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Are Discrimination Laws morally necessary?

Aren't choices in a private company that are based on age, race, sex (even if not applicable in any way) protected under the rights of the company's owner?

If an owner of a company wants to hire only asian people, does he not have a right to do so even if, in a specific context, it makes no sense? Also in that case, is it right to necessarily hold the irrational company owner to some invasive law like the current discrimination laws, which require large companies to meet racial quotas in some cases (the immorality of which is another topic)?

Thanks All!

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In private, discrimination laws are a gross invasion of property rights. The right to property includes the right to set the terms on which you choose to deal (or not deal) with others. If someone can force themselves onto your property via discrimination laws, then you can not set the terms on which you choose to deal with others. If you want to have, say, an all-white restaurant, no one should be able to force you to do otherwise. (Someone else on here can probably articulate this better than I can.)

In government, I think laws prohibiting discrimination can be appropriate. I'm not saying that the current laws are the right answer. I'm also not saying quotas are a good idea (I'm inclined to think they're not). I do think that the government, the user of force, should itself be governed by objective law. Objective law can not allow nonobjective criteria to poison it.

Therefore, government hiring decisions should be made only with reference to criteria relevant to the job. I would not exclude an ordinarily arbitrary characteristic like race under all circumstances, if it could be demonstrated that race was relevant to the job. I don't know what standard should be employed for this, but at first glance I don't have a problem with the strict scrutiny standard already used under the EPC for racial classifications.

Government facilities should be available to anyone who wishes to use them absent an objective reason to do otherwise.

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Discrimination is one of those topics where one has to begin (in one's mind, not in polemic) by "taking back the language".

To discriminate is to reconize a difference, as in "I cannot tell which wine is better, but he is very discriminating."

Discrimination can be rational or irrational.

Sometimes, our irrational actions are unjust. We might irrationally condemn someone who does not deserve condemnation or irrationally praise someone who does not deserve praise.

Actions of the government must be just and rational.

Actions of individuals ought to be just and rational, but it is wrong for the the law to enforce its own idea of what is rational upon an individual, as long as that individual is not violating another person's rights. If I were to add a right to the bill of rights, it would be along the lines of "the right to be irrational".

The popular support for many types of laws against irrational discrimination is easily explained: people realize that there are some others who are discriminating irrationally, and they want to use the force of law to make them act rationally.

Private employers are nervous about discriminating even based on what they consider valid critera (like an IQ test) unless they think they will be able to convince a jury that the factor they use to discriminate is something that the jury would consider rational. Interviewers are given a list of topics that they are not supposed to ask interviewees, even casually. Reference seekers are told that (officially) callers will only be given what amounts to "name, rank and serial number". In summary: private employers are being forced to comply with the popular notion of what is rational, rather than their own judgement of the same.

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Are Discrimination Laws morally necessary?
(Anti-)Discrimination laws are necessarily immoral. An individual should be free to live his life as he sees fit, pursuing his values, as long as he does not violate these same rights of others. Laws which prohibit a person from controlling his business to exclude whites or straight males deny a person the right to pursue their own values, saying instead "Here, these are the values that you are allowed to pursue. They have been selected by our Central Committee". It may well be irrational for Mr. Smith to deny me service just because of the color of my skin -- but the purpose of law is not to enforce rational behavior. And yet, Mr. Smith may well have cleverly discovered that it is his customers who are irrational, that they just want a place to have a drink and a smoke, without Whitey sticking his scrawny nose into their business. Whatever: it's Smith's place, he can do what he wants.

One thing that Smith has the right to do is commit business suicide, by opening a KKK bar in Harlem. It would be a crazy thing to do, and I certainly wouldn't invest in his bar because it would be a losing proposition. The government also has the right and obligation to discriminate, to hire the most technically qualified person for the job. They should even discriminate along sex and race lines, hiring a female to do those cavity searches that need to be done on females, or hiring a Korean to be a spy gathering information on North Korea. The government, unlike Smith, does not have the right to commit suicide; by law, it should only pursue a single purpose -- the protection of rights. If, and only if, it is necessary to do so, the government should distinguish between two candidates based on what the job demands.

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  • 5 years later...

