Monday, April 03, 2006

Human Rights Act shows up its failings again

So there is an issue about a bar prohibiting people under 20 from entering it because it might breach the Human Rights Act. So the arguments about the drinking age become arguments about passing laws, rather than about people regulating their own behaviour. Such nonsense! Bars should be able to ban people of any age they like, indeed they should be able to stop anyone entering on any grounds - after all, bars are private property. If you don't want anyone entering your home you have the right to stop them, right?
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I am opposed to the Human Rights Act applying to private activities. If a person wants to discriminate on the grounds of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, hair colour, musical tastes, politics or body odour it is nobody else's business. After all, it is a private contract between two adults. If I am an employer I should be able to choose the employee I want, similarly if if I am a landlord or a shopkeeper.
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What? You're racist or sexist? No.
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Just someone who believes in private property rights and that you can't force people to engage with others, regardless of how stupid their reasons to discriminate. You see we all discriminate all of the time in different areas of life - you judge people according to their clothes, their bodies, their hair and many other factors. You do so because you instinctively associate with those who you are more comfortable with - and all sorts of incidents in life leave you stereotyping people according to many factors, and often you are wrong.
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However, does this mean people should be able to "get away with" being racist or sexist with everyone who is offended having no come back? No.
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Freedom works both ways. If there was a shop that was owned by a racist shopkeeper, would you shop there? Would you tell your friends about the racism? Would you (if you sold good to the shop) not trade with the shop at all? Freedom to contract and freedom of speech are powerful tools. Someone who acts racist or sexist may deter some customers, and some of those customers may be prepared to publish the embarrassing fact of the bigotry. Consumer boycotts can be powerful.
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Back to the drinking age. There is no need to do anything about this. Leave it at 18 (some countries have no drinking age and don't appear to be worse off than NZ in alcohol related conditions) and let the market decide what people want.

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