On the RFRA kerfluffle.

A few thoughts spring to mind regarding the controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, largely informed by my background in econ:

1. What is the difference in principle between the refusal to buy a product and the refusal to sell a product, or between a boycott and a refusal to serve customers?

2. Is offending people’s sensitivities by refusing to trade with them worse than forcing people to violate their consciences?

3. It is often said by self-congratulators that “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Would they do the same for any other rights, say, your right to give your money to whom you want, or your right to give your property to whom you want?

4. Public servants, officials, employees, whatever you’d like to call them, should not be permitted to discriminate based on race, religion, sex, orientation, etc., in the performance of their duties. No RFRA should protect that sort of discrimination.

5. It bothers me that a private business owner might refuse to serve someone for shallow reasons. It bothers me more that that business owner might face fines, lawsuits, or even get shut down by the city or state for that refusal. It would not bother me at all to see negative media attention and boycotts eventually run them out of business. Let the media and the marketplace work their magic.

6. I have heard comparisons between the various RFRAs and the Jim Crow laws. They are largely invalid. There is all the difference in the world between allowing businesses to pick and choose their customers (RFRA) and mandatory segregation of private property (Jim Crow).

7. I think the right to trade gets short shrift in American legislation, jurisprudence, and culture. It would’ve been nice of Mr. Madison to enumerate it back in the day. Two consenting adults should have the right to love each other, and to live together, and to marry. Those protesting the Indiana RFRA would certainly agree. I just wish they’d also envision and support the right of consenting adults to trade– or to choose not to trade.

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