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On Transgender Restrooms and All Similar Matters, Let Property Owners Decide

As a people, we seem largely incapable of allowing each other to live according to our individually chosen values. When Jim Crow laws dictated segregation in the last century, it wasn't enough to merely repeal those laws. We had to err in the other direction. We had to dictate integration. From that era rose the modern concept of "public accommodation," an insidious claim against the property and association rights of others.

When you open a business, the theory goes, you yield your authority over the venue where it is housed. You must, under the force of law, do business with people you may not want to do business with, and on terms that you may not agree to. Why? Because discrimination is bad.

But is it? Discrimination is choice. That's it. When you choose between this thing and that, you discriminate. When you choose where to live, whom to love, how to earn a living, what to believe, you discriminate against the alternatives. How is that bad? More to the point, what right does anyone else have to tell you what choices you should make?

Many in today's culture claim that there exists some mystical distinction between discrimination in personal affairs, such as whom you marry or where you live, and matters of "public accommodation." Somehow, and no one has been able to rationally articulate how, you lose the right to choose when you offer products and services to the public.

Brenda, a caller to a local radio show where I recently sat as guest, put it this way:

Consumers have the right to participate in the market. You do not have the right to deny them access to the market... [All people] have the right to purchase goods and services that are offered on the free and open market.

Let's think that through. What does it mean to "participate in the market"? Rationally, it means to engage in consensual trade with others. Consensual. If either party to the transaction does not consent, then it is not a trade. It is a heist. But that's not Brenda's position. She believes that "the right to participate in the market" is a magic permit to circumvent the consent of others. "You do not have the right to deny [others] assess to the market," she claims, and must therefore engage in commerce that you do not consent to. You are, in her view, a slave.

Odd how we've come full circle on that point, isn't it? We began enslaving blacks at the nation's birth. We then moved to merely compelling segregation through law. Recently, we've "fixed" things by embracing a new form of slavery.

How about we give freedom a shot? What harm is there in letting people decide for themselves which relationships they consent to? More to the point, how dare we force relationships upon others. From where do we claim the moral authority to tell someone else who they must do business with, or on what terms?

It is vital to recognize that violations of consent are bipartisan. The current controversy over transgender restroom policies demonstrates this. On the one hand, you have advocates of so-called "transgender rights" arguing that people should be forced to let transgendered people use whatever restroom they want. On the other hand, you have a number of efforts in states throughout the union to ban people from using any restroom other than that designated for their biological gender. Again, no matter our opinion on gender, we seem largely incapable of allowing each other to live according to our individually chosen values. Why not simply let property owners, be they individual or corporate, craft their own polices?