bodies, arms of government and, doubtless, a few organisations that I haven't thought of but that other people will.

aje

Rights in private property are rarely absolute

But is this only to the extent that you threaten to violate the private property rights of others?

Shuggy

"But is this only to the extent that you threaten to violate the private property rights of others?"

Nah - Chris is right; there's a huge number of restrictions on private property. You could own a house, for example, and not be allowed to change the facade without permission, and this has nothing to do with the property rights of others, nor can it be made to fit easily into any kind of 'harm principle'. When I was at uni, the standard definition of private property trotted out was about the right to dispose of it as you wished. Do they still do this? Because it's no good.

Appreciate the argument above but there's a couple of problems:

1) Would the market really punish businesses that discriminate against gays? I'm not so sure.

2) Would you favour leaving the market to punish businesses that discriminated on the grounds of race?

3) Even if we thought the market would indeed punish homophobic businesses if consumers had the knowledge, we can't assume this. Unless they were as upfront about their opposition to homosexuality as some Jamacian rap artists apparently are, which is unlikely.

Another thing is - isn't the traditional right that is being compromised here that of freedom of association, rather than property?

Roger Thornhill

Speaking for myself, I do include the point about the State trying to interfere in everything and in their efforts, but they are indeed devaluing the concept of private property and freedom of association. The concept of property includes intellectual property and ones own person - the example of the Photographer being forced to take jobs with Gay marriages is an example of where the individuals rights to their own person and time are being infringed by this authoritarianism.

Yes, the market can deal with it - I mentioned in a reply (over at Tim Worstall's I think) that people with such limitations should not lie about it, so people who do not agree can take their business to more inclusive places.

Dearieme echoes sentiments I have about monopolistic and State run organisations, as the issue of choice through plurality is key.

Jim

"The failure to see that the market should solve the problem."

If it should, why doesn't it?

ad

"1) Would the market really punish businesses that discriminate against gays? I'm not so sure."

Are there businesses that discriminate in favour of gays? I imagine there are: gay bars perhaps. After all, any business that targets market segment X is implicitly discriminating against market segment not-X.

So in a sense you can discriminate against a group, if others are discriminating in its favour. You could even own one hotel marketed primarily to gays, and another marketed primarily to homophobes.

But of course the main point of such laws is to demonstrate your own virtue by ostentatiously attacking the not-virtuous.

Geoff103

""The failure to see that the market should solve the problem."

If it should, why doesn't it?"

Is there any evidence that it hasn't I don't read of gays being turned away in droves from B&Bs. Nor, I suspect, is there any lack of Gays-only establishment for those who wish to seek them out.

Matt

I think some of this issue is being looked at incorrectly. It's not about private property rights. If you had a gay couple over to your house, you could require that they not sleep together. However, if you have a business license, a right given to you by the state, then you have an obligation to uphold certain laws as a business. It's not a question of private property.

Also, to ad, marketing is not a form of discrimination in itself. You can market a gay bar towards gays, but that doesn't become discrimination unless you only allow gays into your bar. As a heterosexual, I could still enter any gay bar and order drinks. I'm not being discriminated against by the business.

However, if they forced me out because I'm not gay, or because I'm white, or because I'm male, then I'd be discriminated against in that I'm being refused business. Of course, not all forms of discrimination are prohibited under law, you can discriminate against a person not wearing a shirt who enters your store.

Certain forms of discrimination have rightly been illegalized. History has shown that this is sometime required as with the civil rights movement for blacks in the American and the rights movement for women as well.

The market does not have a sense of morality. It is purely neutral. Morality is a state of the society, and it is up to that society to choose how it should protect (if at all) it's moral beliefs inside the market.

dearieme

"if you have a business license, a right given to you by the state..": no, no, no.

Matt

dearieme, could you explain what's wrong with that statement?

Jim

"I don't read of gays being turned away in droves from B&Bs"

(a) Yes Virginia, gays do get turned away from B&Bs, and in other cases they're allowed stay but treated like pariahs, which some might say is just as bad.
(b) Whether or not it happens in 'droves' is not the point. By that logic, any discrimination faced by any small group is not a problem.

"Nor, I suspect, is there any lack of Gays-only establishment for those who wish to seek them out."

Sure, and while we're at it let's go back to blacks-only establishments too. I love this idea that because some place, somewhere, might provide for gays/blacks/whoever, it's fine if everyone else tells them to fuck off. "Don't you know there's a nice ghetto for your kind?".

Sam

Nah - Chris is right; there's a huge number of restrictions on private property. You could own a house, for example, and not be allowed to change the facade without permission, and this has nothing to do with the property rights of others, nor can it be made to fit easily into any kind of 'harm principle'.

