Saturday, February 28, 2009


Obama did two things of significance yesterday. First, he promised to end DEA raids of medical marijuana facilities. Second, he rescinded the so-called “conscience rule” that Bush implemented two months ago. This rule allowed pharmacists and medical providers not to provide services related to birth control/abortion if doing do would violate their personal beliefs.

I had an interesting discussion with someone about these two actions. We both agreed that item number one (medical marijuana) was a good thing, but we disagreed on item number two. I thought that forcing someone to provide services that violate their moral conscience was a bad idea. The other person disagreed and cited a hypothetical example in which a rape victim might be denied the morning after pill because of a pharmacist’s moralizing. This is an interesting disagreement considering that both of us are pro-choice.

I admit that a pharmacist who denies a rape victim the Plan B pill has done harm. In fact, I would not purchase cold medicine from a pharmacist if I knew that they had such a hard line on the morning after pill. But we are supposed to live in a free country, and freedom means that we should have the right to do things that others may find reprehensible. The proper response from those harmed by such moralizing is not to use the force of law to coerce the pharmacist into providing the pill, but rather to seek out a pharmacist whose head is not lodged as deeply into their sphincter. Vote with your dollars. Despite heavy government regulation, there is a pharmacist on every corner.

At the root of this is a philosophical disagreement about the effectiveness of social policy. I believe that the best way to ensure fairness is to allow individuals to enter into voluntary transactions with each other. There is no greater force for racial, gender, or religious equality than free market capitalism. I have no idea what color the man or woman was that grew the coffee beans for my morning coffee. Nor do I know what language they spoke, what country they lived in or what sky fairy they worshiped (if any). The only thing I care about is that they provide the coffee beans at a competitive price. Capitalism quickly makes irrelevant characteristics (like skin color, gender, etc.) unimportant.

Social policy that forces people not to discriminate is a failure compared to capitalism. One only needs to remember the Jim Crow laws to know that social policy does not come from benevolent angels. Any argument against capitalism as a tool for social equality applies with much greater force against democratic social policy. After all, who votes on the policy? The same people who vote with their dollars; albeit subject to the problems of rational ingorance.


Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on the civil rights act?

FreeMarket said...

To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, it is self evident that everyone should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I think that the legacy of great people like Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Rouse and thousands of others who fought discrimination is not the Civil Rights Act, but rather a positive change in social zeitgeist. I embrace the inclusiveness embodied in the Civil Rights Act, but I reject any law that tries to make people stop being assholes, CRA included. If the CRA meant anything, we would have had a non-white president decades ago.