… and The Right To Be An Asshole

Hot on the heels of the Masterpiece Bake Shop Supreme Court decision (where a baker cited his religious beliefs to refuse to decorate a cake for a gay wedding) we have the unfortunate case of Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, being refused service at a restaurant. Conservatives are gleefully calling the liberals who support the restaurant owner’s decision, correctly pointing out the obvious hypocrisy of those who demanded “bake that cake.” And, some are calling for or engaging in a coordinated campaign to punish the restaurant owner, via boycott (fine, if you accept that you’re hurting all the employees there as well) and negative reviews on social media sites (not fine if you haven’t dined there. Sure, you can go on Yelp and say you won’t dine there for Reason X, but there’s quite a chunk of intellectual dishonesty there, since the average Yelp patron is there to find out about the food, service, etc, and will be deceived by a politics-based review).

Once again, we find that the people most likely to practice what they preach are the libertarians. In our world, both the baker and the restauranteur have the right to refuse service to anyone. Private business, private transaction, terms must be mutually agreeable.

What’s vital to understand, here, is that endorsing one’s right is not remotely condoning what one does with that right. Indeed, I take the opposite position from both the baker and the restauranteur, in that I am (and have been, for many years) in favor of legalizing gay marriage and I think it’s quite hard enough to run a restaurant without alienating customers, current and potential. In my experience, throwing one customer out often has a ripple effect (even before publicity plays in), because that customer has friends and family, and if they go out together, they’ll go elsewhere. Moreso, Sanders didn’t, by accounts, do anything disruptive whatsoever. If these business owners want to put their beliefs ahead of their businesses (and their employees – they suffer from lost business too), that’s their choice, and I think it’s the wrong one.

Yes, I support the Masterpiece baker’s right to refuse to decorate a cake per a customer’s specifications, for whatever reason, but I don’t agree with his reason here. While he may very well be a wonderful person and a good Christian, I am in disagreement with Christianity’s position on homosexuality (ditto for Islam’s). Thus, I support the baker’s right to be wrong in his “deeply-held” (as they’ve been characterized) beliefs.

I also support the owner of the Red Hen restaurant in her choice not to serve Sanders. In this case, I don’t merely think she’s wrong, because the act of serving a hamburger or whatever is the same, no matter to whom it’s being served. Unlike the bakery matter, where the baker was being asked to do something unique that violated his beliefs, not serving a patron because the patron worked for the other political party is merely bigotry, akin to saying “no blacks allowed.” If the baker refused to sell a cake to the gay couple, he’d fall into this category, but he didn’t. So, what’s the difference? Whereas I’ll merely dub the baker “wrong,” I consider the Red Hen owner an asshole.

And, yes, she should have the right to be an asshole. And, yes, I should have the right to call her an asshole, and to elect never to patronize her restaurant (just as I’d not buy from the Masterpiece baker).

What’s the difference? None, other than my personal perception.

The crux of this matter is that, if we want to live in an equal, harmonious society, we need to demand that equality be held paramount. As it currently is, we witness the inequality of “protected classes,” an idea of noble intent, and one used to address systemic inequalities that were the law of the land for decades. But, today’s society is suffering not from the inequalities of systemic bigotry (while bigotry certainly still exists, I defy anyone to show me its “systemic” nature), but from the corrosive effects of a over-swung shift toward elevating some people’s rights over those of others. We’ve achieved the final chapter of Orwell’s Animal House, where “some animals are more equal than others.”

That’s the lesson of today. If you want a society of liberty and equality, you have to defend someone’s right to be wrong, and you have to defend someone’s right to be an asshole. Both come with consequences outside those that a coercive government might choose to impose, and it is those consequences that are the best arbiter of wrongness or assholery. You can’t have an equal society if inequality is written into law, no matter who is put low on the totem pole. We’ll all be far better off if people elevated intellectual consistency above their personal reactions.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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