Only Free Markets Promote Rationality

Though overturned by voters in 2015, the passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in 2014 underscores a dangerous trend in today’s political environment – a trend that is in fact decades old. That trend is an attempt to force rationality on people. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on up to HERO, it is an attempt to force people to think a certain way.

Most people agree that it is improper for businesses to hire based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or other irrelevant criteria. The proper criteria should be qualifications such as competency, skill level, and good work habits. But is it proper to force businesses (or anyone else) to associate with people they prefer to avoid, even if their criteria is viewed as irrational?

For the answer I quote Ayn Rand:

Do not open your mouth to tell me that your mind has convinced you of your right to force my mind. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins. When you declare that men are irrational animals and propose to treat them as such, you define thereby your own character and can no longer claim the sanction of reason – as no advocate of contradictions can claim it.   Atlas Shrugged

When governments inject the initiation of force into human relationships, they imply that force is superior to reason and thereby set a standard that will perpetuate an ever increasing use of force in human relationships. Reasoned arguments will be dismissed in favor of government force.

Now consider the consequences of ordinances such as HERO. Will it change the mind of the people being forced? It will not. When an individual is forced to associate with people he would normally not associate with, it will perpetuate and amplify the ill feelings he has towards those people. And what of the employer who does hire based on rational criteria? If he is forced to retain a poor performing employee under threat of being charged with wrongful dismissal because the employee happens to be gay, or transgender, for example, how will that employer respond? Will he feel empathy toward that employee? He will not. And since he can’t act on his best judgment, he will conclude that reason is useless to him, and he will feel the need to join a group and attempt to harness the power of government to protect his interests. In a “collectivized” society, the individual is helpless.

It is only free markets that promote rationality. In a free market, the most rational employer will eventually out produce his irrational competitor. Since competence is his standard for hiring, he will hire the best available in the market, regardless of irrelevancies such as sexual orientation, gender, or race. And his irrational competitor will lose market share. This may help change the mind of the irrational employer when he notices his profits are shrinking. And if he chooses not to change, he will suffer the consequences.

A free market recognizes the right of every individual to think and choose for himself, including whom he associates with. Because the initiation of force is banned in a free market, it is the best minds, i.e. the most rational, that achieve the most. Banning the initiation of force in human relationships is a recognition that man’s mind is his fundamental means of survival and his only means of acquiring knowledge. This is why Thomas Jefferson swore “…eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

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