04 August 2012

Economic Rights Are Civil Rights

I've been away at the shore, sans internet, for the last week. I was surprised to get back and see that The Chick-Fil-A Thing is still A Thing.

On the one side we've got some rich citizen expressing a view I disagree with, but one that's not uncommon. I know a lot of reasonable people that hold the same view. It's not one I agree with, but it's not singularly monstrous. It's not like he said he wanted to throw autistic babies under the wheels of monster trucks for his own amusement.

On the other side we've got various mayors, aldermen, functionaries and poobahs who claim the power to exclude businesses from their territory if executives express contrary political views. Jesus Wept! does that worry me more. Abrogating the rule of law screws with everyone's rights including gay people who might want to open businesses.

Being able to make money even if you're unpopular protects everyone — especially people in minorities. You can not screw with people's right to trade because you disagree with them. Down that road lies despotism. No, scratch that: that's already despotism.

There's no structural difference between saying "you can't open up shop in our town if you don't support gay marriage" and saying "you can't open up shop in our town if you do support interracial marriage." If you think it's okay for Menino to say the former then you have to accept a mayor of 50 years ago, or even a mayor of today in some backwards town, saying the latter.

As few people as possible should be able to veto your decisions. That includes decisions about who to marry, but also about where to open chicken restaurants.

Corollary: Your freedom should not be a function of your popularity.

PS According to this, a single Chick-Fill-A location will generate about $2.7M of revenue, resulting in sales taxes alone of $170,000 at Massachusetts' 6.25% rate. If you were a benevolent ruler, which would be more important to you: making sure no one you disagree with is allowed to do business, or hiring a couple of extra teachers?

PPS Some people in this debate think it is less important that they benefit from a trade than it is to ensure that their counter-party not benefit. And who knows? Maybe they're right. If the North Koreans ever managed to make something worth having, I'd feel uncomfortable buying it. But keep the ideological distribution in mind the next time someone brings up game theory and experimental results regarding altruism, because the pattern I'm seeing now is contrary to the analysis I usually see when that happens. (That is, it's the progressive, supposedly "community-oriented" Left that is expressing preference for lose-lose outcomes to win-win ones.)


  1. Well, technically the Chick-Fil-A location would probably cannibalize some sales from other local fast food joints. (e.g. KFC, McD's, etc.) So the true incremental tax revenues would be some portion of the $170k; but I'm totally feeling you on the over-arching point.