Anti-discrimination Law is in fact an assault on individual rights -in this particular case: property rights. This is common perception in today's "duty" society that so called "public servants"-like taxi drivers, doctors, teachers, even owners of hotels and restaurants or grocery shops have no right to choose their clientele or to serve them according to the best of their own judgment. The notion “The right of admission reserved" became meaningless anachronism. Freedom of association is one of the basic principles of free society and it includes "public servants". The only institution which is strictly prohibited to discriminate anybody on the basis of race, gender religion or what you want is a government, since government has no rights. However in today’s statist society the boundaries between government and private establishments became very vague. As result we're living in topsy-turvy society in which government does discriminate people on the ground of gender, race, age or even physical conditions through affirmative action but taxi drivers are not allowed to choose their clients.

Edited by Leonid
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

"Libertarians" of all stripes in the previous generation - Ayn Rand, Clarence Carson, William F. Buckley; the "right wing" generally; those who argued for individual rights and natural law - gave up the moral high ground to the collectivists.

It is wrong for a government to discriminate against citizens on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. Back when Blacks wanted to vote, we abandoned their cause to the collectivist left. And from there, it got worse. We argued as here and now that a business has right to discriminate on the basis of race. Instead we should have been and should be out front saying, "Are you nuts? You want to lose money?? You do not need to care what color your clients are. All you need to worry about is what color their money is."

Money is the great equalizer. (Again, we let the gun lobby take that away, too, with "Sam Colt made men equal." surrendering the dialog on individual rights to the muscle-mystics.) Martin Luther King's dream was a society where his children were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. That - the content of a person's character - was a perfect space for arguing the virtues of selfishness. Instead, we still let the post-modernists claim that you have no right to judge character, lest you judge race, gender, etc. We abandoned the field. We gave up the space. Or some of us did. I did not.

A thousand years ago, in the summer of 1969, I had a political philosophy professor who was a socialist. When I mindlessly repeated the mantra that a business has a right to discriminate. He asked, "Because a man's home is his castle?" I said yes. He pointed out that castles are medieval structures and that a businesse's Welcome mat is an open contract with the public. Sold.

You have a right to discriminate on the basis of race or gender or whatever. Fine. You have a right to smoke crack, too. Does Objectivism advocate that? So, why, then, the defend other?

Edited by Hermes
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"Libertarians" of all stripes in the previous generation - Ayn Rand, Clarence Carson, William F. Buckley; the "right wing" generally; those who argued for individual rights and natural law - gave up the moral high ground to the collectivists.

I'm sorry, but Ayn Rand does not belong in the group of those who gave up the moral high ground to the collectivists. Your statement is an injustice to everything about her.

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I'm sorry, but Ayn Rand does not belong in the group of those who gave up the moral high ground to the collectivists. Your statement is an injustice to everything about her.

I apologize for not being perfectly clear in my intentions on this point. I refer only the issue of discrimination. It is certainly true that Ayn Rand's essay on "Racism" was a definitive explanation of the roots of and remedies for that evil. But nothing came of it. Objectivists did not seize the front lines in the discussion to frame (so-called) "gay rights" or "feminism" or racial discrimination (which needs no quotes). Instead we were content to let it lie where it fell.

We defend the right to discriminate against individuals on the basis of irrelevant characteristics, rather than condemning the discriminators as the ignorant collectivist mystics that they are.

Edited by Hermes
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I apologize for not being perfectly clear in my intentions on this point. I refer only the issue of discrimination. It is certainly true that Ayn Rand's essay on "Racism" was a definitive explanation of the roots of and remedies for that evil. But nothing came of it. Objectivists did not seize the front lines in the discussion to frame (so-called) "gay rights" or "feminism" or racial discrimination (which needs no quotes). Instead we were content to let it lie where it fell.

We defend the right to discriminate against individuals on the basis of irrelevant characteristics, rather than condemning the discriminators as the ignorant collectivist mystics that they are.

You cannot blame Ayn Rand for this. I think you don't properly understand, or appreciate, the environment of those times or the amazing amount of toil that was produced these ideas and got them out to people to begin with.

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I apologize for not being perfectly clear in my intentions on this point. I refer only the issue of discrimination. It is certainly true that Ayn Rand's essay on "Racism" was a definitive explanation of the roots of and remedies for that evil. But nothing came of it. Objectivists did not seize the front lines in the discussion to frame (so-called) "gay rights" or "feminism" or racial discrimination (which needs no quotes). Instead we were content to let it lie where it fell.

We defend the right to discriminate against individuals on the basis of irrelevant characteristics, rather than condemning the discriminators as the ignorant collectivist mystics that they are.

