I’ve seen Ron Paul getting attacked for his view that businesses should be allowed to discriminate and the government shouldn’t intervene and enforce anti-discrimination laws. When you first read this, it sounds awful. Your gut reaction is to think he doesn’t support equality, and that he won’t stand up for minorities, and I totally understand why it would seem this way. However, I’ve been opposed to these kind of laws for a good decade now, though I have not been vocal about it because I think there are far more harmful laws that need to end first and because it’s a little harder to point out the counter-productive nature of anti-discrimination laws. Perhaps they are helpful in the short term, but legislating social interactions in the long-run is never going to turn out well. It’s totally fair if you disagree with that but what’s unfair is for people to paint Ron Paul and others with this viewpoint as though we’re monsters who want to go back to segregation and white’s-only bathrooms. When you’re voting you have an obligation to dig a little deeper, do your due diligence and do your best to understand what the so-called “crazy person” is really trying to say.
So there’s a number of reasons why I think anti-discrimination laws do slightly more harm than good.
First, I don’t think it’s a good idea to entrust our equality to a massive bureaucracy which has been responsible for things like banning gay men from donating blood and starting racist wars (would anyone consider going to war with Iran if they were doing all the exact same things but happened to be Christian?). Our government wiretapped, and according to some, assasinated Martin Luther King. They drive the war on drugs, disproportionately incarcerating minorities, which has contributed significantly to Mexico’s rates of violence. Why would we want to trust a system with this kind of track record on equality?
These type of laws also don’t address the real problem. If there are bigoted attitudes in our society, we need to address them directly, by changing attitudes. Many of us do not want to simply place a band-aid over our social problems and prefer policies that help us address real change. Doing things by force is not going to change any minds.
Another issue is that these kinds of laws only protect certain segments of the population, and indirectly cause the public to not be concerned about other groups who might not have official protection. People with piercings or tattoos are not protected, even if they are for religious purposes. Marijuana smokers and other drug users most certainly are not protected (a few months back I had a very liberal, pro-equality “friend” tell me I was not actually a person because I smoke pot and I’ll admit its still bothering me). People who don’t have automobiles aren’t particularly protected. Young people get little to no protection, and in fact, are explicitly discriminated against in a multitude of ways by the very government we are expecting to protect us from discrimination. (I can’t possibly be the only one who thinks it’s wrong to practically ban young people from live music simply because they might be around some alcohol.)
These laws also only apply in certain situations, specifically where jobs or money is concerned. What about relationships? People discriminate in their friendships and dating lives. Why is that not just as wrong? I can’t count the number of times I’ve talked to a so-called liberal who claims to be devoted to equality, talks frequently about feminism, gay rights and the way we treat immigrants, but then when I ask them what they’re looking for in a date, they have this whole list of types of people they automatically dislike. They will openly discriminate on all sorts of things like clothing, hair style, religion, and it seems that even with race it’s open season for discrimination when it comes to dating. I’ve seen extreme anti-discrimination liberals state flat-out that they will not go out with a member of a particular race or religion. I try to call them on the hypocrisy, and they seem baffled, like I have no right to judge, because the dating world is all fair game. I think this is indicative of the fact that bigotry runs deep, and in countless flavors that may have nothing to do with our standardized protected sets, particularly in many of the individuals most staunchly opposed to it. Just as homosexuality tends to flourish among those who wish to write laws opposing it, I feel those who hate bigotry the most passionately are often the ones who have the most deep-seated bigoted attitudes. However, bigotry is not such a horrifying thing if we are allowed to be open about it and allow our attitudes to be examined and addressed in an open and free manner.
Another issue is that these laws discriminate against people who don’t believe in vengeance and force. In our current society, when someone suffers discrimination, we expect the law to take care of it, essentially by punishing the offender. But what if the victim doesn’t believe in getting back at the person or company? What if they would prefer government spend that money trying to change the attitudes of the offenders instead of punishing them? What avenues do non-vengeful people have under our current system?
These laws also have the affect of stealing the credit for the progress we’ve made as a society. To claim that it was the federal government who granted the African-American community equal rights is an insult to Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the countless demonstrators who fought for those rights. They did the work. They deserve the credit. It’s not the government that makes these things. It’s the power of the human spirit that does it.
The final issue is simply that the laws aren’t particularly effective. Employers can still discriminate based on sex or race, or whatever they want. The only major difference is they aren’t as honest about it now… but sometimes they actually are honest. Twice in my life I have been denied a job, specifically because I was male. Once for a cashier position and once for a bartender position. Both times the manager specifically told me they had a policy of not hiring males for customer-facing positions. I saw the same kind of hiring policies in most of the restaurants where I’ve worked. Men were kept in the kitchen and women were given the higher-paid (because of the tips) waitress or bartending positions. If you look at any customer-service based industry, you’ll see this pattern, though in other industries it may be the customer-facing positions which are lower paid. The government has no power to stop this.
There needs to be solutions other than writing laws and using force. There should be a long-term, peaceful, communication-based approach to these problems that involves individuals standing up for their rights rather than expecting the government to come solve everything for them.
This is not an evil perspective that Ron Paul and myself hold. You can argue that it’s naive. You can argue that it’s not practical; but please don’t try to argue that it’s motivated by blind bigotry without first reading about the ideas and really thinking about them. Remember how much the protected groups and minorities deserve an equal playing field? Well so do political ideas and philosophies. Our beliefs deserve to be judged by what they actually are and they deserve the right to be taken within context.