Last Friday, the first televised Libertarian debate aired; and after many libertarians (myself included) were scratching my heads wondering what Gary Johnson was doing up there.
Especially during one exchange over the right of businesses to deny service to those they disagree with.
Petersen: Well, i just wanted to say that, you know, that yes, Governor Johnson has stated that he does side with him [Bernie Sanders] on social issues, and we had a big garfufel in Oregon last week because Governor Johnson has stated that he believes that bakers should be forced to bake wedding cakes for people that they disagree with, homosexual couples, and this is a big problem because he’s running for president as a libertarian…
Stossel: Is he correct in quoting you?
Johnson: Yes, but I think that if you discriminate on the basis of religion, I think that is a black hole. Look, I think you should be able to discriminate on stink or you’re not wearing shoes or whatever, but I’ll tell you what, if we discriminate on the basis of religion, to me that’s doing harm to a big class of people…
Petersen: Should a Jewish baker be required to bake a Nazi wedding cake?
Johnson: …I think that Muslims right now in this country would be banned by all sorts of businesses right now because it would be the popular thing…
Stossel: Should the Jewish baker have to bake the cake for the Nazi wedding?
Johnson: That’s, uh, that would be my contention, yes…
This is concerning, seeing how it is coming from the leading libertarian candidate. It shows a huge misunderstanding of one of the most basic, foundational principles of libertarianism: the power of a free market.
Is it right that businesses discriminate? Not necessarily. But do they have that right? Unquestionably.
We would never question the right of a consumer to pick and choose which businesses to patronize based on his opinions about that business. So why would we question the right of a business owner to do the same?
Especially since the market has a great mechanism to prevent this.
Most of the market seems to oppose discrimination; and thus will cease to patronize businesses that are guilty of the practice. So the business will be obliged to either change the practice, or go out of business. And if the consumers continue to support businesses that discriminate, then it really must not be much of a problem – after all, the final authority should be the consumer.
We certainly don’t need the government to come in and do what the market can do well enough by itself.
The entire first part of the debate can be seen here, for those that missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr9Vr5p-8Fs