ReactionAction: Cake and the Free Market

Just read an article about a the fallout from a bakery’s refusal to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

Willamette Week’s Bittersweet Cake

It got me to having a think or two. First; what stupid bakers. You’re running a business. Someone wants to give you money for advertised services. And you say no? To use my brother-in-law’s word: smartstipation. And the way in which they denied services to the couple smells like calculated hate. At least as it was presented in this article.

But I got to wondering, is there going to be some kind of push-back, a rally to make more laws which tell businesspeople how to run their stuff? I hope not.

I’m not a “big market forces rule all” guy. I don’t believe for a moment that the market will police itself. Phah! What a laugh! Human nature is to gobble gobble grab up everything we can and not share, and we don’t see this more strikingly than at the highest echelons of big business.  I want a government actively involved in controlling, monitoring, regulating our marketplace, especially at the top. Big business – agribusiness, heavy industry, defense, power, telecom, tech, stuff like that – that’s where the stakes are higher and individual corruption and greed will cause the most damage to human lives. That’s where oversight is needed. At that level, the market will not police itself, for the players own all the cops. And so regulation and control is needed.

But at the level of a bakery discriminating against a couple because of the bakers’ religious background… hoo man, that’s where we can see the free market police itself. We don’t need a government agency butting into this small business. All we need is for the couple to do what they’re doing now. Tell you friends, tell yelp, tell the local newsies, tell them all what a crappy, hateful time you had. Then tell everyone about the next baker who willingly made you an awesome cake. Given a bit of time, we’ll see the free market work, the businesses that follow the shape of our society flourishing, while businesses run by haters fizzle out.

If you read the article, check out the screenshot of all the hate-posts presented against the couple. To people like that I say: I’m pretty sure Jesus’ teachings boil down to love, don’t hate, include, don’t exclude, don’t judge, and overall don’t be a jerk.

I can’t stand when people try to put up a pious font, then spout off as if they actually know god’s will. If god happens to be such a thing that it has a will as we would understand it, I doubt it is concerned about the small stuff in our lives like who we chose to bump uglies with. Maybe it cares if we chose to love or hate. Maybe. But I can’t know and wouldn’t be so bold as to present my theories as fact. It’s beyond my understanding, just as it’s beyond yours. Your beliefs are not facts, and you should not hurl them at people like weapons. Grow some humility.

Hmmm… that mandered a bit off from where it started, didn’t it?

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7 responses to “ReactionAction: Cake and the Free Market

  1. I found this interesting as we had an almost identical case on this side of the Atlantic recently, actually in Northern Ireland. A court found against the baker, but I understand the decision is under review because someone belatedly realised the flipside of the ruling: if a baker can’t refuse to put a customer’s message on the cake because they find it offensive, it opens the doors to all the fruitloops. A Jewish baker can’t refuse to put a swastika on a cake, a gay baker can’t refuse a homophobic message, a Muslim can’t refuse the face of Mohammed, etc.

    I know fruitloops are a bit slow on the uptake, but they’ll work that out sooner or later. Thanks for flagging this up. Now I’m wondering which side of the Pond is going to see the next skirmish in the cake wars!

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    • After a little pondering, I’ve added another layer onto what I think about this issue. In the original post I was going to write something to the effect of “We do not have personal rights to recieve services at a business. The business is owned and controlled by the owner, and it should be his right to conduct business how and with whom he wants.” I was going to say that, but didn’t, because there are big ugly holes in that argument. If I had said that, I would basically have been saying I think it’s okay if a person of (pick your minority/subgroup) to enter a restaurant, and not be served. I don’t think that’s okay. I left that out because I couldn’t make the distinction between making a cake and serving a meal. But I might have found that. A cake, a quilt, a photoshoot, a tapestry, they’re forms of visual art, which fall under free speech. No one should be forced to present a message (verbally or in visual art or otherwise) which is against their own moral code. Thus, a Jewish baker (or any baker who isn’t a jackass) should have the right to refuse to make a swastika cake.
      While I acknowledge that there is some visual art in presenting a meal, and definite art in the preperation, the chef is not being asked to compromise his art, his speech, by serving the meal to a (subgroup of choice). Thus I think everyone should ahve a protected right to enter a restaurant and pay for food from the menu, and recieve good service. But I think anyone whose business is the preperation of custom visual art, including cakes, should have the right to refuse comissions which compromise their beliefs.
      And above all, I still uphold that if the artist in question has no business sense and can’t keep up with the changing society, then the community has the right not to hire his services. Mr. Baker, I defend your right to choose. But the consequences of your business decisions are yours to bear. Dems da breaks.

