I Favor Discrimination
by Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff
If ever anyone wants to discredit me, he can cite the title of this article. I am giving it away on a silver platter in order to make one point: Freedom includes the freedom to discriminate.
Discrimination is nothing more than making distinctions and being selective. Without discrimination, freedom to choose is an empty exercise. I favor the freedom to choose. Therefore, I favor discrimination.
Not only do I favor discrimination, I discriminate constantly. And so does everyone else.
I am completely certain that your cupboard and your refrigerator contain a different assortment of foods than mine. I am sure that your choice of words differs from mine. Your friends are not mine. Your causes are not mine. Your movie and music favorites are not mine.
Neither are your genes the same as mine, and there's the rub. The House of Representatives has approved an anti-genetic discrimination bill on a vote of 414-1. Ron Paul voted against it.
The Senate has already approved the bill 95-0, and the President will sign it. He and others in his administration strongly support it. The Federal government is following in the footsteps of 41 states that have already adopted laws on genetic discrimination relating to health insurance and 31 states relating to the workplace.
If I should voluntarily take genetic tests and submit them to an insurer in order to lower my insurance rates, I will not be able to do so. Conversely, if an insurer should ask those who want to buy insurance to submit genetic information as a condition of getting a policy, it will not be able to do so. I will be forced not to tell, and the company will be forced not to ask.
The economic consequences of losing this freedom will either be that insurance is not made available where it might be, or that the rates will be higher than they might have been, or that one group of patrons is made to subsidize another group. America, which used to be a land of innovation, is determined to retard itself at every turn. I suppose that a black market in genetic information will arise, or perhaps that the insurance business will migrate overseas.
How different is genetic information from asking you if you smoke, or asking you if your family has a history of heart disease, or what your weight is, or what your sex is, or how many miles you drive to work? If the one is forbidden, so will the others come under a cloud.
They already are. The legislators favor dumbness above all. The law against using genetic information continues an already existing trend of laws that prevent both those who may wish to buy insurance and those who are selling insurance to collaborate on information that may lower policy premiums. The law in the State of Washington, "prohibits discrimination in employment (employers with eight of more employees), housing, places of public accommodation, and credit and insurance transactions, on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, including gender expression/ identity, marital status, honorably discharged veteran or military status, age (over 40), the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, retaliation for opposing an unfair practice, filing a whistleblower complaint with the Washington State Auditor, or filing a nursing home abuse complaint."
A lender and an insurer have lost the freedom to ask a great many questions when there is such a law. This really means that individuals have lost the freedom to supply this information voluntarily in order to obtain better terms. Companies ask these questions in order to be able to supply their products at lower rates to those who are better risks. They are not in the business of discriminating because they get a kick out of it. The customer is the loser.
Where oh where has freedom gone? The prevalent idea, which has grown up since the civil rights boom of the 1960s, is that it will be the law of the land to prevent discrimination. Force shall be applied to force us not to discriminate.
Discriminate in what? In what areas of human behavior? The limits of application are elastic. The boundaries are constantly being stretched. The boundaries between private and public have been erased. I suppose that if a filthy and drunk slob staggers into a classy restaurant, the proprietor will be forced to serve him.
The crudity of legal thought and the blunderbuss approach of American law are truly astonishing. America has been wound up like a toy soldier and marches toward a cliff. The law schools of this nation produce a steady stream of new activists to pick up the soldier whenever it falters or falls. Common sense has been trashed.
The old asylums have been emptied, but we have new ones that go by the name of University of XYZ Law School. They produce insane inmates for that assembly known as Congress. Their peculiar psychosis is the manufacturing of rationales to justify their steady stream of mad laws
If employers and insurers can obtain genetic information legitimately, they should have the liberty to use it. If employers wish to ask medical questions as a condition of employment, they should be able to. That they do so in large numbers has to do with a number of factors, including their liability and the costs of health insurance that they may bear due to other laws. But it also has to do with the safety of employees.
If individuals want to have genetic tests and want to have that information remain private, that is a matter for contract and it is a matter for the justice system to enforce that contract. A few judgments against those who steal privileged information would stop such misbehavior in its tracks. Washington does not have to pass gag laws to suppress speech, which is what it has done.
One bad law leads to another. In the name of justice, Congress unjustly prevents an individual from discriminating in his or her private behavior against another individual. A landlord cannot turn away some prospective renters. A business cannot turn away some prospective clients. An employer cannot turn away some applicants. A banker cannot turn away some bad risks. Now, an employer and an insurer cannot turn away some applicants based on genetic information.
This is madness. What is life without the freedom to discriminate? Will we all become politically correct robots in public speech and behavior? Sorry. Arrest me, but I favor discrimination.
May 3, 2008
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
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