Sheldon Richman on Opposing Bigotry Without Politicians

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Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria
Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria

Should the government coercively sanction business owners who, out of apparent religious conviction, refuse to serve particular customers? While such behavior is repugnant, the refusal to serve someone because of his or her race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is nevertheless an exercise of self-ownership and freedom of nonassociation. It is both nonviolent and nonviolative of other people's rights. If we are truly to embrace freedom of association, logically we must also embrace freedom of nonassociation. The test of one's commitment to freedom of association, like freedom of speech, is whether one sticks by it even when the content repulses. But does this mean that private individuals may not peacefully sanction businesses that invidiously discriminate against would-be customers? No, writes Sheldon Richman. They may, and they should. Boycotts, publicity, ostracism, and other noncoercive measures are also constituents of freedom of association.

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