Monday, 13 June 2011

My Feelings On Anti-Discrimination Laws: I Was Wrong

I'm embarked on a project of reflection on my specific political and moral beliefs and how they fit with  my liberal and libertarian beliefs in general

Going to be unpopular this one.

My position on anti-discrimination laws has been inconsistent over the last few years. In 2007 I was against them in principle, although looked forward with glee to the unhappiness they'd cause religious fundamentalists, whereas in 2010 I was of the opinion that one person's rights did trump another's in the Chris Grayling Bed and Breakfast controversy.

Well I'll put my hands up and apologise to all who debated with me over the Chris Grayling issue. I was wrong. I admit that I felt uncomfortable with my decision but I let my heart rule over my head. The Government should not be involved in dictating who stays in a guesthouse. That choice remains with the owners themselves.

It's not a position that sits well with me. Someone who bans someone else from their home, business or group based simply on who they are, rather than their character, is not someone I have much time for. They are, at the very least, impolite and poorly mannered. But the Government should not be in the business of punishing people for being nasty, unwelcoming people. Allowing our Government this power concedes that they are able to interfere in the private lives and business of British citizens. That is a dangerous precedent.

It's stories like this which really trouble me. It is simply unacceptable that people should be abused in public like this but if he wasn't inciting violence how can one have this busker arrested simply for being a knob? I do not mean to downplay the awful hurt that can be caused by words. Even the occasional whispered comment or snigger behind your back can leave me upset. Are we to have every idiot locked up? You know what I think would've been a more effective reaction? The same one as happened with the John Snow pub; group action. The busker is licensed to be in Trafalgar Square so must be there fairly regularly. A little news story here and there and viola he's surrounded by people on their own PA systems calling him out for his idiocy. He'd soon learn his lesson and the value of free speech is upheld. Calling in the authority of the state to punish this nutter is yet another dangerous precedent.

What about at work? Well if you don't work for a company who issue you with a contract stating they will protect you from harassment or want to work for a company who wouldn't want to hire you because of who you are then really I have to wonder about your choices. As I've said before; we all need to stop hiding (and allowing prejudiced idiots to hide) behind stupid laws that dictate how private agreements can and should be made. We need to stand together, win hearts and minds and call out those who discriminate and make sure their customers know how flipping nasty they are.

Again none of this sits well with me. I want to protect the vulnerable and to frustrate the efforts of anyone who is prejudiced. But if I am to be consistent with my belief in freedom from Government control (which has hurt so many in centuries past) then I cannot support anti-discrimination laws which are, in effect, allowing Government to police people's morality. If I don't want the Government policing my morality, I must stand up and stop them policing others.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

3 comments:

Paul Brownsey said...

"Well if you don't work for a company who issue you with a contract stating they will protect you from harassment or want to work for a company who wouldn't want to hire you because of who you are then really I have to wonder about your choices."

Might it not have something to do with the availability of jobs?

"As I've said before; we all need to stop hiding (and allowing prejudiced idiots to hide) behind stupid laws that dictate how private agreements can and should be made."

I take it you are talking about government interference in agreements between workers and their employers. To treat these as private is to expose workers to exploitation and insecurity. Pleas for 'freedom' in employer-employee relations are in effect pleas for workers to be made vulnerable to having their lives messed up by employers.

"But the Government should not be in the business of punishing people for being nasty, unwelcoming people."

So "No Jews", "No niggers", etc, should be allowed by law, too?

Jae said...

The Government exploits people just as much as business. It changes the terms of benefits mid way through a claim, it screws people over left, right and centre. Business is not unique but at least there's a contract that one can get legal redress over. With Government there is generally none.

Dealing with any "authority" is the same.

And as much as I hate to say this, because it goes against every moral fibre in my body that believes discrimination of any sort is wrong, we cannot allow the Government to decide individual businesses entry policy.

Right now the Government is "right" on it's policies. Allowing them control seems fine as they are defending "liberal values" such as anti-racism, anti-sexism etc. But once we give them this power, as we have now, what is to stop them using it in the future when perhaps social mores may have swung back against liberalism? When they start forcing a "No Jews" policy (an almost impossible future scenario I agree but I'm just using it as an example) on businesses what moral right will anyone have to stand up to them? None, because we allowed them the right to decide entry policies before.

We should allow people to set their own entry policies and then allow the power of the market to decide which businesses survive. Bad word of mouth and protests, I would hope, would ensure any such regressive businesses became nothing more than sideshows.

Paul Brownsey said...

"When they start forcing a "No Jews" policy (an almost impossible future scenario I agree but I'm just using it as an example) on businesses what moral right will anyone have to stand up to them? None, because we allowed them the right to decide entry policies before."

Since you appeal to *moral* right, I can say that you appear to be treating "Let Jews in" and "No Jews" as morally equivalent. They aren't. The well-being of persons has moral priority.

"We should allow people to set their own entry policies and then allow the power of the market to decide which businesses survive." There are contexts in which market forces should be let alone to function, but this isn't one of them. People's job security shouldn't have to depend on owners realising that they make more money if they don't sack gays. And market forces probably yield no redress for the individual who is sacked. *He* is still out of a job even if, in due course and in the light of experience, the employer decides it's in the firm's financial interests not to sack gays.

"The Government exploits people just as much as business."

Yes, but what governments do can be challenged in Parliament and at elections. There is a degree of accountability. Your conception of the free play of market forces seems to imply that there should be no comparable challenges to the shitty things employers do to their workers: just leave it to the magic invisible hand of market forces.

Paul