Thursday, May 9, 2013

Liberty v Access

Our egalitarian-obsessed government is preparing to apply the American with Disabilities Act to websites.  There are, of course, First Amendment issues with such a novel application.  Websites deal with mainly with speech, which is protected by the Constitution.  So, we’ll see how all this shakes out.

As a libertarian, I consider the ADA one of the most offensive pieces of legislation around.  Prior to Obamacare, it took the top spot.  I totally reject the idea that a private business must be forced to comply with some accessibility standard.  As the owner of a firm, either I am free to arrange my business affairs as I see fit, or my liberty has been severely curtailed as a result of some high-minded notion of fairness.  Some may label me as cruel and insensitive but consider the unintended consequences of such noble accessibility legislation.  Let’s examine what ADA would look like in Korea.

If there are 20 million Koreans in Seoul, there must be 10 million restaurants.  I can count more than a dozen looking out my 26th story window, and none are handicapped accessible.  Most sidewalks don’t taper down to the curb.  Korea’s hills rival those found in San Francisco, and many restaurants and eateries are located on a very sloping grade.  Additionally, most Korean restaurants are tiny compared to their American counterpart.  With so many Koreans crammed into a small geographical area, space comes at a premium, and Koreans are experts at utilizing every inch.  

Now, let’s introduce ADA into Korea.
Nearly every mom & pop eatery would close up shop.  Most simply could not afford to comply with U.S. accessibility standards, and so they would simply cease to exist.  Those that chose to stay open would have to charge higher prices due to compliance – this in addition to the upward pressure on prices due to reduced supply.  And while some consumers would benefit from the new accessibility standards, the overwhelming majority would suffer.  Former mom & pop restaurateurs would be out of work and consumers would face dramatically fewer choices and higher prices.

Yes, it’s most unfortunate that some among cannot navigate around as easily as others, but to use the legal system to force private property owners into complying with a government-approved and costly standard seems hardly a just and noble cause.

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