Wednesday, 12/16/15

Reason magazine, a libertarian voice, has two outstanding articles I’ve just come across.

The first (H/T Rod Dreher) covers an Atlantic magazine sponsored LGBT confab where the crazy grievance-mongers seemed to outnumber, or at least to feel free to mau-mau, their sanely-wrong co-conferees:

[Gay Libertarian David] Boaz had been discussing “Identity in the Workplace” with EEOC Commissioner [Chai] Feldblum …Both touched on the historic alliance between libertarians and the LGBT community when it comes to political activism. But with this community’s main focus shifting from repealing discriminatory laws—like those that prohibited sodomy, same-sex marriage, or ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the military—to enacting discriminatory laws, the area of common ground seems to be shrinking.

Scott Shackford pondered this “libertarian-gay divorce” in Reason’s November 2015 issue. “Now that government discrimination is largely tamed, gay activists are going after private behavior, using the government as a bludgeon,” wrote Shackford. “After a long alliance with libertarians, the two camps could be settling into a new series of conflicts.”

And it was impossible not to notice a contradictory impulse in so many of those gathered. At the same time as people praised the non-binary “gender spectrum,” they reinforced old tropes about masculinity and femininity, and the centrality of biology to both. One speaker said he knew his daughter was trans from a young age because Nicole—assigned male at birth, like her twin brother—liked to dress in pink and avoided boy toys. Another speaker described a man as being “in touch with his feminine side” because “he cries a lot.” (Nothing regressive and gender-stereotypical to see here!)

(LGBT Rights vs. Religious Freedom Looms Large at #AtlanticLGBT Summit: Welcome to the minefield that is discussing sexuality and gender issues circa 2015) Who will be the brave boy, girl or hermaphrodite to say out loud that the trans movement has no clothes (and that the LGBT clothes are getting pretty threadbare)?

The second, A Libertarian-Gay Divorce?, is even more timely as the LGBT-Industrial complex prepares to bludgeon Indiana again, this time with the GOP leadership in cahoots (to be fair, perhaps reluctantly):

[T]he United States has seen the abolition of sodomy laws, the end of officially sanctioned government discrimination against gay employees, and now—with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in June—the end of government non-recognition of same-sex marriage.

So: Is that it, then? Is the gay movement ready to declare victory and go home?

Don’t bet on it. Now that government discrimination is largely tamed, gay activists are going after private behavior, using the government as a bludgeon. After a long alliance with libertarians, the two camps could be settling into a new series of conflicts.

Libertarians and gay activists were aligned in the pursuit of ending government mistreatment, but libertarians draw a bright line between government behavior and private behavior, arguing that the removal of state force is the essential precondition for private tolerance. Many gay activists believe that government power is a critical tool for eliminating private misdeeds. What many activists see as righteous justice, libertarians see as inappropriate, heavy-handed coercion.

[T]he workplace [antidiscrimination] push is largely based on the theoretical possibility—and a much earlier history—of discrimination: The fear is that unless a law explicitly prohibits an unwanted thing from happening, it will happen. Yet there’s been a huge culture shift these past two decades in support of letting gay people live their lives as they choose. Big corporations with products to sell celebrated gay pride in June, openly marketing themselves to gay customers and their allies. So where is the evidence that anti-gay employment discrimination in 2015 is a widespread phenomenon requiring urgent government intervention?

In general, libertarians and gay leaders have been united against anti-gay discrimination by government employers, such as the military. As the government answers to (and takes tax dollars from) all citizens, including the gay ones, the government should logically and ethically treat people the same regardless of sexual orientation.

But in the private sector, there should be something more than an ever-shrinking number of unpopular hiring decisions before asking Leviathan to step in.

The freedom to choose with whom to associate is a fundamental human right. The ability to engage freely in commerce is another one. As such, libertarians have always defended the ability of religious businesses and individuals to say “no thanks” to potential customers.

This is not just about faith. Religion happens to be the framework for this debate because the people who want to discriminate against gay customers are doing so while citing their religious beliefs. But any regulation that inhibits individuals’ right to choose with whom they trade or do business needs to be treated as suspect. To justify restrictions on this freedom, the government has to prove that inaction would produce a significant amount of harm.

That’s obviously not the case when it comes to the provision of marketplace goods. Nobody has presented a credible argument that gay couples are unable to buy wedding cakes or hire photographers. There is no actual “harm”—at worst, just inconvenience and insult.

Apart from same-sex marriage, which libertarians tended to support but which I oppose for reasons I’ll not reprise here, my position is very close to this kind of libertarianism:

  1. Governmental discrimination needs strong justification, rarely present when the basis for discrimination is what we’re come to refer to as “sexual orientation.”
  2. Interfering with the decisions of private businesses about who to serve needs strong justification, which appears to be lacking, when the basis for discrimination is what we’re come to refer to as “sexual orientation.”

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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.