Nonsense. All the restrictive covenants, listings and so on governing what you can do to the facade of your house are precisely to do with the effect that you changing your house has on the property of the other home-owners in your street.

Sam H

If this type of discrimination didn't exist, then there wouldn't be a fuss, it wouldn't matter either way. The truth is a lot of people discriminate in this way, and these people were the ones making some of the noise as this went through parliament. It isn't obvious because people don't go around putting 'no gays' signs in the windows of B&Bs, so no opportunity for the 'public opprobrium', and a surprisingly large proportion of the public would probably side with discriminating B&B owners anyway.

The market hasn't solved this problem and isn't likely too, otherwise there wouldn't be a need for a solution.

It seems most people here agree that the discrimination is wrong, so why shouldn't thee be legal penalties for those who discriminate, given that the market can't solve it.

Maynard Handley

" The failure to see that the market should solve the problem. Guest house owners have big mortgages, so need guests. And one who got a reputation for being censorious of guests is unlikely to attract custom even from straight customers. And if gays cannot find suitable hotels and guest houses, more sensible and tolerant owners would meet their needs."

Oh don't be stupid, Chris. In what magical fairlyland do you imagine this information (that a particular guest house is anti-gay) is widely known? The way most of learn about a guest house is through a search on Expedia or the Yellow Pages or something. Even if we have friends telling us about a place, unless they personally are gay, how the heck would they know about this.
It's difficult enough, when trying to book a room, to try to establish basic factual information like "How much will this cost me after every weird tax, pseudo-tax, convenience charge and other piece of crap has been added on to the bill" or "Does the room have free wireless internet access".

If you want the market to work its magic, at the very least you have to allow the government to pass a bill stating that wherever the hotel advertises itself (including, eg, Yellow Pages and various internet hotel sites) it has to state clearly and in easily visible fashion just what its policy on gays might be.

dearieme

"if you have a business license, a right given to you by the state..": business doubtless existed long before states did and continues still in places where states hardly exist today. But more important, I am repelled by arguments that posit The State as prime reality and us poor humans and our activities as being at its disposal. We do business; insofar as the State isn't a shake-down operation cum parasite, it is a league whereby we buy some useful services that make business more secure and productive - defence, policing and a court system that will enforce property rights and contracts. Most extensions of State power beyond a few minimal requirements are extortion and bullying operations. It is wise to limit the State's reach - if some boarding house owner wishes to turn away homosexuals, heterosexuals, Guardian journalists or members of H.M. armed forces, it is probably a better idea to let it be than to give the State yet more power to interfere and bully. Its tendency to tyranny, and its endless incompetence, justify restricting its powers over us, for its remedies are so often worse than the diseases they purport to cure.

Bob B

There's empirical support for that assessment in Robert Barro: Determinants of Economic Growth - A Cross-Country Empirical Study (MIT Press 1997):

"The book contains three essays. . . The second essay details the interplay between growth and political freedom or democracy and finds some evidence of a nonlinear relationship. At low levels of political rights, an expansion of rights stimulates growth; however, once a moderate level of democracy has been obtained, a further expansion of rights reduces growth."
http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?tid=7087&ttype=2

Matt Munro

"Guest house owners have big mortgages, so need guests. And one who got a reputation for being censorious of guests is unlikely to attract custom even from straight customers".

Er by definition they would have a huge potential market in christian and muslim guests ?

Matt Munro

(b) By that logic, any discrimination faced by any small group is not a problem.

Posted by: Jim | August 01, 2007 at 10:32 PM

But why should it be a problem ? A small group is, by definition, insignificant, advance their rights and you necessarily disadvantage the rights of the majority. If you follow that argument to it's logical conclusion then any arbitrary minority (and we are all in a minority of some sort, at least some of the time) can legitimately call for legislation to address it. There has to be a balance between the healthy functioning of society and the perceived "rights" of minorities otherwise society will eventually collapse under the weight of it's own legislation.

Matt

@dearieme

"I am repelled by arguments that posit The State as prime reality and us poor humans and our activities as being at its disposal."

And I never made that argument. I simply stated the fact that if you want to run a business in any sovereign state nation, then you have to go through the government to get a business license. In doing so, you are required to uphold your business practice to certain legal standards, which include certain discrimination practices as being illegal, although not all are illegal.

I personally don't believe that governments requiring businesses to act fairly and equally to consumers not matter their race, religion, or sexual partners is a bad things. They aren't squeezing the market and forcing it into some yoga stance to operate. It's forcing businesses to act fairly and allow customers to act freely with them.

