Iain Dale, the UK blogger and wannabe Tory MP, gets himself into a fearful mess in arguing as to why owners of privately owned businesses, such as hotels and the like, should be forced to accept any type of client, even if that offends the moral sensibilities of the owners. Much as I share Mr Dale’s dislike of bigotry, he’s just plain wrong when he writes:
“This is not about property rights. If you open your house to paying guests, it is no longer just your house. You are running a business, just the same as anyone else, and you should be subject to the same laws as anyone else. If you do not wish gay people, black people, Jews or anyone else in your house, don’t open it to the public. Simple as that. No one would accept a shopowner refusing to serve a particular type of person, would they?”
He’s wrong here. So Mr Dale imagines, does he, that as soon as a person sets up – at their own risk and cost – in business, and chooses to make money in a particular way, that they suddenly forfeit any right to choose with whom they wish to make a living if the powers that be decide that such reasoning is prejudiced in some bad way? How the expletive deleted does that work, Mr Dale? Does this mean, for instance, that a business owner should be forced to serve anyone? Suppose a nightclub, say, insists on a dress code for its clientele (as happens). Does this mean that the scruffy are being discriminated against?
I don’t like homophobia any more than Mr Dale, but as a supposed Tory, he ought to realise that the best protection any group of persons have against bigotry is competition and several ownership of private property. In a free, robust market unimpeded by state privileges and taxes, bigotry carries a significant economic cost to the bigot. And I think it was Voltaire back in the 1740s who observed, how people of all faiths, for example, could and did transact in the early London Stock Exchange of the time. Filthy lucre is often the most corrosive solvent of bigotry that there is.
There is also an ancilliary point here. As a free marketeer in favour of honest money and competition in currencies, I think it should be the right of any businessman to refuse to accept payment in certain currencies that he, rationally or otherwise, does not trust. If we adopt Mr Dale’s line of reasoning on how a business owner’s property rights go up in smoke the moment a client comes through the door, he’s all in favour of forcing people to accept payment in whatever the state decrees is the “proper” form.
Sorry Mr Dale, but you just don’t accept the concept of free association as it applies to commerce. Property rights is most definitely what the issue is about.