Property Rights And Decency

It’s about property rights. Businesses can choose to refuse service to someone, with certain restrictions, and that’s fine. In the case of The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia the owner chose to not serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders a few months ago because the owner does not like the Trump administration. It’s about property rights. But what do you want to do once you have property rights? Selecting who is served and who is not served based on political partisanship is a bad idea.

It turns out that The Red Hen restaurant’s choice to ask Sanders and her friends to leave has hurt business in the small town of Lexington. And it likely hurt the business of The Red Hen too as they closed their doors for a few weeks to avoid the protesters who showed up. The incident hurt the town so bad that emergency funds from the local tourism board was needed to help change the negative image now associated with the town thanks to The Red Hen’s political choice.

From The Roanoke Times

Rockbridge Regional Tourism agreed to spend an additional $5,000 per month from the office’s emergency fund from July through September…

Typically the money is saved. But each locality agreed the region was in desperate need of positive coverage after The Red Hen incident.

Director of Marketing Patty Williams said the area is still feeling effects from the controversy…

At the time of the incident the owner of The Red Hen defended her action by saying she acted for her gay employees, who feel alienated by Trump. That doesn’t make much sense. If her gay employees felt oppressed then why would authoritatively refusing to serve someone make them feel better? Is payback the best way to handle hurt feelings? Closing the restaurant certainly hurt the waiters and waitresses, gay or straight, who depend on tips to make their salary worth the time to work there. But it’s about property rights, so The Red Hen had the choice to do so.

However, this incident stopped being about property rights the moment the owner followed Sanders to the next restaurant in an effort to get that restaurant to refuse service as well. That’s just indecent behavior.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said today, “It’s about time we start talking to each other like we’re civilized and deal with one another with respect.” Agreed. But I doubt he was talking to radical leftwing nuts like the owner of The Red Hen. The TEA Party never did anything comparable to refusing service to a presidential administration member. After the incident The Red Hen changed their voice message to say that they will kick out anyone who is a “Trump supporter, if you voted for Trump, or even smell like a Trump supporter.” Remember, that message is about property rights.

But let’s breakdown the impracticality of The Red Hen’s choice. How will they know who voted for Trump? The ballot box is a sanctuary, no one can be compelled to answer who they voted for. If someone were compelled, then how can the restaurant know the truth? In the case of Sarah Sanders, that’s easy because she works in a very public position for the Trump administration. But what about Average Joe Voter? How would they know? Obviously their choice to enforce their property rights in purely political partisan fashion is an impractical provocation that decent folk wouldn’t do.

If The Red Hen is leading the way then we are on a course where people live in a bubble, diversity of thought is discouraged, and friends can only be friends if their partisanship lines up. That sounds awful. Who would want to live in such an environment?

It’s nice to see a small business enjoy the benefits of property rights. The question is; once you have that freedom what do you want to do with it? In the case of The Red Hen, they chose to refuse service because of partisan politics and the fallout negatively impacted their community. There is an important lesson here; “It’s about time we start talking to each other like we’re civilized and deal with one another with respect.”