Special Crazy Person Post

Normally I make an effort to avoid any controversy or politics on this blog.  But recent comments from US Senate Candidate Rand Paul and supporting statements from professional mustachio John Stossel have forced my hand.

Rand Paul in an interview with Rachel Maddow declared his dislike for the Title II of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.

John Stossel said on the May 20 edition of Fox News’ America Live,

And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement, and say it’s time now to repeal that part of the law… because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t won’t ever go to a place that’s racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I’ll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.”

Ok, so here is their logic as I see it: Businesses should be completely free to discriminate because that equals freedom (for the business owner).  If a business chooses to discriminate, the free market will punish them for their “boorish” behavior and they will lose to the non-discriminatory businesses.  Yeah, that worked really well prior to the Civil Rights Act.

But don’t let facts and history cloud the discussion.

Here are a few of the problems with permitting discrimination in public accommodations:

  • The market will choose to discriminate with the belief that it will benefit the business.  For instance, an apartment complex that wants to appeal to the hip and young may choose to refuse renting to the disabled, families with children or the elderly.  In this example, the apartment owners could be rewarded since young people would probably prefer to live in the complex that was full of young, active people like themselves.  Without the FHA a student with a disability would probably not be able to find private housing close to the campus.
  • Some public accommodations provide essential services.  Buying food is not optional.  In some communities, there may be only one grocery store.  What would happen if the owner of that grocery store didn’t like a particular ethnic group?  Some small communities cannot support more than one doctor.  Imagine if that Doctor thought that people with disabilities were too much risk, could the Doctor just tell them to move out of town?
  • In some cases, an entire community is developed by one private entity.  This entity may sell all of the houses and be the landlord for 100% of the commercial business.   In this situation, there would be no “free market” to prevent discrimination.

Discrimination is wrong.  Morally and ethically wrong.  If you want to do business in the US, then you must follow our rules.  It is because of our self organization as a government that we have the peace, protection and economy to run private business.

Rand and John are wrong on this issue.




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13 Responses to Special Crazy Person Post

  1. Steve says:

    Agreed. Stossel has some very insightful views at times. This is not one of them.

  2. […] of the ADA Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the ADA and despite the vocal opinions of some ignorant fools, the Americans with Disabilities Act continues to improve life for people with disabilities.  But […]

  3. […] marks the 20th Anniversary of the ADA and despite the vocal opinions of some ignorant fools, the Americans with Disabilities Act continues to improve life for people with disabilities.  But […]

  4. Marcela says:

    My sentiments exactly…in a pefect world we would let the massess dictate what is right and wrong, but that assumes that everyone has the same moral fiber that I do…that is why the Gvt. has to sometimes step in. I’m all for freedom but one group should not be more free than others!

  5. . I checked out your blog and your opinions on Stossel and Paul. Since they are not responding to your criticism I thought I would join in on the fun. I thought I would use your points for your blog as a starting point.

    1. Businesses should be completely free to discriminate because that equals freedom (for the business owner). If a business chooses to discriminate, the free market will punish them for their “boorish” behavior and they will lose to the non-discriminatory businesses. Yeah, that worked really well prior to the Civil Rights Act.

    Jim Crow laws were written by government not by the market. I racist that wanted to discriminate would use the government to inact laws to “not allow other businesses to serve blacks at the lunch counter”. The racist wanted the laws to limit his competition. A free market (without restrictions by the government) will seek profit from where ever it can be found. Yes there is discrimination of all types (race, gender, age, tall, fat,skinny,short, etc) but it is those who utilize their employees the best that find profit.

    2. The market will choose to discriminate with the belief that it will benefit the business. For instance, an apartment complex that wants to appeal to the hip and young may choose to refuse renting to the disabled, families with children or the elderly. In this example, the apartment owners could be rewarded since young people would probably prefer to live in the complex that was full of young, active people like themselves. Without the FHA a student with a disability would probably not be able to find private housing close to the campus.

    Of course a business discriminates in the belief of benefit. I discriminate against non-payers. I don’t want non payers as clients. An apartment complex seeks to maximize profit. If it thinks there is profit in an apartment that appeals to old people they may refuse to rent to the hipsters. If it wants a family environment it may refuse to the drunken college students. If they can have complexes or units that disabled person thinks are awesome for their disability then they seek the disabled. The availability of housing close to campus is a function of price. A the right price there will always be housing.

    3. Some public accommodations provide essential services. Buying food is not optional. In some communities, there may be only one grocery store. What would happen if the owner of that grocery store didn’t like a particular ethnic group? Some small communities cannot support more than one doctor. Imagine if that Doctor thought that people with disabilities were too much risk, could the Doctor just tell them to move out of town?

