A very small business, from Sheknows Parenting
I listened to Rich Lowry yesterday, sounding very reasonable, on KCRW's Left, Right & Center explaining that Arizona's now-tanked SB 1060 bill was merely a tweak to existing state and federal laws protecting business owners from undue burdens upon their religious freedoms absent a "compelling government interest." This view is also expressed in this post at a "Right"-eous Christian blog.
I'm going to grant the point and proceed from there. Overview America was and is constituted on a spinning centrifuge of contradictions, held to the center by the sheer willpower of want. She - we - want, want beyond the considerations of need. We therefore are unwilling to make eye-contact in the mirror lest such exposure send our fallacies flying off into the great beyond. It is a deep and fundamental mental disease that literally defines who we are as we are constituted, and it requires a great deal of distraction to continue its tolerance. The thing is that, where there is disease, there will inevitably be symptoms, the "meta" of sicknesses, and we are more than happy to leap into the mud and wrestle with these meta-symptoms with clarion and heroic effort. Since the underlying disease is never addressed, these exercises sometimes result in amelioration, more often in exacerbation by unintended consequence. It is America fighting herself, it is her penchant for punching at the mirror rather than gazing. SB 1062 is one such meta-symptom. It really is, as the conservative apologists insist, a tempest in a teapot. Not that there would be no important consequences - and I'll get into that later - and it is here that the Right is being disingenuous. But the fight over this issue completely ignores the substrate of error that undergirds our ideas about property, about civil rights, about business. These are the things that are not being discussed, and I think any serious meditation on what this bill is about must include them. Of course, I am not being merely cynical when I add that if we did do this, we would not be who we are, and we are still too enthralled with ourselves (for reasons that escape me personally) to risk transformation into something better. The defensible argument for bills like SB 1062, if I understand it correctly, is that a private business owner should be protected by the government from unreasonable demands on her freedoms to conduct business with whomsoever she chooses. Now whether one is a leftist thinker or a conservative, one is inclined to "slippery slope" every bit of legislation one considers. Often this results in absurd fears, but on the other hand the very fact that such extrapolations can take place is because of the unnatural, unconfronted constitution of our being. Things can go "one way or the other" because we are held together with the chewing gum and bailing wire of sheer will. The Right sees righteous folk being forced into a Hobbes' choice of either being forced into engaging in heretical behavior or being sued into bankruptcy. The Left sees the sanctioned marginalization of classes of people as the precursor to the brown-shirted scapegoating of years gone by (yes, I am going there.) These extrapolations are extrapolations of symptoms because there is a disease. In the context of The System as it stands, they are important symptoms with important consequences, and I grant that the fears of both the Right and of the Left are reasonable within this context. As such, I'm going to devote inches at the end of this post on them, but first - the disease The Disease It's private property, that chimera of an abstraction that is itself a symptom of the disease of the abstraction of the "sovereign person." I'll further regress the idea and say that it signals the unexamined first-impression that consciousness provides us, the illusion that we are "in here" and the world, and its population of "others," is "out there." So we organize ourselves, in our ignorance, as if in competition against the world. But this makes it too abstract a discussion, so I am simply going to state that humans are not separate from each other - they cannot be so - and so it is a fool's game to pretend that we are. If one cannot accept this as an a priori for the purposes of this discussion, then do not bother to continue. (For the record, I can defend the proposition quite robustly, but this post is going to be long enough as it is.) So what cascades from this "private property" (description below*) of which we speak? First of all, of course it is right and just that one's private property should be reasonably protected from any violations, and so we tweak our social contract in order to do so. The problem here is that we have permitted such a liberal application of what can be made "private" that mayhem is bound to occur. First of all, let's consider the "private property" that is "my" business. "I have a right to do business with whomever I please!" I say, reasonably enough. Actually, no I don't. A business is a public property. Any world that tries to alter that truth through constitution, fiat, or legislation is simply setting up the sort of unnatural and self-contradicting society we live in today. Ever heard the term "a license to do business?" I cannot simply start "my" business wherever I like and sell whatever I like. Try to set up a combination adult shop/cannabis dispensary/ammo depot next