There is discrimination taking place around our nation’s capital — against, of all people, both President Obama and President-elect Trump.
According to the Washington Post, the Woodmont Country Club, which is a predominantly Jewish country club in Washington’s suburbs, is threatening to deny President Obama’s application for membership. No, not because he’s black but because he has not displayed a sufficiently servile position when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian dispute.
Meanwhile, Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday is backing out of a commitment she made to sing at this week’s presidential inauguration. Her reason? She decided that her that her participation in the inauguration might be construed as support for Trump. According to an article on Fox News, Holliday even apologized for her lapse of judgment and for causing heartbreak for her fans by initially agreeing to do the performance.
All of this is, needless to say, no doubt quite shocking to the politically elite in Washington. After all, isn’t discrimination illegal?
Indeed, discrimination is precisely what is going on here. That Jewish country club is discriminating against President Obama by threatening to deny him membership. And Jennifer Holliday is discriminating against President-elect Trump by refusing to sing at his inauguration.
In fact, here is something else that might shock people: Even if the Jewish country club denied Obama membership because he is black and not because of his political views, that would be legal too. Imagine that: the legal right to discriminate on the basis of race right here near our nation’s capital.
Notice something else important about that country club — it’s predominantly Jewish! Yes, Jewish! What’s up with that? Why not an equal number of Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims? It sure sounds to me like that country club might be discriminating on the basis of religious creed. Shocking!
The discrimination on the part of Jennifer Holliday and Woodmont Country Club helps to remind us that the right to discriminate is part and parcel of a free society, even if the discrimination is on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, or political beliefs. If people are not free to discriminate against others for whatever reason or no reason, then people cannot genuinely be said to be living in a free society.
Freedom to discriminate is another way to express the right of freedom of association, one of the fundamental aspects of liberty. People have the natural, God-given right to associate with whomever they wish to associate, which means, in other words, that they have the right to discriminate against everyone with whom they do not wish to associate.
Thus, when a baker refuses to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, that is his right. It’s his bakery. It’s his money. It’s his time. It’s his labor. He has the right to sell the fruits of his labors to whomever he wants. He has the right to discriminate against anyone he wants by refusing to sell them a cake or anything else.
The principle is no different with respect to people’s homes. People have the right to invite anyone they want into their homes. They have the correlative right to deny anyone they want from entering their homes, no matter their reason for doing so. Thus, if a black family has a dinner party and invites only blacks to attend, that is its right. It has the right to discriminate against whites by refusing them admittance to the dinner party.
The same with respect to religion. If a Catholic church refuses to grant communion to a Muslim couple, that is the right of the church. It has the right to discriminate against others on the basis of religious beliefs.
A big problem in America is that the right to discriminate is not recognized with respect to commercial establishments. That was one big mistake. It was also one big infringement on the principles of liberty.
In principle, a person’s business is no different from his home. It belongs to him. He is the owner. He has the right to run it any way he wants. If he wishes to associate with only whites or only Jews by selling only to them or hiring only them as employees, that is his right. That’s what private ownership and freedom of association are all about. The principle is no different than with how people run a country club or their home.
Segregation laws were clearly a violation of the principles of freedom. That’s because such laws required — mandated — businesses to segregate. Here’s an interesting question: Why did racial bigots see the need to enact segregation laws? They did it because they knew that a free society and a free-market economy would gradually tend toward integration naturally. That’s why they needed to interrupt that process with segregation laws that mandated segregation in the private sector.
Don’t forget that in a free-market economy, it’s possible for people to impose an economic penalty on those who discriminate by boycotting their businesses. Isn’t that a much better way to nudge people toward better behavior than the coercive apparatus of the state?
Thus, the big mistake was in enacting integration laws. What should have been done is simply repeal segregation laws and let integration happen naturally through freedom of choice. Today, race relations would have been much more harmonious, even if many commercial establishments were still discriminating on the basis of race, color, creed, or any other basis. After all, America has been able to survive the fact that a country club is predominately Jewish and that the government isn’t imposing religious quotas on it. Or that a country club can discriminate against blacks or women. Or that homeowners are free to discriminate against others on any basis they choose. Or that a church can discriminate against people of different faiths. Or that a singer is discriminating against the president based on political beliefs.
If people get sufficiently upset over discrimination, they can resort to things like boycotts rather than the force of law. That’s how a genuinely free society operates. It engenders a much more peaceful, harmonious, and free society.