On January 8th, 2018, former Google employee James Damore filed a discrimination lawsuit against the tech giant. Damore made national headlines last year after he released the Google Memo. In the memo, Damore alleged that Google has shunned ideas that disrupt their leftist narrative. Google fired Damore for drafting this now infamous memo. The lawsuit lists Google’s discrimination against white conservative men as a violation of Damore’s rights. Despite the outright immorality of Google’s anti-freedom bias, James Damore is wrong to sue.
Ultimately, James Damore will only damage freedom if he wins this lawsuit. Assuming the judge sides with him, Damore will only expand the scope of forced association in the United States.
Many who are sympathetic with Damore’s views, however, also claim to favor to private property rights. So, any principled response to Google in this matter must stop short of using the state to force Google’s hand. While it is perfectly reasonable to boycott and publicly shame Google, it would be a mistake to support James Damore in this lawsuit.
Google Has the Right to Discriminate
While the state often infringes upon the right to free association, Google has the natural right to discriminate. In the same way that a Christian baker has the natural right to refuse to cater a gay wedding, so too does Google have the right to discriminate against conservatives, whites, and men. James Damore is correct in saying Google has a bias against conservatives and libertarians, but that does not mean we ought to force Google to hire them.
Google is private property. Therefore, the owners of Google have the right to exclude anyone they wish for any reason. This is a matter of natural law, no matter what a man-made piece of legislation says. This is a classic example of a “Bake the Cake” scenario, and to side with James Damore in this lawsuit is to take a position against private property rights.
A Win For Google Will Set the Precedent for Freedom
A short-run win for Google in this case will lead to a short-run and long-run expansion of freedom. Since 1964, the state has forbidden the people from exercising their right to discriminate. While the state generally recognizes the right to association, they seem to outright reject the right to disassociation. Under current conditions, the state will readily force businesses to hire and/or serve people whom they would rather avoid. This is due to the precedent of Public Accommodation the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sets forth.
But, if the courts rule in favor of Google, it will be at least partial victory for a right to disassociate.
Since this result may come with the defeat of James Damore, it is actually a good thing Damore sued Google (assuming he loses, which he probably will). If Damore wins, however, we all lose a little more freedom. Currently, political ideology is not a federally protected class, but a new court precedent barring discrimination on the basis of political beliefs would be a step in a wrong direction.
Even Damore’s supporters have mixed views on the merits of his lawsuit. While the consensus is that Google had the right to fire him, many are defending Damore’s decision to sue. What follows are my answers to the objections set forth by people who hope Damore wins this lawsuit.
One: Google Receives Public Funds, and Should Therefore be Bound by the First Amendment
While it is true that Google does receive corporate welfare, this is not an excuse to use the state to regulate Google’s behavior. Rather than calling for the state to penalize or fine Google, it is best to instead call for the revocation of Google’s corporate welfare (and the elimination of all corporate welfare, for that matter).
Perhaps the most egregious solution to this problem is the nationalization of Google, which some of Damore’s defenders are suggesting as an appropriate form of retaliation against Google. While Google does receive corporate welfare, it remains primarily a private company. To hand it over to the government would immensely expand the power of the state.
Two: Since Non-Discrimination Is the Law, It Should Be Universally Enforced
Since the top tax bracket in the US is 37%, should every American be taxed at 37%? Obviously not. Every human being has equal rights, but equal tyranny is not the solution to injustice. Just because the law forbids hiring discrimination, that does not mean it is a good idea to encourage the state to enforce this law. Rather, we ought to compel the state to stop enforcing this law. Although the total abolition of this unjust law is ideal, it is unlikely given the current ideological status quo. The next best option is to encourage exceptions to unjust laws.
On a more extreme note, think of an escaped slave living in the 1850s. Should an abolitionist comply with the Fugitive Slave Act and return the slave to his master? Of course not. While the goal of an abolitionist is the total end of slavery, an abolitionist should celebrate every time someone escapes such an injustice. This is the same logic for every other invasion of liberty. If Google asserts their property rights, good! Suppose the rich get a tax cut, also good! If the poor get a tax cut, awesome!
Three: Since Leftists Support Non-Discrimination, They Should be Forced to Obey It
This is a bad reason to do anything, and this logic backfires very quickly, especially in politics. If the state forces Google to hire conservatives, it’s only a matter of time until they force conservatives and libertarians to hire leftists.
If a leftist company goes after a conservative of libertarian — for instance — for asserting a property-rights ideology, public shaming and self-defense is a much more practical and principled strategy than forcing new hiring practices on that company.
Since James Damore has chosen to attempt to use the state to violate the property rights of Google, principled defenders of private property are forced to defend the rights of the tech giant. At the same time, although Google’s rights must be respected in terms of public policy, we ought to condemn them morally.
After all, it is possible to disagree with a person or organization without turning to the state to force them into supporting our own views.