Face Masks and ‘Property Rights’
A reader writes:
Not quite hardcore libertarianism here.
You wrote in a June 10, 2021, letter to the Trader Joe’s CEO “Your organization has a woeful history of disability discrimination.”
Don’t private organizations have a right to discriminate?
You also wrote “Your organization has been discriminatory against employees who have an inability to safely wear a face mask.”
No one is compelled to work at Trader Joe’s.
-The Masked Man
Dear Masked Man,
Thank you for the opportunity to address this. It would not be the first time I have received this critique.
I am, in fact, working on a lengthier piece currently to exhaustively address this topic in which property rights are argued to discourage communication. That is the fundamental criticism I’ve been able to identify at the heart of claims that libertarians, conservatives, free market types, and other advocates of freedom only have two ethical options in the face of mask mandates or other health mandates at businesses: 1.) Grin and bear it or 2.) Walk away quietly.
There are several misnomers here in your note to me.
Misnomer #1: If a person complains, they are obviously in violation of the property rights of another.
Legitimate complaints can be had:
Between customer and business owners,
Between two members of society,
Between shareholder and corporate leadership,
Between neighbor and business owner,
Between a more informed and less informed person.
It does not make one a nuisance to want to converse civilly. It does impeding upon the property rights of another. It can, of course, be carried to a level intended to menace or harass. There are limits to this behavior. The limits are far from being broached in this situation.
Ethics dictates that such a conversation occur. I would be remiss to see the level of harm being done to society at the hands of the most reprobate leadership without reacting to it.
Effectively, to silence another on this topic, to argue “property rights” to silence the civil discourse I advocate for, is to say that no one deserves a voice. The argument suggests we are all only economic players with no right to a voice beyond our economic activity. I can’t imagine anyone reasonable feels such a thing.
What is being presented is therefore not an argument against the right of a person to have a civil disagreement with another, but a problem with the topic of the disagreement. Let’s then move on to that more central topic.
Misnomer #2: If a person says “disability discrimination,” they are obviously seeking to use the force of the state to impede upon the property rights of Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s has corporate values that oppose
disability discrimination. To stop a person from entering a business because they cannot wear a face mask safely is disability discrimination. Trader Joe’s has yet to have that internal conversation fully. There is disagreement among leadership at Trader Joe’s on the topic, and leadership that opposes this discrimination can use a few more arrows in its quiver.
Though there may not be a legal right, the argument can be had that certainly Trader Joe’s is well within its ethical property rights to discriminate against the disabled. That is not what Trader Joe’s leadership is trying to do. What they are trying to do is to avoid standing up for their stated corporate values because the risk of standing up is harder for them than the ease with which they can tell lies internally.
Misnomer #3. It is just to ignore the log in a person’s eye and to focus on the speck.
The idea that health mandates and medical records are a legitimate subject matter for any company to use to relate with its employees and customers is a big violation. The idea that I am being a nuisance by bringing up this idea is a very small violation, minute in the grand scheme of things. Am I seeking to be perfect? No. Certainly not. I’m seeking to negotiate several less-than-pleasant options. Perfection is not afforded me on this one.
I’m going to call silence on this topic right now “cowardice.” I’m going to call the wearing of a face mask right now, and for any reason, “a lie.” A year ago I couldn’t have sai
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