    You are kind of creating your own facts here. People generally live closest to where they can receive essential services. These are decisions they make as they chose where their needs are best meet. Sure a racists bigoted town can form or a doctor could refuse to see certain patients but that is hardly cured by a law. The racist bigot is more likely to use the law to benefit (zoning-no apartments in Farmers Branch, TX for example) to run someone out of town. Instead of not selling food why wouldn’t they just tell them their toilet is too close to the wall (or too far away) or tell them they have no ramp. City’s effectively use the law to get rid of those they don’t want.

    4. In some cases, an entire community is developed by one private entity. This entity may sell all of the houses and be the landlord for 100% of the commercial business. In this situation, there would be no “free market” to prevent discrimination?

    Communities are out there that discriminate against people that can’t afford million dollar homes. I don’t like million dollar homes so I make a community with a good mix of rich people and poor people. Again it is much more likely for government to discriminate using zoning. There are plenty if developers that use government to keep the “riff raff away”. That is not the market though. That is government doing businesses dirty work.

    In brief, I don’t see anything regarding the general welfare to be good about the ADA. Yes there is always specific welfare of those who might receive a benefit. My biggest concern is that in supposedly taking away “barriers” it creates the biggest “barrier” of all which is employment. A employer is far less likely to assume the risk of employing the disabled if they fear that their toilet is an inch off of center or the accidently call their wet bar a kitchen. The ADA create a hurdle for the disabled to get over. They have to find employers who are willing to assume the risk of litigation. Some do, but the statistics show an increase in the unemployment rate of the disabled since the law was enacted. There are many other unforeseen consequences of laws like the ADA which proponents are unwilling to accept. I will be glad to point those out to you.

    • jeromymurphy says:

      I reject the notion that people with disabilities are worse off with the ADA. Research has suggested that the link between unemployment and passage of the ADA is not causal. They compared States that had employment laws prohibiting disability discrimination with those that didn’t, pre-ADA. http://www.nber.org/digest/nov04/w10528.html

      I reject the “freedom” argument. We are bound by the laws of our country. If you want to be truly free, there are lawless parts of the world that would love your business.

      The fact is that discrimination against people with disabilities exists and this is wrong. While laws can’t change the hearts and minds of people, laws can change the built environment. Repeatedly, I have seen new construction fail to make buildings accessible when to do so what have required no additional cost.

      Once again, if the free market works so well, why did we need the ADA? Or do you suggest that there is no discrimination against people with disabilities?

  6. Instead of citing articles back and forth from group that share our differing opinions, I would only argue using the rules of logic. These laws of thought are axiomatic and the basis of all rational discourse. Form these rules one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time. From this established point we proceed to the Law of Demand. The Law of Demand states that, if all other factors are equal, the higher the price of a good, the less people will demand that good. This is precisely the problem with the ADA and the disabled. The ADA raises (either actually or perceived) the price of hiring the disabled (in this case the good) therefore ,less demand for the employment of the disabled . In order for it to not be causal, there would have to be no actual of perceived increase in price. You have already stated the risk of civil litigation from the ADA. In effect, this is the higher actual or perceived price and consequently demand for the employment of the disabled will be less.
    Regarding the law, I am not making a “freedom” argument. We have binding and irrevocable laws. These are natures laws or God’s laws. No matter what we do, vote, or enact we don’t get freedom from these laws. The laws of a country have to be in accordance to these laws to be good. The “lawless” parts of the world you mention reject part or all of natures law. Some have plenty of the “laws of the country” (Cuba, North Korea and the old Soviet system) and some have plenty of the laws of men (Somolia). Neither are “lawless” societies. They are law breaking societies. The ADA takes natures law and says there is this higher “do good-ism” law above it. In requiring this “do good-ism” law it violates natures law by using violence or the threat of violence against peoples person or property to do this “good”. As Christian, I do have a higher requirement to love my neighbor but in doing so I don’t have the right to assign to government a right that I do not posses myself- the right to use violence or the threat of violence. Even if I did have this right, I would also have to determine that it was indeed “good” but I have already shown how the law does not good but harm to the disabled.
    Yes, laws can change the built environment. That is the problem though. The change is a specific good for some but a general harm for all. You can take pictures and make political campaigns with the ones that receive a specific good. What you can’t see is the counter factual which is the free market. The free market is both a specific good and a general good. You can’t take a picture of this good. It is a Adam Smith called the “invisible hand”. I would absolutely agree that there is individual bad but also only general good.
    The freer the market the more a society can afford to take care of the disabled. We have the ability to “pretend” the ADA does general good because of the great wealth given to us by our kind of, sort of respect for natural law and the resulting relatively free markets and private property rights. As far as discrimination goes, I believe as a Christian that I have an obligation, with my own resources, to love my neighbor as myself. If that means paying to make my home or business accessible for someone then great. Loving my neighbor would also means not creating violence or a threat of violence against them in creating some positive obligation of society. Especially when this obligation does general harm.

