Popular entertainer and self-described libertarian Penn Jillette disappointed many liberty advocates in this recent CNN Tonight segment. The discussion was nominally about homosexuality and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the real issue at stake was and will continue to be freedom of association.

The controversy stems from cases where business owners have refused for religious reasons to sell engaged gay couples wedding cakes and flowers. For example the owner of a bakery in Colorado was sued by a gay couple for refusing to bake a wedding cake for them. The court ordered him to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples, give his staff anti-discrimination law training, and submit quarterly reports to the state’s Civil Rights Commission confirming that he is complying with the government’s orders.

Jillette unfortunately fell into the trap of making this issue about religion and homosexuality: “You’re not talking about forcing people to engage in gay sex, or even endorse gay sex. We’re asking them that maybe they can treat people the same as other people, and that does not seem unreasonable. It’s okay, I suppose — although goofy – to be against gays, but it’s not okay to be against people who simply want to use your services.”Roblox Robux Hack 2017

Jillette wasn’t suggesting that people who support gay marriage ostracize businesses who won’t service gay weddings. That is the peaceful free market solution. By “we’re asking” Jillette meant undermining individual choice via government edict, despite alluding to how uncomfortable he is with that notion.

Most troubling was Jillette’s claim that “it’s not okay to be against people who simply want to use your services.” Incorrect, Mr. Jillette. It’s perfectly okay to be against associating with anyone for any reason as long as you don’t attack their person or property. That is every individual’s choice to make, no matter how upsetting the choice may be to others. Not choosing to do business with someone does not constitute an attack on person or property.

Let’s put Jillette’s “not okay to be against people who want to use your services” criteria to the test. Should a gay baker be forced to bake cakes for someone like J.B. Stoner? Of course not, and the freedom to choose who you do business with is not limited to sexual orientation.

Should an African-American baker be forced to bake cakes for a Stormfront White Pride Worldwide convention?

Should a Jewish florist be forced to sell arrangements to David Duke for his next KKK gathering?

Should a pacifist business owner be forced to provide goods and services to soldiers?

Should an atheist customer who disapproves of a business owner’s religiosity be forced to patronize that business?

The answer to these and all other scenarios is the same: Individuals must be free to choose the terms upon which they exchange with each other, or they are not free. There is no free market without freedom of choice. (Not that the U.S. is a free market.)

Freedom of association transcends race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion. Framing freedom of association as being about particular demographic groups is forever wrongheaded. Freedom is realized at the individual level. There is always another way to herd people into a different category and claim unfair treatment in need of government fixing.

Ironically, people who use government to force associations they approve of (and prohibit those they disapprove of) mistakenly believe they are defending freedom. This is the problem with thinking in terms of group-based rights. There are no gay rights, no black rights, no Jewish rights, no American rights, no feminist rights, no redhead rights. There is only voluntary (and therefore peaceful) association versus involuntary (and therefore forced) association. Every time someone talks about rights in terms of arbitrarily defined groups, it’s a pretext for advocating coercion to impose one’s views by force rather than persuasion.

I suspect Jillette realized his error after the CNN segment. In an encouraging turnaround, he followed up on Twitter with, “I am against using government force to stop people from being stupid. That doesn’t mean I don’t say those people are stupid. Clearer?”

His clarification is laudable, and he pretty much echoes the message here, though it’s more mealy-mouthed. He says he’s “not really deciding” because he’s “contradicting himself” by suggesting that it’s stupid for people to refuse service to those they don’t agree with even though people should be free to do so. Mr. Jillette, there’s nothing contradictory about that position. The fact that you’ll perform for anyone and don’t want the government to interfere with your freedom to make that choice isn’t contradictory. It’s commendable, so own it!

Politicizing the sale of wedding cakes distracts people from realizing that freedom of association is a life or death issue. Consider the government’s forcing of Americans to sell wedding cakes to gay couples while simultaneously starving millions of people through economic sanctions. Before the military invasion of Iraq, the people were ravaged by the U.S. regime forbidding American businesses from selling goods and services to Iraqi customers. Barring freedom of association resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of children.

So next time you hear about wedding cakes and freedom, consider the hypocrisy that as I write this Americans are forbidden from selling cakes, flowers…anything…to millions of Iranian people.

Free association always and everywhere.


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