I wouldn't prescribe anti-discrimination laws as giving "the State yet more power to interfere and bully." As an American, I believe strongly in equality (as unrealistic as that really is), and constraining markets in ways that force equality is not an act that I believe has the tendency to cause governments to become tyrannical.

Matt

@Matt Munro

"A small group is, by definition, insignificant, advance their rights and you necessarily disadvantage the rights of the majority."

Now that's completely absurd. There is no requirement that advancing the rights of one groups disadvantages another group just the same as sharing ideas (2 + 2 = 4) doesn't cause me to be dumber and you smarter. Giving women and blacks more rights didn't take away from the rights of men. Additionally, countries that have higher levels of equality, such as between races and sexes, have a tendency to be more economically advanced. So, there's precisely an argument that advancing one person's rights actually has a net gain on the economic stance of all.

ad

"Also, to ad, marketing is not a form of discrimination in itself. You can market a gay bar towards gays, but that doesn't become discrimination unless you only allow gays into your bar."

Matt, it depends how you define "discriminate". I was using it in a more general sense: treating people differently depending on what group they belong to. Whether this is legal discrimination depends on whether the state chooses to disapprove or not.

Indeed, the guest house owners could argue they are not discriminating between straights and gays, because the same rule is applied to both groups: no same-sex couples in the same room.

It is called discrimination because only members of one of those groups is likely to complain about it.

Returning to my point: it can be possible for an organisation to succeed despite, or even because, it treats groups differently e.g Black Police Association (I am sure they collect membership dues, even if they are not a for-profit enterprise), womens institute, working mens clubs, womens self defence classes etc.

So the market will not eliminate all forms of discrimination between groups, and indeed, people will not necessarily want it to.

A gay-free hotel, and a gay-only hotel might both make money.

I can think of practical reasons to ban some of these and not others, but no obvious reasons of moral principle.

Matt

@ad

I agree that in a very general sense discrimination could be defined as "treating people differently depending on what group they belong to." I was just trying to draw the line between marketing towards a group, and actual discrimination where by a person's actions are limited by your own actions. Marketing a hotel as gay friendly, or a martial arts classes a self defense for women, doesn't inherently keep me from participating.

I only make that distinction because you're walking a fine line when arguing that the market can regulate discrimination fairly based on what would normally be considered non-discriminating actions, ie. marketing. Yes, marketing to certain groups can be very economic, but that isn't an act of discriminating, unless you define discrimination in the broadest of terms. Is it fair arguing against anti-discrimination laws for pure market based regulation based on "evidence" that marketing to groups works? I'd say that's an unfair argument with a bad definition of what discrimination actually is.

pommygranate

This comment thread reads like a job interview for a place in Gordon Brown's administration.

Matt - it is not up to the munificence and compassion of govt to grant business a licence to operate. They have no business regulating business.

Chris - property rights are extremely restrictive in the UK. That's not how it should be.

MyNameIsMatt

What's with the words being put in my mouth?

@pommygranate, "it is not up to the munificence and compassion of govt to grant business a licence to operate. They have no business regulating business."

When did I say that? I'm at a lose here. First dearieme, and now you. Where am I not being clear? I've not made any political statements about whether I think the government should have business regulating business, I've simply said that they do regulate business, and in doing so, this isn't a private property issue, but a business issue.

However, I don't believe that people should have the right to do anything they want. Nor do I believe that businesses should be allowed to do anything they want. It's to the communities benefit to govern certain practices and actions. Not discriminating against people for reasons of race, sex, or sexual orientation are three categories that do I think should be illegal, both for moral and economic reasons. That doesn't mean that I'm siding with the government on everything the government does.

Personally, I'd prefer comments aimed at me to be a little more constructive as I'm putting some effort into my own comments. One liners don't help progress the discussion and blanket statements like "They have no business regulating business" are reactionary, juvenile, and unconstructive.

If you have a problem with "requiring businesses to act fairly and equally to consumers not matter their race, religion, or sexual partners is a bad things," then I'd be more than happy to hear your perspective. However, I think you're gonna have a hard time proving any economic benefits of letting people and businesses do anything they want because that's currently your position.

Matt Munro

@ Matt

"Now that's completely absurd. There is no requirement that advancing the rights of one groups disadvantages another group just the same as sharing ideas (2 + 2 = 4) doesn't cause me to be dumber and you smarter. Giving women and blacks more rights didn't take away from the rights of men."