    • jeromymurphy says:

      Wow, you are obviously much smarter than me on the subject of natural law, general good, free market and individual bad. These are all very interesting terms, but I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you give me an example of the ADA doing “general harm”?

      My logic:
      Before ADA, people with disabilities were more dependent on others and the government.
      After the ADA, people with disabilities are less dependent on others and the government.
      Cost to private sector, minimal.

      I would love to provide some statistics for this but you set the rule that we won’t use actual evidence by citing research.

      • The general harm is keeping the disabled unemplyoyed. The rule set is that economics follows from truths about human beings (i.e. the Law of Demand). You are saying “actual evidence” and “research” reveal truth in economics. In this instance, “by research” you have discovered that increasing the price does’t decrease demand.

        What you have stated is inductive logic with a conformation bias. Inductive argments can be strong or weak but they are only probable. The best that you can say, by your logic , is that it is probable that the disabled are better off.

        Deductive logic argues from fixed premises. I know as a fixed law or truth that price effects demand. The greater the price the less the demand in this case. The ADA increases the price (either actual or precived) of employing the disabled. therefore the demand of employing the disabled is less. As long as both of these premises are true then the conclusion follows from logical neccessity.

        While you would like to use actual evidence to confim your bias. You would first have to overturn the Law of Demand.

      • jeromymurphy says:

        I think it is foolish to apply an economics argument to a civil rights issue. But let me see if I understand you correctly. There is this Law of Demand: as the cost increases, demand decreases. Because you have already decided that this Law of Demand is true and that it is properly applied to employing the disabled, there is no need to look for actual results, theory suffices.

        In applying the Law of Demand to employing people with disabilities, the “cost increase” must be the cost of modifying existing facilities to accommodate employees with disabilities, right? Therefore, the “demand” must be the desire of people to hire individuals with disabilities. Your logic is circular at this point; you have shoe horned a civil rights issue into an economic theory.

        Let’s apply the law of demand to Religion. Attendance at mainline protestant churches is decreasing, therefore, the cost of attending a mainline protestant church must be increasing. If I did some research, I might find that the cost of attending a church has not increased, but if that were true the Law of Demand would have been violated. Or it could be that it’s not appropriate to apply the Law of Demand and people just want to sleep in on Sunday.

      • We don’t get to choose when to apply economics. It is a positive science. It is predictive of what will happen. It is not saying if it is right or wrong. Yes, in the Laws of Logic it necessarily has to be true. You can illustrate by looking at actual results but if you find to the contrary your results are wrong.

        The “cost increase” would be the direct cost of modification plus the precieved cost of litigation or future modifications or accomadations. Hiring or not hiring is done at the margins.An employer attempts to make rational decisions when hiring. Assuming equal productivity, if an employer feels that the cost of one individual would exceed the cost of another individual it is highly likely that the lower cost individual would be hired. Assuming complete equality in all other factors, the ADA puts the disabled at a comparative disadvantage.

        As far as the mainline church argument goes, I would argue that the cost is increasing. If you commit to a standard of objective truth ( objecting to killing babies, etc.) the cost are increasing intolerence from society. The cost years from years ago being cheaper as there was mainstream agreement on fixed standards. Yes, people stay home to catch up on sleep but the general trend is the rising cost of Christians to confront society with the Gospel.

      • jeromymurphy says:

        Nope, you got that wrong. Economics fall apart when you talk about civil rights. People didn’t refuse service to black people because it was economically logical to do so and people don’t use strict economics to make hiring decisions, disability or not.

        Try a different argument.

  7. I am talking about economics as a positive science describing “what is”. You are talking about economics as a normative science advocating for “what ought to be”. Yes, people were and are bigoted and hateful. The economics of bigotry and hatefullness are against the businesses that are bigoted and hatefull. Thats why businesses wanted Jim Crow laws. The had to institutionalize bigotry and hatefulness in order to have any success.

    Not sure what you mean by “strict” economics. Are you saying business is unconcerned over cost vs. benefits?. Many factors have to be weighed when a new person is hired but cost are always weighed against benefits.

    The current unemplyement rate of disabled is 13.9% compared to 8.0% of the general population. It is even worse in the participation rate. That is a travestry. It is just evil to have the ADA and minimum wage laws keep so many disabled people from finding gainful employment.

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