to an elementary school. You'll soon find that the public, through the organ of government, will not issue you that license, and any "freedom" you gain through license is not freedom at all, by definition (the hypothetical wingnut reading this right now - I seriously doubt he has made it this far - is now working up a rant against gub'mint licensing requirements. "I got yer license right here in my 2nd Amendment!" Which is also a license, but don't tell the angry little man.) This brings us to Lowry's point about freedom except in the face of "compelling government interest." First of all, conservatives do not consider the government to be the organ of the public. They consider it to be the organ of those social-engineering liberal fascists. As do most self-professed leftists in America, for that matter. This is the biggest failure of the Left - the abandonment of their government. The low-information self-identifying "leftists" also have a reactionary tendency to "other" the government, and this absurdity creates a self-fulfilling result. Bottom Line When in one's home and/or engaging in truly personal activities, one can claim a level of sovereignty - to a point. For in the moment one engages with other human beings (or any creature, for that matter,) the situation changes dramatically. There can be no guarantee of any "right" that is not conferred upon one by social compact, by the public, by, yes, that organ of the public - the government. The Compelling Public Interest So what is the "compelling government interest" in the case of bills like SB 1062, that are designed to ameliorate? Well, first of all, let's call it what it is: compelling public interest. First, let's review. I am permitted to do business with other people because the public has issued me a (by definition provisional) license to do so. If I offend the public interest in the course of my business, the public can quite reasonably remove that license from me. OK, here's the public interest, and it goes beyond avoiding a parade of sex addicts, stoners**, and gun nuts in front of your student children - all of which are subject to ideological interpretation. Simply, some of us wouldn't think that to be a big deal at all. What isn't debatable is Nazi behavior (I told you I was going there.) See, while the Right is framing this as a personal freedom issue, the Left is pretty crystal clear for what it is: It's the institutionalization of bigotry. Due to the public nature of public business, clearly indicated by the imprimatur of licensing, then allowing someone who is engaging in said public business to bring their personal prejudices into these transactions is clearly signaling to fellow bigots everywhere that there is no reason to re-examine their prejudices and to consider their offensiveness. No big deal, you say? Right now, in Russia, it is not illegal to be homosexual or to engage in homosexual activity. The current kerfluffle over the laws banning discussing the subject in the presence of children (which is being conducted by the West - particularly the U.S. - with breathtaking hypocrisy given the glorious and ongoing history we have with bigotry) is masking the agenda of a ruling class who looks the other way as the "brown-shirts" of ignorance openly beat homosexuals in the street in full view of sanguine police officers. Why can they do that? You can be sure that Putin did not put together a memo-of-intent and unleash these assholes. No, what happens in these cases is that the government is seen as objecting to a class of persons (through something as seemingly "reasonable" as protecting the religious freedom of parents by making homosexual "propoganda" illegal,) and that is a VERY BIG GREENLIGHT to those inclined to sadistic thuggery. It happened to the Jews, it's happened to America's Blacks (you think the KKK would have been anything if not for the tacit support of the local authorities?,) it's happening to homosexuals in Russia, it happens to any population marginalized by the signals of public approval, of which SB 1062 was such a signal. The public interest is that I don't want anyone to feel that they are not an "in group" in general society. It is a humiliation, it invites violence and blood like feces invite flies, and is particularly dangerous in times of economic stress like today. It is indeed a "compelling government interest" that one does not engage in prejudice when in the course of conducting public business, and any bill introduced with the intention of watering down this power deserves to be ridiculed, as this bill correctly was.
So take that, Lowry.
*Private property: Any entitlement to ownership of real estate or assets that are not directly inhabited or being utilized. My home is not "private property" in this sense, as it is where I am, and everyone has a right to be were they are (I am of course not saying that you must be there at all times - we are capable of making social compacts that protect our homes from each other.) And my lawn-mower is "mine" as I mow the lawn, but someone explain to me why it is not absurd that, on a suburban street lined with 20 homes, there are 20 lawn-mowers in 20 garages? Of course, in America, this is a radical question.
In a sane society, of course, "private property" would indeed refer to my inhabited abode alone. But that is not the "private property" of an insane culture.
**Hey - I resemble that remark!