The Right Not to Serve: Free Market Economics 101

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Ben Harris-Quinney

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As a consumer, I choose what I buy, and where I buy it from. To get to the point of citizen emancipation where I am in a position to do so has cost millions of lives and exhausted what once seemed like an endless, un-winnable debate. We got here nonetheless, because people want the freedom to choose more than almost anything else.

I discriminate on what I buy and where for any number of reasons, usually financial and qualitative, but sometimes political and ideological.

Personally, disregarding for a moment the efforts of many to grant me this freedom, I expend little effort in doing so.

As someone who also sells a service however, I discriminate on who I sell to as well. If anything I feel more passionate about this freedom, as my blood, sweat and tears have gone into what I do. I see being discerning about who I sell to as a right I have earned more than any other.

That I should be able to discern what and how I buy, as well as what and how I sell, seems logical to the point of self evidence.

Yet we have seemingly lost ground in the passage to a free society, and our collective logic has become so broken that the right to discern in buying remains accepted and indisputable, yet the right to discern in selling has evidently become tantamount to the most debauched evils of humanity.

The case of the bed and breakfast couple in Cornwall who refused to offer a room to a homosexual couple on the grounds of their faith is the first in recent memory of a growing number of incidents.

Quite apart from the bankrupt logic and economics behind only accepting certain aspects of a free market system, depending on the tenets of the accepted political correctitude of the day, from a policy point of view it is almost impossible (and incredibly costly) to enforce total equality of private sector service provision.

Especially in the cases of small to medium sized businesses, if they don't want to provide a service to someone it's always going to be easy to make an excuse, they just shouldn't have to.

When considering state intervention around this issue, we must ask ourselves what sort of perversion would encourage someone to pursue service from a company which clearly does not want their business anyway?

We have a monopolies commission, each citizen is equal under law, and the market is big enough that one can simply take their business elsewhere. I have been refused service in the past, and that's precisely what I did, without the assistance of the government. 

I can think of very few businesses, if any in the UK, where an individual would go without due to the decision of one company not to provide a service.

If a business wants to put a sign outside saying no cats, no dogs, no women, no men that's a calculated risk they take, and the market will either reward or admonish them for their decision.

I, like other conservatives and classical liberals, believe in the (recently) outrageous concept that each business has the right to set it's own policy as to who it employs and who it serves, just as we all have the same right in deciding what we buy.

If I run a business, I don't want the state telling me who I should employ or who I should do business with. I make the choice, I take the consequences, it's quite literally not anyone else's business.