Minding Their Own Business.

Dr. Malcolm Cross

In Texas, private businesses that require proof of vaccination from their customers may lose
state contracts, as well as state-issued licenses and operating permits. This is a bad policy which should
be eliminated.

As a general rule, businesses should be allowed to operate with few regulations other than
those which are absolutely necessary to promote the health and safety of customers and the general
public. Otherwise, their transactions with their customers or potential customers are nobody’s business
but theirs, and certainly not that of the government. Do restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience
stores want to sell beer or wine? That’s between them and their adult customers. What should
restaurants do about smoking? Permit it everywhere in their establishments, or limit smoking to
designated smoking areas, or ban smoking entirely? That too, is between the restauranteur and his
adult customers. And if anyone loses business because he will or will not sell booze, or he will or will not
permit smoking, well—too bad, so sad, their problem, not the government’s. While serving on the city
council I voted in favor of letting anyone who wanted to sell alcohol and who met certain legal
requirements do so, and I voted against every proposal to limit or ban smoking in Stephenville

The same principles should apply to businesses and vaccination records. Every business owner
currently has the right to demand, if he so chooses, that customers wear masks in his establishment.
And every business owner should have the right to demand proof his customers have been vaccinated
as well. After all, the site of the business is its owner’s private property.

Of course, potential customers who’ve not been vaccinated, and those who think their
vaccination records are nobody else’s business, need not do business with those who want proof of
their vaccinations (if any). But that should be a matter strictly between the business owner and those
who won’t do business with him. If the business owner loses potential customers who don’t like his
policies, and would-be customers lose the opportunity to purchase desired goods and services,
well—too bad, that’s their problem. No government should stick its nose into their private affairs.
Besides, businesses should not be required to check vaccination records if they don’t want to anyway.
To the contrary, concerning private businesses, one should always be wary of governmental
contracts, licenses, and operating permits anyway. The big question concerning these means of
government regulation is whether they exist to help consumers, or protect businesses from
competition. Are contracts bestowed on those businesses which can offer the best goods and services
to the government at the lowest cost to the tax payer—or are they given, as a form of favoritism, to
certain businesses which government officials want to protect. Are licenses and operating permits used
to promote consumer safety, or are they used to protect existing businesses by making the costs of
starting up new businesses too high for them to enter the market and compete?

In essence, government should do little more than provide quality services financed by the
lowest fees and taxes possible, and an even playing field on which all businesses compete within a
framework of simple rules which don’t encourage any sort of favoritism. Businesses themselves should
be entitled to enjoy whatever profits they legally make, and must accept whatever responsibilities and
consequences should they fail. Allowing businesses to decide for themselves whether to check their
customers’ vaccination records is a small but necessary step in developing more rational policies for
business regulation.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole

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