The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Private individuals and businesses should be permitted to decline service toward any group of people

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/13/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 607 times Debate No: 115521
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (0)
Votes (1)




The Supreme Court recently ruled, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that a cake baker was permitted to decline to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple getting married. This has stirred a great deal of controversy on topics ranging from Freedom of Association to Freedom of Religion to Anti-Discrimination Law to the Civil Rights Act.

My contention is that any private person should be permitted to select with whom they do or do not engage in any business dealings. I, personally, would never intend on employing discrimantory business practices in any of the companies I have run, currently run, or potentially will run. I am all for equal rights in as many arenas as possible. However, I don't think the government has the right to impose their wills on private citizens in this regard. This is not an argument stating that discrimination is not immoral, unethical, evil, or otherwise non-negative. It is simply an argument that the government should not be the ultimate decider or private affairs in this regard. I use a thought experiment to prove a point:

Suppose there is a restaurant owner in a predominatly-white, known-to-be racist community. Suppose that 100% of the restaurant's regular patrons who compose 95% of its revenue are white. Also suppose that these regular patrons have stated that should the owner allow a single African American customer to be seated, they will collectively join to never eat at the restaurant again. Even if the owner is completely indifferent toward race, is it fair for the government to mandate that he serve a customer whose meal will result in a 95% decrease in revenue. Suppose that this will cause the restaurant to go out of business such that the owner can no longer pay his mortgage or feed is children. Would it be fair for this result to come from a government mandate?

Suppose there is another restaurant owner in a generally progressive community. However, over the past year, a number of patrons with their faces painted blue have come into the restaurant with weapons and robbed the cash register. In fact, suppose that every day at 12pm a patron with a face painted blue enters the restaurant and that 100% of these face-painted patrons have committed armed robbery. Would it be fair for the restaurant owner to refuse service to the 366th customer (once the first 365 have committed this crime)?

To the exact extent that I believe in the rights of private business owners to discriminate as they choose, I also believe in others' right to protest in virtually any non-violent way (also with minimal or no government intervention).

Thanks for reading!


When evaluating the resolution (Private individuals and businesses should be permitted to decline service toward any group of people), it is important to know how to vote on it. My opponent, the affirmative, deserves a vote only if he can prove the resolution to be true. He has the burden of proof. For me, the negative, to deserve a vote, I must simply show that the resolution has not been proven by the affirmative.

When discussing what ought to be (that which "should be permitted" per the resolution), there is no discussion here about federal jurisprudence or what one constitution or bylaw or the other this resolution would best fit. Instead, this debate is about what ought to ideally, theoretically happen. While I believe that my opponent has also admitted this, I hope explicitly stating it as such helps for clarity during the debate.

My opponent claimed that he does not "think the government has the right to impose their wills on private citizens in this regard." However, he never proved why that is so. He did not explain what the purpose of government is. Even if he did, he would need to prove that his theory of the purpose of government is correct. Where does a government even get its purpose? If the government ought to have no say in morality, ethics, goodness, or positivity at all, then how ought it to form its laws? What guides it? Or, perhaps, my opponent is saying that the government ought to not have any say just "in this regard." However, why this random bright line? It seems like special pleading that it ought to use morality in some circumstances but not others. My opponent will need to explain and prove his theory of the purpose of government and show that it affirms the resolution to deserve an affirmative vote.

My opponent talked about "rights." However, where do these rights come from? Why does the government not have the right to regulate discrimination in the marketplace? Why is it wrong to protest with violence? My opponent must explain and prove that these rights exist and as he says they do.

While my opponent uses many high ideals such as fairness, equal rights, and the role of the government, he has not actually explained these ideals nor proven they actually exist or ought to be valued. I, as the negative, simply request that he prove his case.
Debate Round No. 1


I appreciate the well thought-out and organized answer, but I'm afraid nearly all of it is rather inapplicable, and irrelevant. This is a philosophical forum, to my knowledge, and this is to be a philosophical conversation. The debate I hoped for was one regarding the moral and ethical implications. Perhaps I worded the resolved incorrectly.

The smartest, most astute thing you said was, "Instead, this debate is about what ought to ideally, theoretically happen. While I believe that my opponent has also admitted this, I hope explicitly stating it as such helps for clarity during the debate." Indeed, this is an "ought" discussion. In no reasonable realm should this debate need include the "proving" of the purpose of government, origin of rights, or resolve any of your hypotheticals. Additionally, nearly all of the hypothetical provided by negative are matters of opinion. To "prove" any of them would be to engage in an entirely separate debate where the thesis on said hypothetical becomes what has been resolved and then debate is engaged in on that topic.


