So what, John Kasich, if a business turns away a divorced customer? It’s their right

During Thursday night’s Republican Party presidential debate, Ohio Governor John Kasich was asked about religious liberty by radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. He pretty much summarized Kasich’s position: if a customer walks into a business and asks for a cupcake then the proprietor should just make them a cupcake with no questions asked (other than what flavor).

Here is what Kasich said during the debate:

“If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with, OK, today I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced.

“I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave and hope they change their behavior.”

It’s as plain and simple as that. Or is it?

This discussion about religious liberty is a misguided one. The discussion should be more about private property rights. A business maintains the rights of private property like a homeowner: it should welcome into its business to whomever it pleases.

Right now, businesses are obligated to allow anyone and everyone into its establishment, unless they’re not wearing shoes or shirts. Is this justified? Is this the right thing to do? No and no.

A business shouldn’t be legally mandated or required to serve business to anyone. For instance, if you own a coffee shop and you see a black gay couple walk into your business, you shouldn’t have to serve them anything. Or, if Donald Trump walks into your business then you shouldn’t have to serve him anything. Or, if a hipster millennial sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt walks into your business then you shouldn’t have to serve him anything.

Whether we agree or disagree with the business owner’s position is a moot point. We cannot take their right away. On the other hand, if it’s some sort of government entity then they are not allowed to discriminate because everyone is paying into this inefficient, poor public organization.

It’s a private company’s choice to offer a customer a cup of coffee, a car or piece of clothing. Indeed, this is bad business, but it’s the entrepreneur’s decision nonetheless. They’ll just lose money and the consumer will go somewhere else. It’s the power of the market and a voluntary society.

The same line of thinking can be applied to the hiring process. A business can hire whomever they wish to. If the proprietor wishes to discriminate and choose someone who is less qualified all because of the color of his skin then he is free to do so. He’ll lose out in the end, though.

When you own a company, you want to bring on the best and brightest. But if you’re choosing a white person without experience or education over a gay black person with stellar credentials then you’ll see your bottom line shrink. Meanwhile, your rival will likely hire that same black gay person and see their investment in his labor pay dividends down the line.

What about the customers? What if your customers are racist? What if they’ll only go to your premise if the employees are white? Well, they’ll pay something economists call the “racist fee.” This means that if a business owner only hires unqualified Christians rather than qualified Jews because his customers want him to then those same customers will suffer from poor customer service or shoddy product design. The business, too, will also suffer in this scenario.

Again, it’s the power of the market.

As a business owner, the only color you should care about is green. In today’s world, someone’s skin color, religious affiliation or political ideology shouldn’t matter. If they’re qualified for the job or they have money to purchase a product then they should be accepted. Of course, this line of thinking can only be located in a perfect world.

As economist Milton Friedman said, if you’re searching for a perfect world, a utopia then this is not it. He also forewarned that “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

So, John Kasich, if business owners don’t want to serve divorced individuals then that’s their right. However, those same divorced individuals will just go across the street and visit a company that will.

That’s the beauty of freedom: choice (good or bad), voluntary behavior and a market that will better combat racism, discrimination, homophobia than all of the government policies in the world ever will.

It’s true that Kasich is likely portraying himself as a moderate Republican – this is only getting him single-digit support – but moderate, middle-of-the-road policies often lead to a road we don’t want to go down. There’s too much of these middle-of-the-road stances in this year’s election, whether you’re Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Photo by Michael Vadon via Wikipedia.

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  1. There is a big difference between selling a standard item and selling a custom item or service that requires creativity and loyalty or an implied endorsement.

    You can’t compel a lawyer to represent a client that commands a position be taken contrary to the attorney’s ethics or morals. You can’t retain an artist to create a work that he or she considers ugly, obscene or in poor taste.

    A baker should sell a standard wedding cake to a gay couple but should not be forced to create a loving representation two same sex partners or an endorsement of any particular religious or political belief. The KKK may have a right to march on Main Street but a baker should not have to add a swat sticker or hate speech to their cake.

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