Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Discrimination is the right of the individual

In a comment article on The Telegraph, Tracy Corrigan, muses about anti-discrimination laws for the elderly. It's par for the course when anyone discusses discrimination in these times to hit upon that catchy multiculturalist expression "positive discrimination".

[T]he European Commission is considering a directive banning all prejudice in access to goods and services. But, like the British Government, it seems strangely reluctant to proceed.

That is partly because some forms of bias with regard to age can, when you think about it, be a rather good thing. Off-peak rates for OAPs at hotels, Senior Railcards for the over-60s, or, come to that, the 16-25 Railcard - all examples of discrimination that are, well, positive.

Quite - unless you're a 59 year old widow or a 26 year old student. Then such discrimination doesn't seem so positive. Indeed, even if you're a 40 year old business executive the question of why it is it OK to give some members of society something for nothing while you have to pay for it is hardly positive either - especially if you find yourself standing up on the train while a bunch of freeloading students hog the seats which you paid for through your taxes and ticket.

The point is that all discrimination is positive in some way or another - it just depends on your starting point. Discrimination is the natural behaviour of civilised human beings. It's the reason why I will listen to certain types of music while turning off others. Rap, for instance, is crap. I don't care how clever or difficult it might be, it is still pure unadulterated drivel. That is discrimination and I'm proud of it. It's not a question of not liking black music - I'll happily listen to Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye - but not rap.

There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with private citizens being discriminating - whether it is in their private lives or their private enterprise. We should all have the right to discriminate.

Where discrimination is wrong, in my view, is when the government or their agencies start enforcing it. A good example of that is the BBC which has a number of media outlets dedicated to black or Asian music and culture, but none for white music or culture.

Corrigan hits on another example of government enforced discrimination at the start of her piece.

In Britain, it is perfectly legal to deprive patients of NHS treatment on the grounds that they are too old.

Or too fat. Or if they are a smoker. No worries if you're a self-harming drug addict with a liking for crack cocaine and the feel of razor blades cutting your through your skin - you'll get all the medical attention you want - but if you like the odd doughnut or indulge in a packet of Silk Cut a day you'll get short shrift.

The NHS is a government agency and as such it should not be discriminating against anyone on any basis. The argument that it's a question of prioritising money to where it will do most good is a lame one. Who says a 24 year old dead beat junkie is any more "good" to society than an 80 year old grandmother of 12 children?

All discrimination is positive except for that imposed by government. If it was wrong for the white government of South Africa during apartheid to discriminate against blacks in favour of whites - which I believe it was - then it is just as wrong in Britain today for the government to discriminate against any group or person on any grounds in favour of any other group or person. Why should the rights of a gay trump the rights of a Christian hotelier or adoption agency?

Discrimination is the right of the individual - not of government.


Michael L. Gooch said...

My goodness. That's an odd take on discrimination. As a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, your ideas have a certain appeal to me. However, I can only subscribe to these views if the person themselves caused the element or factor that resulted in the discrimination. That is, someone made a choice and now demands that society respects that choice no matter how horrid or costly. One the other hand, we have been conditioned by lawyers to believe that legal and moral are the same thing. So sad. Whenever a human is treated differently than the masses, we should take a cold, hard look at the situation. A hard look indeed. Maybe even the mirror. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR Author of Wingtips with Spurs www.michaellgooch.com

Stan said...

I don't think it's that odd. As an individual you have the option of reading what I write on this blog or going elsewhere. That is discrimination - or choice if you want to call it that. Similarly, as the owner of this "enterprise" I could choose to discriminate against you by blocking you from this site or deleting your comments. That is the perogative of the individual either as an individual or as a business owner - to discriminate - but it's not making any demands on society, it is just imposing my choice on other individuals or enterprises. As individuals we do that all the time - by choosing to watch a particular TV channel, follow a particular sports team or buy our shoes from a particular shop. It is all discrimination. My argument is that a government does not have that perogative - it should treat all people and sections of society the same before the law regardless of whether it approves of them or not.

Thanks for your comments.