I am glad we can agree that this is a philosophical discussion about ethics and the such. However, how are rights and the purpose of government irrelevant? If this debate is supposed to be about "the moral and ethical implications," then how can this discussion even happen without an understanding of rights, justice, and the purpose of government, all of which are philosophical issues, not just matters of opinion. My opponent has the burden of proof, therefore, he must prove that it is unjust for the government to intervene. He must prove all parts of his case; he cannot just presuppose his ideas of rights, purpose, and ethics and then try to force me to agree with them without any proof.
Debate Round No. 2


I appreciate Con's reasoning abilities, reverence for logic, and general method of discourse. However, I feel that Con's arguments here unintentionally amount to nothing beyond a convoluted combination of semantic dispute, moving goal posts, an modified red herring.

From the perspective of moral realism/objectivism, the tenets by which humanity ought to be governed ought to be the same not just locally but globally. Laying out my philosophy on the purpose of government would significantly derail this discourse and prevent us from discussing an underlying issue. For example, if I were to say the purpose of government was to "maximize the autonomy of private business owners," where would that leave us? Surely it would make the entire debate a non starter.

Con is requiring that I "prove" a certain framework of justice and government exist to have this philosophical argument. This is simply not true, however, and has now led to the wasting of 2 rounds of debate in which an attempt was made to avoid the question at heart. Unalienable rights, those to which humans around the planet are (or ought to be) entitled, exist independent of any government or justice system.

A few quotes from people much smarter than I on this topic:

"The Declaration of Independence affirms and clarifies the origin of our individual rights. Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration’s primary author, wrote that we “are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Thus, these rights – amongst which are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – both precede any instituted government, and supersede whatever laws it may pass in violation of them."

"(Many) countries think of human rights as innate in individuals, central to the nature of the human person. These rights precede any state structure and must be absolutely respected by governments."

"We have seen the essential elements of...observation-based derivation of the principle of individual rights: the truth that each individual morally must be left free to act on his own judgment, so long as he does not violate the same right of others. This principle does not come from God or from government; nor is it self-evident or “inherent” in man’s nature. Rather, it is derived from observation and logic. It is discovered and formulated by looking at reality—focusing on relevant facts about the nature of values, the requirements of life, the nature of man, the propriety of egoism, the value of reason, man’s need to act on his judgment, and the anti life nature of physical force—all the while integrating one’s observations into concepts, generalizations, and moral principles."

As has been stated, the intention of this debate is to argue, from a standpoint derived from observation and logic, whether private individuals ought to be able to discriminate as they choose within the confines specified. It is neither productive nor interesting to attempt to confound this discussion in a web of semantics and technicality. I understand the temptation in the service of winning arguments against inexperienced debaters incapable of defending themselves against ostensibly-logical arguments. However, that will not suffice in this particular instance.


When evaluating this debate, we must remember the resolution (what the affirmative is trying to prove): Private individuals and businesses should be permitted to decline service toward any group of people.

My opponent asked "if I were to say the purpose of government was to "maximize the autonomy of private business owners," where would that leave us?" BertrandsTeapot, that would actually leave us with an argument and you with a case to prove the resolution true. That is where it would leave us. Now, my opponent, if he adopted that position, would have to prove it to be true (something he resists in general). However, at least it would leave him with some kind of position and reasoning.

My opponent said that the discussion about the purpose of government was pointless, because "unalienable rights, those to which humans around the planet are (or ought to be) entitled, exist independent of any government or justice system." He seems to have forgotten that for the past two debate rounds, I have been asking him to explain what those rights are and prove that they exist. That was the core of my argument about the purpose of government. However, the closest he got to proof was a collection of random quotes without citations. As to the quotes, I am sure that many intelligent people said those things. However, that does not make the people infallible or their arguments true.

My opponent simply has not proven the resolution to be true. Having not proven his case, he has not shown that anti-discrimination laws which restrict private sector activity are outside the government's scope (since he has provided no scope for the government). He has not shown that restrictions are a violation of human rights, as he claimed. While he explained a bit more during his last round what rights are through his spurious quotations, he did not actually prove that they exist as he (or others) may say they are. Not being convinced of the resolution, this only leaves us with a negative vote.
Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RMTheSupreme 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con tried the tactic that any kid who learned what burden of proof means would try (and I've tried it when I was a beginning debater on other accoutns on other sites too) it's the classic 'I don't need to prove anything if you can't prove the resolution true beyond any doubt' but here is where Con went wrong and Pro correctly highlights it, albeit indirectly; Con has to prove that it is the default to not permit something. Pro didn't actually have to prove that it was an inalienable right to deny service to someone, they had to explain why it's alright to be discriminatory and they did that in Round 1 itself. Con then has to explain why it's default for a government to actively ban the discrimination, not to assume it's default to not permit something. You see, in law the default is to permit somethign and Pro indirectly points this out many times such as here: "Con is requiring that I "prove" a certain framework of justice and government..." "This is simple not true..."

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