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What about property rights?

March 26, 2014 - Lee Smith
The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a case about freedom of religion, specifically whether businesses must provide female employees with health insurance that covers contraception. Some employers object to the notion.

Several members of the court made the correct observation that if the court rules in favor of the businesses, the proverbial can of worms will be opened. Essentially, property rights could come to trump other rights, including what are termed civil rights. For instance, an employer might invoke his or her right to hire based on sex or race.

This is a tough issue for Americans, who have been through the civil rights movement and have a real problem with racism and sexism. I guess the question to ask is: What is the remedy: government dictates or private initiative?

Maybe it all should begin with what everyone considers basic property rights. At your home, you are free to allow entry to anyone you wish. Likewise, you can bar entry to some or all. Your home is your castle. The question then becomes, why do you lose these rights at the shop or restaurant you own?

Legally, businesses are considered to be providing public accommodations, and therefore must serve everyone. But one could imagine a society in which property rights came first. Serve whomever you choose. If others object to your practices, because they consider you racist or sexist or just a jerk, then they do not have to frequent your establishment. That’s called a boycott.

The simplicity of private initiative is that it wipes out the mass and intrusiveness of government, which can overreach, as in the religious freedom case before the court. Instead of a heavy-handed government telling everyone what is right, each citizen would be responsible for making his or her own moral judgments. Huh. What a concept.


Article Comments



Apr-16-14 11:11 PM

Smith, you just are not a deep thinker.


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