@susanquinn has brought to our attention the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and specifically this division’s director. On the one hand I applaud the concept that the religious freedom of healthcare providers should be aggressively defended, but on the other hand I cannot but see this as a bad omen.
You see, this is an admission that religious people are the objects of discrimination by our own government, by businesses, and by other groups of people. But it is also yet another declaration both that our government needs to protect entire groups of people from other groups of people, and that the federal government is the sole arbiter of which groups get protecting from whom, from what, and where those protections extend.
In a sane society, this should not be even necessary. Worse still, when another political party comes into power, what would stop them from upending the “protections” of this administration? All we’ve done is politicize yet another part of our lives. This will not end well. I wrote what follows some four years ago, when that other party was in power. It is no less relevant today.
The federal government has no business declaring that this group or that group is somehow “more equal” than another, nor does it have any business at all in declaring this group or that group needs to be accorded special rights and privileges not allotted to other groups, or at the expense of other groups. If you want to begin to break up the polarization of America, try breaking up the fiefdoms of the protected groups. Otherwise, they’re all just fighting over the scraps of our liberty and society.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – Voltaire
This is often said by people who claim to be defending free speech. Why? Well, we claim to value freedom of expression and celebrate its inclusion in our First Amendment. We claim we value the give and take of ideas and values, including religious values. We claim to value the right of the press to publish the news and opinions it sees fit to publish. We claim to value the right of the lone soapbox preacher or the mass evangelist. Voltaire’s quote seems to epitomize our values, so he is often quoted with solemnity.
Practice is another matter. We do not really have free speech. We cannot talk about race anymore, especially if we’re white. We cannot easily talk about the differences in the sexes either, at least not in meaningful ways, especially not if we’re men. Increasingly we cannot discuss sexual preferences or orientation if we’re straight. We are all to pretend that such things do not exist. We are told we are all equal, or least should all be equal, and we’ve stretched the definition of “equal” to the point that we really mean leveled.
Why is it that we are not allowed to talk of such things? We are simply not allowed to think such things. The proliferation of “Hate Crime” laws has added a category of prosecution that punishes a criminal based on what was going through the perpetrator’s mind at the time of the criminal act. The ridiculous nature of this is evident in a simple thought experiment: If A and B are different races, and A kills B, the punishment meted to A could be higher merely if A had uttered a racial epithet prior to or during the attack. Had A kept his trap shut, he would be up for a lesser punishment. We are punishing the vocalized thoughts.
Hate crime laws such as these are a fairly recent innovation, though, and their genesis lies in something older, another set of laws which punish the intents behind actions. This older thing is punishment of “Discrimination”. Discrimination is the act of discerning between things, it is the thought preceding the activity.
Discrimination is also a dirty word. We are not allowed to discriminate. To be accused of discrimination is to invite censure and lawsuits, no matter how ridiculous the claim.
A silly story to illustrate the point:
I worked at a bookstore and we accepted checks for payment. Checks are a top method for retail scams. Once a customer tried to buy a set of expensive computer and medical books with an out of state check, expired driver’s license, and low check number. When we refused the sale, she accused us of “DISCRIMINATION.” My manager coolly replied: “We discriminate between those who can pay and those who can’t.” Silly indeed.
But the customer understood that by screaming that word in public, she was attempting to stake out territory as a victim.
We now accept without thinking that “discrimination” is wrong, though few understand the meaning of the word.
discriminate |disˈkriməˌnāt| verb [ no obj. ]1 recognize a distinction; differentiate:
To recognize a distinction. But this is hardly ever the connotation, and there is a 2nd and more recent definition in the dictionary
2 make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, sex, or age:
This is the definition most people hang on in some form. Read that definition carefully, notice the adjectives of “unjust” and “prejudicial,” which are value judgments and require intent. The word, by that definition, comes loaded with connotation, all negative. Discrimination, by that definition, is a sin. Discriminators are Criminals.
But should they be? Should we use the heavy hand of the government to slap or punch those who discriminate?
We Protect classes of people based on Race, Sex, Religion, and increasingly Sexual Orientation; these are Protected Classes under law.
