I realize I’m late to the party, but here are a few thoughts on Arizona Senate Bill 1062:
1) A law allowing people to pick and choose whom they want to transact with would be a very good law. Not as good as eliminating the other laws that make this law necessary, but still a big improvement over the status quo.
2) Senate bill 1062, however, was not that law. Instead it was a law allowing people to pick and choose who they want to transact with provided they have (or claim to have) a religious basis for their preference.
3) This raises the question of how we should feel about good laws that exempt only the politically favored from onerous requirements of other laws. How should we feel, for example, about a law that allows only white people, or only black people, or only Muslims, or only art history majors to practice cosmetology without a license — while continuing the status quo for everyone else?
4) One could argue that a good law applying to some people, while not as good as a good law applying to all people, is better than no good law at all. This would be an argument in favor of SB 1062.
5) There are, however, at least two problems with that philosophy. First: Discrimination in favor of a selected group creates an artificial incentive to become a member of that selected group, which leads to wasted resources. If freedom of speech or freedom of association or freedom to start a business depends on being an art history major, then some people who should have been math majors will major in art history instead.
6) That’s a good argument against laws that favor art history majors. It is not, however, a good argument against a law that favors blacks, or a law that favors whites, because, for the most part, changing one’s race is prohibitively expensive. It is probably not a good argument against a law that favors men, or a law that favors women, because, for the most part, changing one’s sex is, if not prohibitively expensive, then almost so. In this case, we’re talking about a law that favors the religious. Changing one’s religion — or creating the appearance thereof — is surely a lot cheaper than changing one’s race or changing one’s sex, so there might be more of a problem here, and that’s one reason to oppose this law.
7) On the other hand, it might be that changing one’s stated religion for the purpose of claiming the benefits of this law would have been almost costless, in which case the objection largely disappears.
8) The second problem with favoring good laws with limited application is this: If we allow ourselves to write laws that grant extra rights to politically favored groups, we are headed down an extremely slippery and unpleasant slope. That, presumably, is why the US constitution attempts to guarantee equal protection of the laws. The message is, roughly, that if you’re not willing to oppress everyone, then we won’t let you oppress anyone. That seems like a pretty good principle.
9) So what’s the bottom line on Arizona? I dunno. I think freedom, including the freedom to serve who you want to serve at your pharmacy or your restaurant or your gas station, is a really good thing. I also think that granting freedoms to one group that you’re not willing to grant to all groups is a really bad thing. On balance, I have no idea whether to be happy that the governor has vetoed this law.
10) I do note that much of the opposition to the law has come from the crowd that opposes freedom generally, and I do hate to see those guys happy. But the joy of seeing one’s opponents is disheartened is a poor basis for making law. So I remain ambivalent.