That's a socialist argument based on a presumption of unlimited resources. To use the B&B example - if the B&B has only one room and "has" to give it to the gay/black/disabled/whatever guest, then the straight/white/able bodied guest can't simulataneously have it. Similarly if an employer has to give a percentage of jobs to a protected minority group, then someone else, from the unprotected majority cannot simulataneously have that job. If non- smokers have the right to a smoke free pub, then smokers lose the right to smoke in the pub and must stand outside. In a limited resource environment what you give to one as a right, you must take away from another. Rights do not exist in a vacuum.
I take your point that at a global economic level it may not be a zero sum game but at a group level it is.

Igor Belanov

@My Name Is Matt

In case you're fairly new to checking out the comments box on this blog, unfortunately reactionary comments are quite frequent, and reality often ignored due to its uncompatability to right-wing utopias.

Personally, I think your comments have been quite reasonable.

Pseudonymous

Matt: "Marketing a hotel as gay friendly, or a martial arts classes a self defense for women, doesn't inherently keep me from participating."

No, but banning you outright would. I imagine a hotel that banned non-gays could have some advantages to gay guests eg preventing embarressing misunderstandings.

Some straights might prefer a hotel that banned gays.

So I was really trying (badly) to make two points:

a) In some circumstances discimination (by any definition) can be profitable.

b) In some circumstances discimination (by any definition) can be regarded as acceptable.

So there is no guarentee the market will eliminate all forms of objectionable discrimination, and no guarentee that a law against discrimination will do only good.

Matt

@ Matt Munro

"If non- smokers have the right to a smoke free pub, then smokers lose the right to smoke in the pub and must stand outside. In a limited resource environment what you give to one as a right, you must take away from another."

That I'll concede. However, I don't see the same logic being applicable to sexual orientation. You're not depriving anyone of anything by allowing a person to rent a room. Yes, rooms will fill up, it's a limited resources, but unlike the smoker vs. non-smoker case, you're not causing any harm to the other party by letting a gay couple rent a room instead of a straight couple. The same end result occurs, vacancy is out.

So, on the level of equal rights for sexual orientation, I don't buy the argument that giving a gay couple the same rights as a straight couple takes away from the rights of any other couple. There is no presumed right when renting a room that any will be available, and that if one isn't then you've been wronged if someone already renting is gay where you wouldn't have been if everyone was straight. At a global and local level, sexual orientation has no effect on the rights of others, nor the actions of other in a way that's different depending on sexual orientation.

@Pseudonymous, we're on the same page then with "there is no guarentee the market will eliminate all forms of objectionable discrimination, and no guarentee that a law against discrimination will do only good." My real argument against Chris' post is that markets govern economic situations, not moral situations. Therefore, arguing that the market can regulate discrimination, a moral characteristic, isn't a valid or guaranteed use of the magic hand of markets (I've posted this a little more clearly in Chris' post after this about gay vs. black discrimination). Regulating moral beliefs is a matter of the society and the state, hence laws are an appropriate application of such regulation vs. regulation through open markets.

@Igor Belanov, I know. I just like giving bad commenters shit for being bad commenters. I get a little kick out of an easy target. Provides a little controversy and that sometimes makes discussions a little more interesting too.

dearieme

Matt, "then you have to go through the government to get a business license." Do you mean this literally? Do you think I need some bit of paper from government to let me run a business? It isn't true here. My wife and I both run small businesses without any such licence. What sort of dictatorship do you live under?

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Dearieme, I do mean that literally, sorta :) I'm under the American system which is one of the stricter around. Under the UK system, as I understand it, you get a little more flex room, at least if you're registered (I believe you still need to register at some level) as a self-employed small business owner. I believe reporting and registration requires goes up once you enter the world of LLCs and other corporate structures.

Still, the essence of the comment, whether I get the mechanics right or wrong, is that running a business places that business under the laws that govern how a business operates in a state (and with the EU now, it's both state and Union). Personally, I don't see anything theoretically wrong with governing and mandating some fair and equal practices (Russian application of Marxist concepts probably went way too far in this aspect, and dark ages Europe didn't go far enough). There are definitely problem points, but I don't see any inherent issues with states governing businesses.

In that sense, I don't consider the original post to be an issue of private property, nor the application of anti-discrimination laws as turning any government regulation into a dictatorship. Additionally, I don't buy the argument that the magic hand of the market would fix any discrimination if only the anti-discrimination laws would go away. (Again, this isn't a blanket statement of all government acts being good and holy)

dearieme

Matt, we really haven't had to "register" our businesses - we do pay tax on their profits, however. I'm not arguing that "the magic hand of the market would fix any discrimination": I am arguing that it's likely that the market will do a better job than government. Trying to "fix" things is the route to perdition: trying to ameliorate them at low cost is the sensible thing to do.

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