Uncle Sam infringes

To the Journal editor:

The entire debate surrounding Arizona’s now-vetoed proposal to allow business owners to refuse service to any customer for religious reasons is missing the point.

The main problem is not whether the government is legalizing discrimination against members of the LGBT community, or whether the bill is merely protecting religious liberty.

The main issue is that, for far too long, federal and state governments have engaged in the practice of violating the rights of property and contract, rights that the government is intended to protect.

The whole basis for our market capitalist system is the principle of voluntary exchange, the idea that both parties have to agree to any economic activity; and that no third party, including (perhaps especially) the government, is allowed to intervene.

And yet, this system of voluntary exchange is vigorously opposed in the name of, of all things, freedom and rights. It would be considered ludicrous to attempt, by the power of the government, to force consumers to buy the services of a particular business; yet somehow it’s acceptable to force businesses to contract with every consumer who walks through their door, or face a discrimination lawsuit?

The clear principle of economic freedom and voluntary exchange is this: That any party, whether consumer or business owner, has the absolute rights to contract and to refuse to contract with anyone at all, and for any reason, without interference.

In 1792, James Madison wrote an essay entitled “On Property,” in which he examined the relationship between property rights and just government. In it, he said, enlarging upon the idea of property, “He [a man] has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions and the free communication of them. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ themthat alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

It is shameful that we require a bill to reinstate these natural rights; it is even more shameful that that bill was vetoed.

Birch Smith