The Language Police

by TOM MCCAFFREY May 23, 2016

According to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, if a customer at a business in the city prefers to be referred to as "ze" or "hir" instead of as "he" or "she," then it is against the law for a business owner or employee not to do so. To call this exercise in government-imposed "equality" Orwellian does not begin to do it justice.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended legally enforced racial discrimination in the United States in genuinely public places such as city busses and public schools. It made equality before the law a reality, a development much to be welcomed in a country committed to the proposition the all men are created equal.

Equality before the law is the only kind of equality one is likely to encounter in a country based on individual rights, as the United States is. Wherever persons of different degrees of intelligence, ability, and ambition are free earn a living as they see fit and to own the product of their labor, some will become wealthy and some will not. Social and economic inequality are the hallmarks of a genuinely free country. 

The only way to bring about social and economic equality in a country, for those who desire them, is for the government forcibly to manage the social and economic life of the nation. There can be no liberty in a country committed to such equality. The Soviet Union, Communist China, and Castro's Cuba were all committed to social and economic equality, and all began and ended in tyranny (and poverty) so long as they remained true to that commitment.

To America's detriment, the authors of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not stop at establishing equality before the law. They went on to make it illegal, among other things, for a business owner to refuse service to a person based his color, race, sex, religion, or national origin. This element of the act should have been declared unconstitutional, as a similar act was declared unconstitutional way back in 1883.

A business owner should be free to refuse service to any person for any reason, for the same reason that a homeowner may refuse entry to his home to any person for any reason. Senator Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 act for precisely this reason. One of the most damaging developments in the constitutional history of the United States occurred when private property used for commercial purposes came to be classified as legally "public" and therefore subject to all manner of government regulation.

In their overreaching, the authors of Civil Rights Act of 1964 originated a strategy that would later make possible what we now call political correctness. A group identified as "oppressed" is awarded phony rights at the expense of the genuine rights of others, this in the interest of promoting the "equality" of the oppressed. The same strategy underlies the welfare state, whereby some are given wealth forcibly expropriated from others in the name of justice and equality.

This strategy has enabled America's neo-Marxists to assemble a formidable coalition of "oppressed" groups that today includes, among others, blacks, Hispanics, women, homosexuals, transgenders, the handicapped, illegal immigrants, refugees of various stripes, and, now, persons whose "gender and self-image do not fully accord with the legal sex assigned to them at birth." Thus, New York's new language edict.

In abolishing legally enforced racial segregation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 eradicated an obvious, long-standing injustice that the vast majority of the American people agreed ran contrary to the principle of equality before the law. That principle is implicit in any system of government based on the idea that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

The New York City "Gender Identity/Gender Expression: Legal Enforcement Guidelines," on the other hand, purport to right an injustice that the vast majority of New Yorkers had not even heard of until very recently. It is an "injustice," in addition, that is grounded on a premise on which there is nothing like general agreement. The guidelines state that "gender identity" is

one's internal deeply-held sense of one's gender which may be the same or different from one's sex assigned at birth.  One's gender identity may be male, female, neither or both, e.g., non-binary.... Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation.

First, one's sex is not "assigned" at birth; it is a fact of reality that is identified at birth. But the unstated premise of the guidelines is that for a male to "identify" as female, or vice versa, is a normal, psychologically healthy state of mind that others are morally obligated to respect. This is a premise that any rational person would consider to be nonsense. Indeed, the American College of Pediatricians has stated that

When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.

So the government of New York City has taken it upon itself to force its citizens to act in a manner that, in the rational judgment probably of most of its citizens, will be contrary to reality.

New York's language edict is not an aberration. Obamacare, which is another exercise in coerced equality, would force the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor to provide their employees with health insurance that includes coverage for contraception and abortion services. Contraception and abortion are contrary to the Sisters' moral code.

When the United States began its move toward forced social and economic equality at the expense of individual liberty, it was inevitable that at some point it would begin to force individuals act contrary to their rational judgment, as in the case New York case, and contrary to their moral judgment, as in the case of Obamacare. This is what forced social and economic equality must always mean in the end. Prepare for a great deal more of it.

Notice that no legislature has deliberated New York City's new language laws. They have simply been imposed on the citizenry by administrative fiat. The same is true of Mr. Obama's recent bathroom fiat, his fiat relaxing the immigration laws, and his many other unconstitutional edicts. Who needs a legislature when social and economic equality are at stake?

What we call the democratic process is only necessary if the purpose of a government is to secure the individual rights of its citizens. The neo-Marxists behind political correctness wrap themselves in the mantle of democracy as a matter of public relations, but, like all Marxists, they have nothing but contempt for the democratic process.

They have also been remarkably successful at surrounding themselves with an aura of moral superiority. They are, after all, the defenders of society's downtrodden. But only the profoundly immoral would run rough shod over the democratic process and over the rights of individuals to act according to their own rational and moral judgment. Like their fondness for democracy, the moral superiority of the politically correct is an illusion created to hide an ugly, immoral, and ultimately tyrannical ideology. 

Tom McCaffrey is the author of Radical by Nature: The Green Assault on Liberty, Property, and Prosperity.

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