Protection & Economics
Economists have long recognized that businesses or industries, protected by tariffs, taxes, regulations, artificial barriers to entry, or government sanctioned or created monopolies and cartels, distort markets and encourage corruption. The US sugar market is so protected that we pay twice the world market price for sugar, leading the food industry to switch to the cheaper (and subsidized) corn syrup, a change which is increasingly a culprit in obesity. We have an ethanol mandate and an ethanol subsidy that both meddle with the fuel market, and make food prices higher than they would otherwise be. Our Postal System is an entire protected industry with all the attendant abuses, bizarre services, and waste. The abuses of Labor Union cartels are so well documented that we need not rehash them.
What is more, these protected industries, enriched off their ill-gotten gains, lobby hard for the continuance of their protections. Were their protections broken they would scream loudly, for the effect would be concentrated. Their wealth would enable them to create a long litany of sob stories and “interest pieces” for the news. Yet as awful as they are, their abuses are distributed across us all, so we merely grumble until their abuses rise to a burden impossible to ignore.
In short, as Conservatives and Libertarians, we can all recognize that these protections have distorted our markets and corrupted our political process. The war against these has been long and hard fought, for our opponents are vocal and rich off the spoils of the system, and they enrich their allies in Congress.
Protection here is clearly wrong, and even a sop for “good intentions” does not mitigate that corruption. Good Intentions pave the way to Hell, and the never-ending government meddling in economic policy, with all its maladroit malevolence and caprice, continues to be sold to the rest of us as “the right thing to do.”
But does this not also apply elsewhere?
Let us return to the issues of Employment and Commerce. By law, we have protected the classes of Race, Sex, Religion, and Sexual Orientation. Do we see the same forces of market distortion? We do of course. Large businesses, afraid of an EEOC investigation, now have “Diversity Programs” which encourage the hiring and promotion of the protected classes of Race and Sex. Government contracts have a myriad of set-asides for Race, Sex, veterans, the disabled, all of which are gamed terribly by contractors. Bids are not awarded strictly to the lowest or best bidders; they are weighted and allocated by quotas all in the name of preventing discrimination. It is truly “killing the patient to save the patient,” and it makes it very difficult for an honest business to compete.
Thieves like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have built their entire careers on blackmailing businesses into “donating” to charity fronts, and stuffing their boards with hand-picked “racial experts.” These groups need merely to accuse a company of not having enough minorities as an obvious symptom of “Discrimination,” launch a media campaign, and await the results (this is well documented in Shakedown, by Kenneth Timmerman).
In fact, if a company or organization is accused of “Discrimination,” the burden of proof lies with the accused to prove a negative: that they have not discriminated. This was used against our banking system in the 1990’s. Minorities tended to have lower credit scores than non-minorities. This meant that banks awarded fewer loans to minorities. Rather than work to understand why minorities had lower scores, however, our government instead accused the banks of racial discrimination. The banks caved, loosened loan requirements, and contributed mightily to our housing crisis. Though the anti-discrimination laws, in theory, require demonstrable intent and proof of actual racism, mere coincidence was the only “proof” required against the banks.
Employers must tread carefully when disciplining or firing a protected employee, building dossiers for months before taking action. This does not prevent the nearly inevitable lawsuit, but it does reduce the likelihood of having to make a payout. In theory companies in most states hire employees “at will,” and in theory should be able to fire them without even needing to give a reason, but for protected classes, this is rarely the case. The accusation of “Discrimination” is enough to start a court case.
There is a further distortion perpetuated here: it pays well to get your group elevated to the level of a Protected Class.
And why not? Protected Classes are harder to fire, can sue if not hired, are guaranteed a minimum percentage of government contracts, enjoy full media opprobrium and frequent sympathetic “personal interest” stories (it’s always easy to find a bigot, and bigots make good TV), Congressional lobbying power, government grants, redistribution programs, and prosecutorial immunities.
It is an undeniable fact that lobbyists are working hard to elevate Sexual Orientation (i.e., Homosexuality) to a full acceptance as a Protected Class. As this plays out, we should all expect to hear more from our media on how this the Right Thing to Do, to protect another victim group, indeed we hear about constantly now. I’m not faulting Homosexuals for this, this is the political game to play, and the rewards are huge. I fully expect Christian groups to do the same as the pendulum swings too far. Give it a decade and expect to see Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc. all added to the quota checklists of large corporateDiversity Programs.
This is not a joke either, corporate buyers talk quite candidly off the record of finding, for instance, a dream supplier run by a black female veteran with one leg, one that “checks all the boxes”.
