Who owns your business? Who owns you?

The issue of property rights gets no respect these days in American jurisprudence. One recent case from New Mexico involved a lesbian couple that was refused service by a photography studio. The decision came down in favor of the couple and their demand that the studio take their pictures whether they wanted to or not. Another recent issue has come to the fore involving a Walgreens pharmacist and their refusal to fill a woman’s birth control prescription. Lastly, there is, of course, the big federal issue relating to ObamaCare and the freedom of religious institutions to not provide birth control at no charge.

These all sound like very difficult issues and to some extent they are. They pit the rights of an individual, business, or religious institution to control how their own resources are used. Do I own my time and money or do other people/the government have claims against me for those?

Unfortunately, our society and the courts take a dim view of property rights. Instead, the dominant political view is that government should be empowered to force you to do business in a manner of their preference. There are inevitably “rabbit holes” on both sides of the issue. Should businesses be able to discriminate against racial minorities? I would hope they wouldn’t, but I’d also expect that other businesses would set up shop to serve those groups in a free market.

Should a Hooters have to hire male waiters? It would seem to defeat their business model, but they are clearly discriminating on the basis of sex. Of course, in the case of Walgreens and the pharmacist not wanting to dispense birth control, Walgreens could (and probably should) consider firing the individual. Of course, in a world in which birth control was not controlled by the federal government’s prescription regime, a competitor could easily set up shop to serve this population and mail-order pharmacy would seem an ideal alternative.

In the case of the Catholic Church and birth control, why are employers in charge of providing health care for their employees in the first place?

Proponents of ending discrimination are well-intentioned, but too often underestimate the power and flexibility of the truly free market in righting past wrongs.