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      • Thanks for coming back on this. It’s the sort of discussion that drives my thinking forward, and it’s good to be able to engage with someone other than the slavering internutters that are usually found jumping all over this sort of topic.

        Having said that, I’m not sure I agree that there’s that big a difference between icing a cake and serving a meal, not least because a lot of restaurants that host events also ice cakes for events they’re hosting. That aside, the same problem arises from the principal that they shouldn’t refuse to serve someone because of who they are. On those grounds, a restaurant can’t refuse a booking from the Ku Klux Klan convention that’s meeting across the road. So the owner and their staff would have to serve the klansmen – and the word ‘serve’ takes on a particularly sinister resonance in that context – however much they may object to them, and there would be a risk that they’d get boycotted by the sort of customer they actually want.

        Because of that sort of scenario, I can’t agree that a baker should be able to refuse service based on a moral code but a restaurateur shouldn’t.

        You said that any baker who isn’t a jackass should have the right to refuse a swastika cake, and of course everything we’re discussing is clear if we apply the jackass test. I think you, me and anyone else who isn’t a jackass can see a difference between putting two brides on a cake and putting a swastika on it, or between a restaurant refusing to serve someone because of their race and refusing to serve the KKK. The problem is that there are a lot of jackasses about, which is why the issue comes up at all.

        Both the British and American fronts of the cake wars have gone to law, so any decision will become a precedent. In the British case, the precedent was set in a way that didn’t pass the jackass test; it didn’t make the distinction that a reasonable person would. The American case has time to get it right, though I really can’t see a way of putting a blunt instrument like a legal precedent that does the job. I’m no lawyer, so I’m hoping someone who is will be able to square that circle.

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      • Yeah man, you said it: “you me and anyone who isn’t a jackass.” The law is easy to write: “don’t be a jerk.” Except that that falls apart. It’s contextual. Give any situation, and the involved community’s opinion of what constitutes jerkiness will be different. Throws a lot more personal responsibility and consequence onto the individual, which I think is fine. You have to chose to serve someone, or not, according to your own code. If support of your community matters, then you have to hope your decision doesn’t trigger the “JERK!” response. Personal responsibility comes with risk. This guy stuck to his guns, and now both he and the ladies are catching flack from different segments of my wacko, polarized, extremism-prone country. I keep on sounding sympathetic to the baker, which is wierd, because I’m not. But I’m trying to write from a logic/policy stance, rather than a personal one.
        Man, this is a lot of words about cake. But it’s good to exercise with discourse. I wouldn’t mind too much if a flaming, extremistic internutter chimed in with some cracked-out vitriol, since that would mean the visibility of my little blog must have increased… but for the long run this is probably better. 🙂

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  2. Yes, it’s been interesting to push this and see where it goes. I think it comes down to the rule you described, don’t be a prat (British for jerk). It’s a rule that covers most situations very well up to the moment when someone breaks it. At that point, it can be very difficult to be an effective counter-prat. React too strongly and you’re being a part yourself. Do nothing and you’re enabling whoever was being a prat. I think that’s why prattishness spreads faster than a cold.

    I think we’ve also shown that ‘don’t be a prat’ is a difficult rule to legislate for. As you say, it’s context specific. In the Oregon cake wars, both sides are being called prats, I suspect by a lot of people who are bigger prats than either of them.

    I’m sure I could work the idea of an epidemic of prattishness into a satirical story somehow. I nevr expected to be inspired by cakes and prats, but I’ll take it where I find it.

    As for blog traffic, well if you find the secret, please let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the mysteries of language. If you’d written your reply in American it would have been interesting and enjoyable. But since you wrote it in British it is interesting, enjoyable, charming, and highly entertaining. Well, to me, as a Yank with a touch of anglophilia. Why is that? I think repetition of words like “prat” has a lot to do with it.

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