Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Letter to Charles Paidock on Discrimination in Public Accommodations

     The following is the text of an e-mail which I sent to Charles "Charlie" Paidock, concerning the topic of whether public and private entities have an obligation to recognize our civil liberties while we are on public and private property.
     Mr. Paidock is a former union negotiator, and a manager at the Chicago-based College of Complexes. The College of Complexes is an organization dedicated to free speech, debate, and adult education on political and social matters.

     What prompted my e-mail to Mr. Paidock, was his e-mail to me, which preceded it. In that e-mail, he sent me an article entitled "The Colorado wedding cake case: How libertarians view it", published by Yahoo News on June 9th, 2018.
     Paidock provided a select quotation from that article, which reads: "The perspective of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, is that the government should have no oversight over discrimination in private business transactions, such as the sale of a wedding cake or almost anything else. It is a private business owner’s right to choose whom to sell to; free markets will regulate discrimination."
     Although I did not explain this in my e-mail, the Cato Institute does not represent all libertarians, nor does the Libertarian Party. The libertarian movement consists of Libertarian partisans, libertarian-conservatives, libertarian Democrats, libertarian-leaning Greens and socialists, and "libertarians" of the traditional 19th century European variety (i.e., anarchists).
     "Libertarian" is neither a trademark of the Libertarian Party (which, in fact, does not claim any intellectual property), nor do the Cato Institute - nor the Koch brothers, nor Ron Paul, nor anyone else - hold a monopoly on what it means to be a libertarian.
     Since that is the case, it would be completely irrational to conclude that all libertarians share any particular belief, or set of beliefs, about the issue of whether private enterprises should be required to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples if requested. Especially since that issue touches on many areas of law and legal theory, including freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and - most importantly for the purposes of this discussion - the meaning of the interstate Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, as it pertains to discrimination in public accommodations, and the differences between the rights and responsibilities of private companies vs. companies which receive public funds.
     I have already weighed-in on the latter three topics in-depth, most recently in my article "Revised Position on Discrimination and Interstate Commerce", published in May 2017. While in the first several years of my writing career, I defended the right of all businesses to discriminate, I eventually realized that most or all enterprises receive some form of public funding and/or support.

     I explain that idea in my e-mail to Mr. Paidock, which reads thus:

     You're correct that many libertarians support discrimination by private businesses. However, I am not one of those people. I've realized that most private companies are not as private as they are described. Nearly all "private" companies receive some form of public subsidy, privilege, monopoly right, or bailout. That makes them public organizations in my book.
     Most Libertarians disagree with me [on this issue], but I criticize them for having a blind spot for the right of "private" agencies to discriminate against the same public that they're receiving funds from.
     I actually heard you say the other night that private companies can do basically whatever they want, in terms of violating people's First Amendment rights, because you said the government can't violate those rights, but private entities can. I see your point, but I disagree in part.
     The next time you see a company restricting the speech of its workers, I hope you will keep in mind, to ask, not only whether it calls itself a "private" company, but whether it receives any public supports. If it does receive public supports, then it should not discriminate, and it should not be called a private company.
     I think you and I can agree that no firm which receives public funds, should be discriminating against anybody. I suspect that you also agree that we need a clear delineation of private vs. public institutions. Because blurring them together in Public-Private Partnerships, etc., is just confusing things.
     Thanks for your message.

     To read the article that Charles Paidock sent me - about "the" libertarian position on cakes for same-sex couples - please visit this link: 

     To read my article "Revised Position on Discrimination and Interstate Commerce", please visit:

     For more information about the Chicago College of Complexes, please visit the following links:

E-mail composed on June 4th, 2019
Commentary written on June 5th, 2019
Published on June 5th, 2019

1 comment:

  1. You need to really come and visit us at the college of complexes, and not hide behind forums or blogs.

    Tim Bolger