In Toronto a Muslim barber recently refused to cut a woman’s hair because of his religious beliefs. This seems to have caused something of a minor media kerfuffle. George Jonas comments on the nature of the so-called “human rights” commissions which this man will inevitably find himself at the mercy of:
What we need to understand is that the so-called “human-rights” industry, the provincial and federal human rights commissions (HRCs), do not protect human rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects human rights (grudgingly, up to a point), and in free societies, so do judicial traditions and case law. Juries, tribunals and certain customs (e.g., “a man’s home is his castle”) may protect human rights at times; so do occasional manifestations of common sense. What the HRCs protect (sorry for sounding like a broken record) is selected human ambitions and government policies supporting them, against human rights.
I repeat: against. Not for. Human rights commissions are the state’s antibodies for the suppression of human rights. HRCs are to human rights what the Ministry of Love in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was to love.
Offering me a job is your human right, but having me accept it is only your human ambition. Saying yes or no to your offer is my human right, not because of my gender or religion but because in a free market it’s my call. If the state interferes with the precedence of a right over an ambition for whatever reason of social policy, including a noble reason, the country is no longer free. Protecting and promoting ambitions against rights leads to an autocratic, coercive, statist society.
I’d also like to underline that this is the self-negating endpoint of pursuing liberal individualism to its extremes: in order to make the individual truly ‘free’, the state has to increasingly interfere in our lives to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of the fulfillment of his or her desires. And this isn’t just a divide between classical liberalism/libertarianism on the one hand, and the more modern use of that term, since even the older form of individualism contributed to producing a culture which would prize desire over duty, especially when it had racked up enough wealth.