Written by: Jacques Jonker
Every single individual has the inherent right to associate with whomever they want for whatever reason they deem fit.
The right to freedom of association entails by necessity the right to differentiate and discriminate against people in your own personal sphere. It is the flagship of individual freedom. Unfortunately, people do not acknowledge and value individual liberties, until it is their own which is under threat.
To anyone with access to a smartphone and bit of data, the heated debate surrounding a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding is not news.
The Masterpiece Cake Shop is owned and run by a certain Mr Jack Phillips, who in July 2012 refused to bake a cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins on the basis that it is in opposition to his religious views. As expected, virtue-signallers on the left pounced on Phillips’ apparent ‘unjustifiable’ discrimination against a gay couple. Apparently, anyone that upsets gay people must be dealt with swiftly by the state. How dare a person decline to render a service to someone based on their religious conscience?
There are a couple of things that need to pointed out.
Firstly, Phillips had to make a choice between extra monies for his business, and his conscience. He chose the latter.
What he did not do, is make a choice between money and the opportunity to degrade homosexuals because he has some phobia of them. A phobia is defined as an irrational fear or hatred of someone or something. Declining to associate with someone on the basis of religious conscience is not a phobia.
Is it bigoted? Perhaps, but we are all bigoted in some way and we have the God-given right to be bigoted. Nobody has the inherent right to force others to accept them as they are; they only have the right to their own freedom.
Secondly, leftists seem to thrive on the false narrative that forced association is acceptable, but forced segregation is not.
Neither of these things are acceptable.
It would, however, be naïve of us to be shocked about the leftist outrage at the Cakegate scandal. Virtue-signalling is nothing new in the world of political correctness. It is therefore necessary that we dispel some common myths surrounding the right to freedom of association; myths that are construed for the sole purpose of fearmongering and to spare ‘muh feelings’.
Myth 1: If businesses don’t have to associate with people, it will lead to marginalisation.
This is simply not true.
Businesses are concerned with turning a profit. A business that discriminates left and right against, say, black folks, gay folks or folks with abnormal unibrows, is simply not going to be as competitive as a business that does not.
It is up to the owner of said business to decide whether or not he or she is willing to make the trade-off between more profit and discriminating against whomever for whatever reason imaginable.
In an economic sense, it would be suicide and at the end of the day it is the discriminating businesses that will be marginalised.
Myth 2: In sparsely-populated areas, the effects of discrimination would be felt more severely as there aren’t more options available to consumers.
If a business voluntarily decides to alienate a market segment, it automatically creates a window of opportunity for new businesses (colloquially known as a ‘gap’ in the market).
This obviously begs the question: What if people don’t have the necessary resources to fill the gap in the market?
This is the very reason economists emphasise economic growth: It would allocate more resources to the people who need them. But what is economic growth really if you could just let the state steal people’s money and spend it on frivolous things such as war and “welfare”?
The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of government, who keeps on printing away people’s purchasing power, thus destroying their chances of being able to provide for their own economic welfare.
Myth 3: Since the economy in South Africa is controlled mostly by white folk, it would be dangerous to give them even more power to discriminate.
You know what would be dangerous, and immensely stupid? For a business to alienate 90% of citizens and thus destroy their market share and possible growth. It makes no sense to do that.
Those businesses that don’t care about committing economic suicide would simply not survive and be forced to shut down. Which is what the politically correct wants to happen to them, no? Another win for free market mechanisms.
Myth 4: If businesses could discriminate and survive in pre-1994 South Africa, they’d be able to do so again.
To equate the economic environment of Apartheid South Africa to contemporary South Africa is a false equivalency at best.
Lest we forget that the reason the white segment of the population was able to acquire and hold on to so much wealth was because of the discriminatory policies of government. Businesses could afford to alienate non-whites because the government made sure that there was minimal competition that could oust them.
It had nothing to do with the free market. It had everything to do with an authoritarian state manipulating free market mechanisms to the detriment of innocent people.
Myth 5: Giving businesses free reign to discriminate would mean that institutions such as hospitals would be able to refuse medical assistance to some.
Another blatant lie by the virtue-signalling cult so prevalent among the millennial left.
It is no secret (to those who do their research) that in the South African context there is a logical exception to the rule that the law does not impose a duty of positive conduct on people to help others: When a person has certain exceptional abilities that puts them in a unique position to provide much-needed specialised care to people (e.g. medical doctors), that person bears a duty to act in situations in which an “ordinary” person wouldn’t be able to, and thus wouldn’t have to.
It would amount to gross negligence and, quite possibly, criminal liability if a whole building full of doctors and nurses refused to help someone whose head is hanging by a thread.
The common law elements of the law of delict as well as criminal law already deals with such matters. Mind you, I have never come across people who have studied for a little bit more than a decade in order to be able to help people, who would simply let someone die because his tattoo of Jesus offends them.
Myth 6: Businesses provide a service to people, and it is people’s inherent right to have access to those services.
What’s quite amusing here is that there are numerous not-for-profit organisations set up around the world to specifically cater to certain demographics. But the moment an organisation’s status is ‘for-profit’, they are exempted from the right to provide a product or service to whomever they want.
The hypocrisy is mindboggling to say the least. All persons, natural or juristic, should be able to associate with whomever they want.
It is clear to the sane and the rational that there is false narrative perpetuated by the modern left that the freedom to associate with whomever you want will lead society down a cliff. It is pure fantasy construed to fearmonger people so as to make them gullible enough that they would fall for such claptrap.
For a society to be truly free, the people should be able to associate and segregate themselves without an external element of force involved.
Author: Jacques Jonker is a scholar of law and commerce at the North-West University, Potchefstroom.