Anti-discrimination Laws

gb asked:

1. What is your opinion on Anti-Discrimination Laws on hiring and firing in a free market?

I have two, and only two, rules with regards to discrimination: First is that every entity (individual and collective) should have the freedom to discriminate to its heart’s content without interference from third parties. The second is that the government must be strictly forbidden to discriminate against any person or group.

Any violations of these two rules is not consistent with a free society.

For instance with respect to hiring and firing, in a free society, people must have the freedom to hire and fire as they please. People should be free to not hire someone because of his or her sex, caste, age, religion, looks, or whatever strikes their fancy.

Hiring and firing are economic decisions. It’s a trade, and trade always involves two — and only two — parties reaching an agreement. Third party interference is unnecessary and always hurts one or both of the parties to a trade.

Anti-discrimination laws invariably harm society.  And discrimination by the government destroy the moral basis for governance and corrupts those in government. Government discrimination destroys social cohesion and promotes public strife.

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

8 thoughts on “Anti-discrimination Laws”

  1. What about a hospital that denies treatment to a person based on their race/religion?
    What about a hospital that agrees to treatment or waive off the bill, subject to the condition that the customer convert to their religion?

    What about housing societies that denies housing to people belonging to certain races/religions? Won’t this lead to housing/racial segregation like here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schelling%27s_model_of_segregation ?

    1. > What about a hospital that denies treatment to a person based on their race/religion?

      Atanu has already answered that question. If you are still confused the answer is Yes. (The hospital is also required to advertise this fact loudly and clearly. If they don’t then they are committing a fraud.)

      > What about a hospital that agrees to treatment or waive off the bill, subject to the condition that the customer convert to their religion?

      Atanu has also addressed this. Two parties should be able to come to an agreement without interference from an unaffected third party. If you are still confused the answer is Yes. Such hospitals should be allowed to exist and in my personal opinion will do plenty good. (Again, they are required to advertise this business model upfront.)

      > What about housing societies that denies housing to people belonging to certain races/religions?

      Ditto. I own the house I decide whom to rent it. If it leads to housing segregation so be it. As in other cases landlord must advertise this criteria upfront else will be wasting other people’s time and it will be a fraud.

      Segregation is not a bad thing. It sends important signals that certain groups are not liked people and helps those groups introspect as to why this is the case.

    2. Anirudh:

      Thanks for your questions. I have addressed them in this post. Also, Ghost of Hamlet replied to your comment while I was writing that post.

      I am familiar with Schelling’s work. In fact, it was Schelling’s book “Micromotives, Macrobehavior” that led me to start studying economics.

      Like Ghost of Hamlet, I see nothing wrong with segregation that arises from the free choices of people. Forcible segregation — especially when the force is governmental — is wrong but not if the segregation is a result of people’s preferences. I don’t see what’s good in forcing a Jain to live cheek by jowl with a hard-core meat eater, for example. Jains should be free to live in their own enclaves without being forced to accommodate Muslims.

      For the record, I must state that I freely discriminate all the time. There are people I hang out with, eat and drink with. I discriminate among authors, actors, musicians, restaurants, … and a million other things. The freedom to discriminate is core to the idea of freedom.

      1. Anirudh:

        It would follow from first principles that I would oppose “Fair housing act” you linked to, and I would oppose bussing for “school integration” and I would oppose any law that outlaws “untouchability.” I will explain the logic of why I take the positions I take in a later piece. The short answer is that they all limit individual freedom — and that is a bad thing in my book. Nothing good can ever come out of limiting freedom.

      2. Hello,

        I will look forward to the posts explaining your logic.

        But FWIW,
        – I too discriminate in the course of my life and I don’t think there is a human who does not discriminate but I am a bit uneasy when extending it to certain emergency services like medical services.
        – Desegregation of people from mutually incompatible cultures rarely does any good and desegregation in general will often involve taking away peoples liberties.
        – But this argument of liberty taken to the extreme, will imply non-existence of a nation-state as a concept.

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