California Kicks the Corpse of Free Association in Airbnb Investigation

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California has decided you must allow anyone into your home, at least if you rent it on a short term basis. Department of Fair Employment and Housing had filed a complaint against Airbnb over alleged incidents of hosts discriminating against users on the basis of race. Airbnb has agreed to let DFEH conduct “testing,” similar to testing applied to landlords.

AirbnbThe problem DFEH is looking to solve: it seems some Airbnb hosts reject users based on their race. It reminds me of dating site OKCupid’s “discovery” that race plays heavily into how users select prospective matches.

That’s the trouble with freedom; sometimes people use it in ways we don’t like. Sometimes the results are unpleasant. But libertarianism isn’t about making perfect people. That’s what Progressivism wants to do: remake mankind. Libertarians see the world as it is, and we endeavor to act – messy as it can be – in harmony with human nature, not against it. Our goal is maximum happiness and prosperity for all but without the threat of force from the state.

Many libertarians have hailed the disruption that the “sharing economy” has unleashed on tired and over-regulated business, from taxis to hotels.  But we should not be surprised that those established industries and bureaucrats are fighting back however they can. And in this instance, they have found a chink in the armor; the sharing economy may not survive it. Airbnb and similar services are troubling for regulators and elected officials (beyond protecting established industries and maintaining tax revenue).  Peer-to-peer dealings, especially those involving your car and your home, are prone to reveal individuals’ personal preferences.

Then the mask slips – regulators like to regulate “business” – putting the boot to someone who wants to rent their spare room for extra cash looks too heavy-handed (and it is). A government official would never say that we must allow every stranger who knocks on our doors must be allowed in. But that is exactly what DFEH is saying the moment you and that stranger exchange cash.

Libertarians favor free association and dissociation. Private deals between two individuals are no business of the state. But California doesn’t see it that way; bureaucrats want to decide for you who you may let into your home.

 

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online by Erik Andresen Comments are off