A Conflict of Protections: The Hierarchy of Victim Groups
Here is the nexus of our crisis. Homosexuals will be a Protected Class. Religion is a Protected Class. These Protected Classes are now in conflict over turf and resources. The resources are Power and Coercion, with the side effects of money and prestige. Each side is demanding the government favor themselves over their opponent, even though each is supposed to have equal footing. Who will win?
Well, Religion has the older claim to be sure, but it has no media or government sympathy at the moment. The antipathy of the Left towards Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is well documented (though vociferously denied). Besides, the Christians are the Bigots in the news story, the typecast villain every good “Personal Interest” story needs to grab headlines. “If it bleeds it leads” is still the news mantra, and this paradigm requires both a villain and a victim.
This reveals an ugly truth of our Protected Classes: Some classes are more protected than others. It’s rather like Rock-Paper-Scissors in a sense, with a trump suit.
Religion beats Sex. Sex Beats Race. Race beats Religion.
But Homosexuality trumps all at the moment, except perhaps Islam. Our media is careful, for instance, to ignore that the majority of Blacks do not want SSM, but doubly ignores honor killings or extermination of gays in Muslim countries.
Our terribly flawed system of Protected Classes seeks the precious resources, of which the Government has a monopoly, of Power and Coercion both over the general populace, and over each other. Government monopolies on resources can have terribly corrupting effects on a society. We’ve seen this before too, though in a different context: In Socialism.
The Socialist Control of Resources
In Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell, Professor Sowell gives an analogy. If there were a government monopoly on bricks, and both a church and a mosque wished to build a new facility, then they would each petition the Ministry of Bricks for an allotment. The Ministry would have to decide between the two groups over who got bricks. The church and mosque would compete directly with each other to win the bid, promoting enmity between themselves, while the hapless Ministry will probably award the bricks based on its own caprice or bribery – in short: CORRUPTION. In a free market of bricks, the church and mosque would only buy bricks according to their own means, competing indirectly in the free market. There would be no enmity between them on that account.
The Government today has declared itself the sole arbiter of thought crimes, and the sole wielder of punishment against “thought criminals”. When a company is in a dispute with a Protected employee, the employee and employer will each petition the Government to wield its power against the other, instead of settling their disputes privately.
When one Protected Class is in conflict with another, our Government has asserted that only it has the power to resolve that conflict. Like with the hapless Ministry of Bricks, it is asked to resolve a dispute better left to the free market.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act – The Original Sin
The 1964 Civil Rights Act is completely to blame. In 1964, the Federal Government unilaterally asserted the power to protect Race, Religion, and Sex in a way it had never tried before. Set aside the voting rights, an entirely appropriate realm of government, the sin is in the sections on Employment and Commerce
For the first time, the United States created Protected Classes, then asserted total authority to police disputes with such classes. Americans could be punished by fines or imprisonment for merely refusing to hire a Protected Class or to serve a Protected Class in their business. Relying on the prior stretching of the Interstate Commerce Clause beyond any meaning, Congress declared that no American citizen could refuse a business transaction with any group declared Protected.
The intent behind the law was noble, and the law was clearly aimed at the Southern states, still mired in racial laws and government-sanctioned and government-mandated racial discrimination in everything from restaurants to restrooms, to drinking fountains. Yet Congress merely traded one evil for another.
The Civil Rights Act was deemed necessary to forcibly undo the Jim Crow laws promulgated by the Southern States after the Reconstruction era, when Union troops ceased to act as an occupational force. The evil of Jim Crow is beyond doubt, but what is often lost is that Jim Crow mandated the separation of the races for the purposes of employment and commerce. Jim Crow was a central motivation for many blacks to migrate north, and it was this migration that Woodrow Wilson fought when he imposed Jim Crow on the federal bureaucracy. FDR’s support of the minimum wage was at least partly to prop up his white labor union supporters against black workers, who were freely undercutting the unions on construction and factory jobs. It was Jim Crow laws that forced businesses to discriminate against blacks. In short, the Jim Crow laws imposed then locked in forced segregation.
Jim Crow, in other words, forced a behavior on businesses that they might otherwise have not engaged in. It created the Thought Crime of Integration and punished it accordingly. Had the Civil Rights Act merely broken the back of those laws it would have been right and proper.
