Wednesday, February 1, 2017

David Boaz of the Cato Institute Offers an Anti-Libertarian Perspective

By Walter Block

Here is a quote from the Cato Policy Report of March/April 2016, p. 12: “In December, Cato executive vice president David Boaz participated in The Atlantic’s LGBT Summit, where he warned the audience that bringing the coercion of government down upon Christian bakers and florists only risks creating a political backlash to the victory of gay rights. ‘I think is it an illiberal attitude to say to a person with strong religious views, “You have to participate in a ceremony, like a gay wedding, that offends your religious sensibilities.” Go to a different wedding planner. Go to a different florist,’ he said. ‘We’re not talking about the only doctor in town – we’re talking about businesses. There are millions of businesses, and almost all of them want our business.’”

It is all well and good that Mr. Boaz opposes compelling florists and bakers to cater to homosexual weddings. However, he could have mentioned the basic libertarian building block of free association. But, then, the issue would have arisen about the so-called Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he refuses to oppose on the basis of all things, “history” (

What even more explicitly violates libertarian precepts regarding the above quote is this: “We’re not talking about the only doctor in town – we’re talking about businesses.” But suppose there were only one doctor in town. The clear implication of Boaz’s remarks is that then, yes, this physician would indeed have a legal obligation to offer his services to those who wanted it, even against his will. But being compelled to offer services to willing buyers when the supplier does not wish to do so is highly problematic from the libertarian point of view. Some might even say that this amounts to slavery. Surely, this Cato executive vice president does not support slavery? Suppose the doctor wanted to go on vacation. Or to move to another town. It would appear that he would then be violating the rights of patients who wanted his medical services. Say what you will about this perspective of Boaz’s, it is difficult to reconcile it with libertarian principles.

The above originally appeared at

1 comment:

  1. Not a huge fan of Boaz but I don't have a problem with what he said here. I don't think it is a problem to point out that it is extremely unlikely that there would be only one doctor, wedding planner or florist in town AND that person would be a bigot who'd refuse you service. I agree that in such a hypothetical situation libertarian principles would permit that person to refuse to associate with anyone he or she chose.

    But practically, I think it's important for libertarians to emphasize that a free market will overwhelmingly trend towards inclusion and integration. If the only doctor in town refused to treat blacks and Jews, not only would there be a huge market opportunity for another doctor to serve everyone but many groups who were not discriminated against would refuse to associate with an openly racist doctor on principle.