As part of the controversy over Rand Paul’s comments on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which I have addressed today in an article entitled “Rand Paul, Civil Rights, and More Liberal Hypocrisy on Race,” some liberals have been raising the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandated American businesses to modify their operations to accommodate disabled people.
The ADA was just another law in a long process of laws in which statists leave title to private establishments in private hands while using the power of the state to control and direct the use of such property. The label for that type of economic system, of course, is fascism, a system whose model was in Italy under the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Another example of fascism is the law that prohibits private restaurants from permitting smoking in their establishments.
The moral issue — the issue involving freedom — is this: Why shouldn’t private owners of businesses be free to run their establishments any way they want? It’s their property, isn’t it? Isn’t that what private ownership and free enterprise are supposed to be all about? How can an enterprise be considered “free” when its operations are controlled and directed by the state?
How would a free market operate?
Some businesses would establish accommodations for handicapped people. Others wouldn’t. Handicapped people would be free to choose which businesses to patronize and which ones to avoid.
Those businesses which were operating at the margin, barely making it, would not be pushed out of business with the costs imposed by the law. Consumers would nudge through moral suasion those businesses who could afford to make changes to do so. But everyone would have the right to make his own decisions. The state couldn’t impose its will by force.
There are those who say that businesses wouldn’t respond to such moral or economic suasion. Nonsense. Today, there are many businesses that have parking spots set aside for pregnant women. The law does not force them to do so. They do so to please customers. Many of them would have done the same with such things as handicapped parking and ramps.
The principle is the same with smoking in restaurants. Under the principles of private property and economic liberty, restaurant owners have the moral right to determine how to run their restaurants. Some would permit smoking, some would have designated smoking areas, and some would prohibit smoking entirely. Customers would be free to make their choices accordingly.
That’s how a free market operates: It respects the right of people to make their own choices and relies on moral and economic suasion to move people to a higher sense of responsibility and conscientious behavior. It rejects the fascist notion of creating the false appearance of private enterprise when in fact it is the state, not the owners, that is controlling and directing the use of private property.