Kaycee Ikeonu | United States
In an interview on the Rubin Report, talk-show host Dave Rubin, and Libertarian candidate for New York Governor Larry Sharpe discussed whether a baker should be compelled by law to bake a cake for a customer. The conversation sprung up due to the fact that Gary Johnson, a libertarian and good friend of Larry Sharpe, stated in his presidential candidacy that the baker should be forced to bake the cake.
Such a position, as one would assume, would be quite unpopular among libertarians and lovers of liberty. Larry Sharpe, however, insisted that Gary Johnson was misunderstood and went forth to give his case for why he thinks the baker should bake the cake. His argument is as follows:
“What he was trying to get at (addressing Gary Johnson), which is my policy, is to find a good, solid middle-ground. I do not want a baker to make a cake for someone who he doesn’t want to make a cake for. That’s his labor…that’s wrong, should never happen. Here is the good compromise: if a baker, or anyone creates a product and put it in to the retail market, whether that be online or a shelf on a store, if a person creates a product and puts it there, he must allow anyone who has the currency that he wants to purchase that product”.
In response to the arguments put forth by libertarians who believe that a business owner has the right to discriminate, Sharpe responded by saying:
“They are theoretically correct but realistically wrong. And if they don’t accept the compromise, they’re going to get worse… If you don’t take that first step you would get nothing—and just not nothing—those people who keep voting are going to keep voting our rights away.”
Prior to this statement, Mr. Sharpe alluded to past injustices faced by marginalized groups, thus, why he thought there ought to be a “compromise.” Moreover, Sharpe concluded that such clauses should only apply in retail, therefore, a customer cannot force a baker to bake a cake in a particular way outside the products that are on the shelves.
Among the multiple flaws in this argument, there are two specifically I would like to address: first, the fact that Mr. Sharpe uses past injustices as a levy for his argument in favor of government involvement in private businesses; second, how government involvement in private business, no matter how minute, would inevitably lead to the destruction of freedom in private enterprise.
In regards to the past injustices– and perhaps current injustices faced by some groups today– most reasonable people would acknowledge that such injustices are immoral, unfortunate and ought to be stopped as soon as possible. However, the problem arises when a duty is imposed on a third party who had nothing to do with the case, in an effort to correct for the past. Such line of reasoning has been used to justify affirmative action and quotas, all which seek to correct for past injustice by facilitating new injustices in our own times. Two wrongs don’t make a right. As Thomas Sowell put it:
“The past is a great unchangeable fact. Nothing is going to undo its sufferings and injustices, whatever their magnitude . . . . Neither the sins nor the sufferings of those now dead are within our power to change”.
Aside from Larry Sharpe’s references to past injustices, he specifies that compulsion to provide a service would only apply to retail, and only retail. A question that could be asked is what guarantees such confidence that bureaucrats would strictly adhere to those conditions? After all, it is very much in their interest to expand such laws. As James Buchanan said in his writings in Public Choice: Politicians, just like businessmen and independent individuals, have every incentive to pursue their own self-interest– which in this case would be to gain more power for themselves, create new legislation and expand current ones. Moreover, such a decision, to use the words of Scot Bixler, is just an “arbitrary decision”. Why interfere in retail and not customer service? Why a cake shop and not a hospital? If Larry Sharpe justifies the government making a minute compromise on this issue, then it follows that the government can interfere in every industry for the same reasons.
The role of government should be restricted to the protection of individual rights, and that only. If room is left for compromise, it would only lead to a slippery slope, one that we have today, of the government legislating every single aspects of our lives.
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