Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Via Matt Drudge comes a "news" story whose ostensible subject matter isn't really news -- or shouldn't be, anyway -- and whose purpose is not to inform, but to push an insidious point.
The story rambles on for a whole page with inconsequential details and wastes time describing the feelings of entitlement of two of its actors, but this short paragraph pretty much sums up the "story" as well as the insidious point:
Some San Antonio apartment complexes are refusing to rent to people with tattoos and body piercings. News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila investigates the case of one couple who says that policy is unfair.Translation: (1) A landlord exercised his property rights, but (2) a couple claims that it is unfair that he be free to do so.
What is interesting here is that the basis for the claim that it is "unfair" for a landlord not to rent to someone who changes his own appearance lies in the various laws against housing discrimination that are on the books, as evidenced by an interview with a government housing official conducted by Channel 4:
"Refusing to rent to somebody because they have tattoos may be unfair, but it's not discrimination under the fair housing act, unless the tattoos are specific to the person's religion or national origin," says Sandy Tamez of the San Antonio Fair Housing Council. [bold added]Notice the error from the civil rights era being carried forward to the present. While it was proper to repeal Jim Crow laws (i.e., government-enforced segregation), it was dead wrong to prohibit private individuals from engaging in discriminatory practices because the precedent is set for the government to intervene in all other spheres of private behavior, thereby violating individual rights.
While the sentiment behind such laws -- fighting racial prejudice -- was certainly noble, enacting these laws was a mistake, for it is the purpose of government to protect individual rights, not to enforce morality. Instead, the government remained in a business it should have never been in in the first place: Dictating the actions of private individuals in matters of race.
Certainly, it is inconsistent that private individuals are being made to rent to members of certain minority groups who do not look European or conform to Western standards of grooming -- but not to all individuals who fail to do so. It is inconsistent, but it is not unfair. What is unfair is not that we don't violate the rights of landlords across the board, but that we violate the property rights of anyone at all.
If the News 4 Trouble Shooters should have covered this story at all, they should have grilled self-disfiguring exhibitionist Gilbert Carrillo about whether he has looked elsewhere for housing. Has San Antonio no one who do not have a problem with his particular aesthetic standards or who caters to those who do not? And why is the government apparently all but in league with him to persecute the small landholding, tatoo-disliking minority of San Antonio? After all, a government official stated publicly that she agreed with Carrillo that the landlord was being uppity.
Instead, they joined in and even extracted a small bribe (in the form of a returned, non-refundable deposit) from the landlord Carrillo probably lied to on the matter of his tattoos.
It's funny how a group of people helping to perpetuate government-enforced discrimination against property owners is calling itself "Trouble Shooters" when so many who fought to end government-enforced discrimination of another kind were labeled "trouble makers" nearly fifty years ago.