Wtf planet are you on where Objectivists don't spend enough time condemning the mystic-altruist-collectivists of all varieties?

The near-universal condemnation of racism is anyway mostly from an altruist ethics (i.e. its effects on others.) But the correct argument against racism requires and logically necessitates a defense of the right to discriminate. To argue against anti-discrimination legislation is to argue against racial discrimination, because the reasons that give rise to the principle of individual rights, including private property rights and the freedom to associate or non-associate, are the same reasons that invalidate the doctrine of racism. There is no dilemma or opportunity cost in arguing for one and/or against the other, as you assert falsely. The idea that it is either property rights or racial equality is precisely the argument of the interventionists/egalitarians on the basis of their altruist rejection of racism, which you have implicitly accepted and conceded.

In anyway, the much greater threat is not from racists and discriminators. As I said already, there is near-universal condemnation in this country of racial or any other discrimination. Just where are these businesses that just can't wait to stop selling goods and services to blacks et al? The much greater threat is from the interventionists/egalitarians who use altruism to make inroads against private property rights, than whatever discriminators out there, who unlike in Rand's time, are now irrelevant. Why more spend time on the irrelevant discriminators instead of on the very relevant defense of the principle of individual rights?

This kind of sensitivity to racial discrimination comes from an emotional rejection of racism, as if being more vehement about racism could increase the truth of, or take the place of, a logical argument against racism. This is the same second-hander whining about Rand's “libertarian macho flash,” i.e. not pandering enough to the feelings of scumbags, or being concerned that the enemies of liberty will think less of you if you are against anti-discrimination laws. No, they do not need emotional pandering, they need to be crushed and brought to their knees. And at the end of the day, either they recognize logic or they don't; and it is only on the default of (or conceding of their premises) by liberty's defenders that they can win.

Edited by 2046
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Are Discrimination Laws morally necessary?

Aren't choices in a private company that are based on age, race, sex (even if not applicable in any way) protected under the rights of the company's owner?

If an owner of a company wants to hire only asian people, does he not have a right to do so even if, in a specific context, it makes no sense? Also in that case, is it right to necessarily hold the irrational company owner to some invasive law like the current discrimination laws, which require large companies to meet racial quotas in some cases (the immorality of which is another topic)?

Thanks All!

What if you went into a convenience store and behind the counter, a sign said "Death to Americans." It is the business owner's right, is it not? And you would be offended, of course, and never shop there again. What if the sign was a cartoon making fun of an ethnic group? Would you be so offended as to never shop there again, or would you figure that the goods and services were worth the price, as long as you are not personally offended? What if the sign said, "I hate fags." Or "Marriage is one man and one woman in the sight of God." Or "Vote Yes to Raise the Sales Tax."

A rational person does not sanction their destroyers.

But at some level, I had to accept that every pizza I enjoyed was made by someone who posted icons of the Pope and President Kennedy. You have to pick your battles.

Right wing ideologies are common among numismatists. They understand gold and silver. They relate to the 19th century values evidenced in the coins and currencies of those times. But that is a broad range and we have no shortage of old times not forgotten racists on the bourse floor. I never shop among them. I was in a shop when the owner was making fun of Scientologists. I did not disagree with him in substance, but I believe that a good merchant never argues religion with his customers. I never bought anything there again.

The claim that a business has a right to discriminate is rooted in an earlier time when the shop and the home were one structure with the store open to the street and the living quarters in back or on top. "A man's home is his castle" is an aphorism from a time of looting and hoarding, when might made right. The modern retail emporium was created in the 19th century, from Alexander Turney Stewart to Aaron Montgomery Ward. This was when the ethics of business changed from "Caveat emptor" to "The customer is always right." No longer an armed lord behind a castle wall, the merchant's "Welcome" mat became an open contract with the public.

Does a business have a right to discriminate on the basis of religion? Do you have a right to smoke crack? Does a rational person act contrary to their self interest?

Objectivism is a philosophy of fact, reason, happiness, congeniality, and achievement. I allow that other people have every right to be idiots, but mass idiocy is not the goal here. If there is a public message -- and the creation and sales of books, and the existence of this discussion forum are all evidence of that publicity -- it is that each individual regards each other individual on the basis of their character, their merit as an intelligent and productive, honest and open, partner in a society where respect for others grows from self-respect.

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