15A024 Pence Foolish by Jim Davies, 4/3/2015    


Laws attempt to codify conduct, and so are stupid on their faces.

Conduct is far too complicated to codify. Circumstances vary infinitely, and even a simple set of instructions like the Decalog stumbles badly when Authority collides with the real world; "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13) cannot stand without exceptions like self-defense and wars against the Author's enemies (which He supposedly also created, but never mind) such as revenge against Babylonian captors by dashing their babies against the rocks (Psalm 137:9) or not suffering a witch to live (Exodus 22:18.)

Yet the Ten Commandments are a model of brevity and simplicity. Any shelf of lawbooks written over the years by a Town, State or Federal legislature is in contrast a rats' nest of contradictory complexity, as is nicely illustrated by the current fiasco in Indiana.

In the name of freedom, can you believe it, Governor Pence signed a law in March that "allowed" business folk to refuse service to homosexuals if their religious beliefs would otherwise be offended. His friends had the gall to call it the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" or RFRA. Not surprisingly, the same-sex community and all their friends and neighbors in the mainstream press have jumped upon it all with delighted glee.

The whole controversy misses the point, which I just italicized. Laws (in Indiana and everywhere else) express the utterly arrogant presumption that a group of thugs can and should over-ride individual choices; they forbid this, but allow that., according to the current prejudice of the lawmakers and those who delegate to them powers they never had. In this case, it was decreed that if you offer goods or services to anyone, you must offer them to everyone; you are forbidden to discriminate.

Discrimination is fundamental and essential to daily life. On the road a good driver will watch how others behave, eager to spot moves that indicate intention or that don't make good sense; errant or eccentric ones signal to discriminate by giving him (or her) a wide berth. The selection of a mate is profoundly wrapped up with discrimination - and, happily, tastes vary all over the map. A girl wraps herself up in a burka - some guys may find the mystery of that highly stimulating; me, I wonder what defect she has to hide. Some favor dusky maidens, others blondes. How fortunate we are; everyone gets to exercise choice, male and female; and so the human race advances with glorious diversity.

Operating a business, likewise, is chock full every day of choices, discriminations. If the firm has employees, we pick and choose among applicants; we discriminate, selecting those we think will best relate to others and contribute best to the overall purpose. We have a range of products to offer; we choose which to promote most, and in what manner. We face a choice of prospect types, to whom to market most actively; we discriminate. It's a central part of the business of business. But often, government steps in and forbids it. How absurd! How destructive!

Some owners may discriminate against certain types of potential customer. I do. I will not sell to a government entity; I pre-judge that kind of outfit and even though it may cost money, as a lost opportunity, I discriminate against them. I'll neither advertise to them nor accept an order from them, should one approach me. My main aim is to maximize profit - but it's not my only aim; I also want to like myself, as I count the proceeds. So, I discriminate.

Another may pre-judge prospects on other bases, disliking those with red hair, or black skin, or effeminate manners. His business, his profits, his choice. Let him discriminate; it's no business of mine - except that if and when he does, I'll be delighted to welcome to my competing establishment all those he turned away. Notice, then, that discrimination does come with a money cost; my rival will gain the satisfaction of shunning red-heads, but lose the profit they would have brought him. Provided there is a plurality of competing and similar businesses, everyone is served, all are satisfied. That's how the market works - or how it will work, after government has been deep-sixed.

Not all prejudices are irrational and therefore religious (mine against government is soundly rational) but quite a lot are, and it doesn't matter. A business owner is a business owner, and so has the absolute right to control its activities any way he wishes, even if the rest of us think some of his choices are silly. If his religion tells him that homosexuals are anathema (as by 1 Corinthians 6:9), he is - or should be - perfectly free to turn them away (I'll gladly serve them instead - or if I don't, a whole raft of investors from San Francisco will rush to Indiana to seize the opportunity.) Yet here cometh the government, prior to last month, and saith to him Thou Shalt Not.

That the law denied him such choice (even though its revision graciously allows it to him again!) means that he does not own the product of his labor. It's all his - he constructed the business - yet government controls it. Yuck! This is about neither religion nor gender equality; this is about who has the right to own and operate a person's life and work.

Whether government forbids a certain kind of discrimination or "allows" it, it is making the claim that it owns and controls the discriminator; and that is 100% false. And it will stay false, for as long as government survives. But in the coming zero government society, that claim will be a mere belch in the wind.

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