by Nic Haag
I have spent the last few days commenting on various articles about the Charlotte ordinance and the state’s response, House Bill 2. I figured I might as well just do a culmination of a Libertarian's thoughts on the subject, so here it is.
While I disagree with the way the Charlotte ordinance was written, I do not wish it to be wholly invalidated. My main concern regards property rights. I do not believe the Charlotte city council has, or should have, the authority to force private businesses to be inclusionary. Just because a business is open to the public, it does not become a public entity. Quite simply, it’s a property owner’s right to have whatever the hell kind of bathroom policy they want. The city council should not have injected itself in between private property owners and their bathrooms.
I firmly believe most private businesses will happily adopt the exact same policy voluntarily. People have a fundamental economic right to vote with their dollar by taking their business somewhere that aligns with their values. Businesses that discriminate will quickly find themselves out of business.
Where I agree with the city council is implementing the ordinance in places where attendance is mandatory. Places like public schools and courthouses. If the people who own those buildings, in this case, the taxpayers of Charlotte, voted for things to be that way the state should respect their property rights. If the majority of Charlotte voters do not like it, they can always recall the city council and get new leaders, but in this case, the taxpayers, or property owners, of Charlotte supported the ordinance.
I can recall recently with the whole Obamacare debacle, the N.C. GOP leaders were decrying state’s rights and Federalism. The U.S. government functions under the principles of Federalism, where all matters of governing are entrusted at the lowest levels possible, like states, counties, or large municipalities. The N.C. General Assembly was upset the federal government was usurping powers that should be held by the state. As such North Carolina declined to participate in expanding Medicare in the state to spite the Obama administration. Yet it appears the leaders of the N.C. GOP do not fully want to respect the tenants of Federalism, by overriding the will of Charlotte voters. Hypocrisy is rife our state’s GOP-lead government and should rightly be called as such.
The law the state just passed in response, HB 2, went off the deep end in the opposite direction. It’s obvious why the cities vote Democrat and the state is run by Republicans, it’s more about political muscle-flexing and spite than logic or reason. The fact politicians from dying rural communities in the far-flung reaches of North Carolina have a say in the governance of its major metro areas is economically ludicrous. I fear a few unintended consequences will result from HB 2, primarily regarding economic issues and taxation.
Legislators care about their own districts far more than the state as a whole, after all, that is their voter base. If that means knee-capping a neighboring county to steal a factory along with its jobs and tax revenue, they will proudly do so. This law, I fear could potentially create scenarios where bitter rural politicians could force businesses out of the major metro areas and wishfully in into their dying districts, resulting in massive economic dead-weight losses.
I do agree with some of HB 2. The restriction against municipalities setting their own minimum wages is a good idea. Although this particular issue was neither here nor there in regards to why the special session was called. Any competent economist will tell you minimum wages are anathema to a free market. Labor is a commodity and as such the market should set the minimum rate, not the government. I would actually like to see the state dump its minimum wage as well. Not that it matters as it mirrors the federal, which should also be dumped, but that’s another argument.
I also agree the state should protect the property rights of citizens. By invalidating the over-reaching ordinance, the state established that municipalities do not have the authority to force everyone to accept policies they may have legitimate religious objections to.
Where the state went wrong is invalidating the gender self-identification rights of transgender individuals undergoing their transition. Transgender individuals are victimized at a far higher percentage than nearly any other demographic. If there is any segment of our population that needs laws protecting them from violence, it is them.
I have faith that a competent court system could have made Charlotte’s ordinance work if they were acting in good faith. The fear that transgender men would abuse the ordinance and get away with it is ludicrous. It would be easy for a court to determine who is a transgender individual undergoing a transition and who is just a dude being a creep.
If I were in the N.C. Senate, I would have voted No on HB 2. I firmly believe democracy only works if those making the laws feel the effects of them. I find it hard to believe the senators from Southport and Mt. Airy ever planned on visiting Charlotte or would have ever been affected in any way. I also am highly skeptical of a government that passes laws so quickly. I can guarantee the precedent set here will be used again in the future, and we will not like the results.
Haag is the Libertarian candidate for N.C. Senate 44, which includes parts of Gaston and Iredell counties and all of Lincoln County. He lives in Denver.