The damage done by the Civil Rights Act was to instead impose Anti-Segregation on businesses. If it was wrong for Jim Crow to force businesses to discriminate, then how is it not wrong to force businesses to not discriminate? Congress Over-Reacted by transposing one set of thought crimes with another, but made is subtly worse by making the offense one of omission: A Negative Crime. Before, a business had to be visibly seen discriminating, an easily proven activity. Now a business has to be visibly NOT engaging in an activity, the mirror image of the prior situation.
There is absolutely no way a business can demonstrate a lack of an activity, but to avoid scrutiny businesses must now engage in a sort of hyperactive racial quota and recruiting system.
And of course, the other Protected Classes, seeing the spoils to be gained with quotas, have further gamed the system. Though this is hotly denied, we have active quotas today in hiring for race and sex, wherein American Citizens, supposedly equal before the law, are segregated into groups and judged by their physical characteristics.
The Balkanization of the American Electorate
Protected Classes have become intellectual ghettos and petty fiefdoms. Blacks are protected, treated as a mass block by this law. After all, protection comes with power and goodies. Yet this has separated Blacks from Whites, not to mention Hispanics or Asians, for they too have their own protected blocks now.
Women are pitted against men, for the law has decreed the interest of Women to be separate from other groups.
The actual practice of the law has been insidious too, for case law and federal statutes essentially treat some groups as more equal than others. The assumption is that if you are a member of a majority class, then you are retarded from prosecuting for discrimination crimes against minorities.
It is small wonder then that racial relations continue to be strained. For a race to remain protected means power to its protectors. If racism were to really decline then the racial “leaders” would be out of work and out of power. If male/female relations were seen to be balanced, then radical groups like NOW and NARAL would be moot. It is in the best interests of Protected Groups to retain their protection, thus it is in their interests to continue to be seen as oppressed victims, regardless of the truth.
Their battle cry is “Equality,” but this rings hollow in their actions. Instead, we are further separated from each other. Men’s groups and clubs are broken up by women, though female clubs and schools are allowed to remain. Employees are left wondering if their advancement was due to ability, or to their “check box” factor, while others are left to wonder in silence as their colleagues are promoted by sex or race.
And shopkeepers are left to wonder, should they turn down a customer, if that customer will turn around and prosecute or sue them for Discrimination. That the Seattle Florist is sued for discriminating against a Homosexual wedding is a sign that Homosexuals are now, at least in Washington, a Protected Class.
The Florist illustrates our separations all too well: The Florist is also claiming status as a Protected Class, and now our government must choose which classes are More Protected than others.
Why am I not free to refuse service? What is gained by demanding all businesses serve all customers? In this day of instant communication, if a white business turns down a black customer, that customer can have his complaint on Facebook, Google, Linked In, Tumblr, and a thousand other sources in minutes. Why do we need to involve prosecutors, legislators, bureaucrats, and the courts in such mundane acts?
If a baker refuses a homosexual customer, that customer will advertise it to the entire homosexual community, and doubtless other bakers will step forward to take the business. Discrimination here promotes competition and specialization.
Why must we continue to act like children, bringing every petulant dispute to our nanny Government? Why are we prevented from settling these matters privately?
Moving Forward – Free to Be Racist Jerks, Resolving our Disputes
We are not children. We do not need protection. We should be individuals, not Interest Groups seeking patronage and power, or coercion over others.
It is time to eliminate the business clauses of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Jim Crow is Dead and Buried. 1964 was 50 years ago now. If you were 20 then, you are 70 now. Surely whatever purpose the law served has been met, as those who most defended Jim Crow are now dead and buried with it.
Southern White Racists are now a cartoon villain, trotted out like the Nazis whenever Hollywood runs out of energy.
We have no more Southern White Racists to beat up, so we make up fantasies like the ridiculous The Help, like some sort of Medieval Mystery Play, where instead of a rousing chorus of “Kill the Jews” we instead have a rousing chorus of Spit on the Southerners. We feel virtuous and purged when we watch these, like some sort of ritual atonement for the sins of our ancestors.
But the truth is that this is all a charade now. The spoils of Protected Classes are too readily seen to be ignored, but we are not free to speak our minds and say it all must end. Just as we are not free to speak our minds and say farm subsidies must end, we are not free to speak our minds and say the Race, Sex, Religion, and Orientation racket has to end.
It is high time to recognize that the 1964 Civil Rights act has further divided our society, and that its outgrowths continue to force Americans to compete against each other for spoils.
It is time to Grow Up.