My colleague Robby Soave has already published a libertarian defense of refusing to serve White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Over the weekend, Sanders and her party were bounced from the Red Hen, a restaurant in Virginia. The restaurant’s owner, said “this feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Well, sure, knock yourself out. The doctrinaire libertarian defense of the owner is pretty straightforward: A business owner should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, good, bad, and stupid. (Note: Such a position is not the law of the land due to various antidiscrimination laws). Just as an anti-gay cake baker should be able to pass on making a wedding cake, or a racist can refuse service because she doesn’t like the skin color of a potential customer, the Red Hen’s owner should be able to kick out this or that customer just because.
Those arguments make sense, I guess. But I think the decision to withhold service is usually illiberal and damaging to civil discourse, which, like property rights, is also something we should value as libertarians. Unlike many of my Reason colleagues, I don’t get too bothered with laws that mandate equal treatment under the law at businesses that are open to the public.