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Let us Reason Together
Posted by: Dale Franks on Monday, January 08, 2007

Let's discuss a hypothetical situation. Let us suppose that there is a taxi driver who is a rabid racist. This taxi driver regularly works fares from the local airport. He happily picks up white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant travelers at the airport, and ferries them briskly to wherever they wish to go.

Whenever he is approached a person of a more dusky persuasion, however, he locks the doors to cab, and refuses to give them any service. He refuses, for any reason, to, transport non-whites in his cab.

How do we feel about this particular cab driver? Must he be forced provide a fare ride to any customers who desire it, irrespective of the melanin content of their skin? Or do we support his right to refuse service to anyone he wants (let's assume the Civil Rights Act doesn't enter into it)?

Now, let's take a look at a real, live situation, that is actually happening in Minneapolis-St. Paul:
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport officials want to crack down on Muslim taxi drivers who refuse to carry alcohol or service dogs in their cabs...

About 100 people are refused cab service each month at the airport. Roughly three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at the airport are Somali, many of them Muslim. In recent months, the problem of service refusals for religious reasons has grown, airport officials have said, calling it "a significant customer-service issue"...

Hassan Mohamud, imam at Al-Taqwa Mosque of St. Paul, and director of the Islamic Law Institute at the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, one of the largest Islamic organizations in the state, said that asking Muslims to transport alcohol "is a violation of their faith" as well as of the spirit of the First Amendment.

Mohamud, an attorney who teaches Islamic law at William Mitchell Law School in St. Paul, said, "Muslims do not consume, carry, sell or buy alcohol." Islam also considers the saliva of dogs to be unclean, he said.
So, in the real world, Muslim cab drivers are refusing to provide fare rides to people who are carrying a bottle of wine that they picked up in France, or who are accompanied by a trained service dog.

Roughly three-quarters of the taxi drivers at the airport are Somalis, and most of them are Muslim.

So, what should we do? Should we respect their deeply held cultural beliefs? Or should we make it clear to them that they must provide non-discriminatory service to anyone at the airport?

Again forget the "public accomodations" issue. As a matter of principle, who's wishes should prevail, the taxi driver, or the customer?
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
you can’t ignore the public accomodation aspect any more than Rosa Parks was supposed to.

If you’re going to be what’s called in law a "common carrier" then you don’t get to discriminate. Taxi drivers get a license to operate; that license includes a duty to serve without discrimination.

now, true libertarians would call the whole idea of licensed hack drivers as ridiculous and allow them to discriminate. But under the existing system, allowing discriminatory refusal to carry flatly violates the principles underlying common carrier law.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Why do the cab companies hire drivers who refuse fares in the first place?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
ChrisB, the taxi drivers work for themselves, and pay the taxi companies for the use of their logos/vehicle paint scheme and for directing fares their way.

If it were not for the licensing issue, I would say that the driver gets the choice, which would immediately let competition enter in that would serve the public better. However, the licensing is really a problem, because municipalities only offer a fixed number of licenses. This artificially limits competition, and the concomitant to that is that the licensees must offer service without discriminating, except within very narrow limits.
 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
The taxi drivers have every right to pick up who they want for whatever reason, and the riders have every reason to pick or not pick a taxi for whatever reason.

But really: how do they know when someone is carrying alcohol? "What’s in the bag, buddy? A very large bottle of None of your Business, now take me to 3rd and Main."

Plus, as a non-Muslim, I practice Tequilliyya. When someone asks me about alcohol possession/consumption, I will lie as I see fit.
 
Written By: Come on, Please
URL: http://
And for those Islamochallenged, I was making a pun on Taqiyya above. Look it up if you don’t know what it means.
 
Written By: Come on, Please
URL: http://
I think we’re confusing two wholly different issues. Discrimination based on a person’s ethnicity is absolutely apalling and should, rightfully, be punished if a licensed service provider is practicing it. This isn’t about non-whites not being able to get a cab after dark in Detroit, however. This is being declared a religious issue. Now, having said that, there are a few mistakes being made by those involved.

Firstly :
Islam also considers the saliva of dogs to be unclean, he said.

So, in the real world, Muslim cab drivers are refusing to provide fare rides to people ... who are accompanied by a trained service dog.
Ok, the first quote is correct, however it only applies when a Muslim has performed his ablutions and is preparing to pray. Just getting a dog’s saliva on your clothes or skin is irrelevant any other time. Secondly, Islamic prohibitions dealing with dogs only apply to dogs as PETS KEPT IN THE HOME. They do not apply to working animals (such as guide dogs or herding dogs, etc.). Any objections the cab drivers may have based simply on the presence of a service animal in the car are therefore specious and should be overruled.

Second:
So, in the real world, Muslim cab drivers are refusing to provide fare rides to people who are carrying a bottle of wine that they picked up in France...
I tend to agree with Come On, Please’s question which is:
But really: how do they know when someone is carrying alcohol?
I mean if someone is a drunken idiot, sloshing around booze, then yes it’s quite obvious what they are carrying, but your average tourist, just off a plane, has probably packed his or her liquor. No one can tell what they are carrying, so I’m not really sure where the objection from the drivers is coming from.

Having said that, I am obliged to point out that if the driver is aware that the person is carrying alcohol, can he refuse service based on religious beliefs? Tricky, but I suspect that this is the wrong question. As a few commenters stated above, this is more of a legal issue, as the occasional duty of a licensed taxi driver is going to be picking up intoxicated people from public places who are too drunk to drive home. So this aspect goes back to can a service provider deny service to anyone he chooses? I’m not really sure what the answer is, legally, but let’s remember that this is a LEGAL issue, not a religious one. I think that those trying to make it into some kind of religious showdown are only going to wind up hurting themselves and their community.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Are we libertarians or not? If we are, then this is a no-brainer—we believe that should be allowed to discriminate.

I don’t know the situation in Minneapolis, but if Taxi operators have to have a permit to operate, then they are common carriers and should be forced to pick people up—white, black, jew, muslim, alcoholic, or teetotalling. To me, that’s the non-hard core libertarian view. If government is going to discriminate in choosing who can be taxi drivers, I don’t see why taxi drivers should be allowed to disriminate in who they pick up.
 
Written By: Bogdon
URL: washingtonpost.com
The libertarians have taken over the governemtn, and we live by libertarian principles.

I am an ambulance driver who hates libertarians.
I work for a private ambulance company, of course, because big bad government isn’t around anymore.

I freely choose to let you bleed to death rather than take you to a hospital.

You freely choose to die where you are.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
The owner of the taxi and the potential customer both agree on the ride, its cost, and the terms. Neither is a slave to the other. But I wouldn’t start with this example to restore property rights.

Also, not being an advocate of open borders, I wouldn’t have Somali immigrants here in the first place. There are immigrants from other cultures that are easier to vet as to suitability and safety.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
Comparing the drivers preferences with descrimination is a reach. I thought this problem was solved already by the understanding that those cab drivers with preferences would keep their cabs at the back of the line.
 
Written By: newc
URL: http://closedanger.blogspot.com
I go overseas at least once a year. I check my baggage. I go to the duty free shop to buy some gift bottles of alcohol. The bottles are put in a duty free bag saying "Remy Martin fine Cognac" so that I might carry it on board in my handcarry. Upon deplaning and clearing customs I grab my luggage and handcarry that says "Remy Martin fine cognac" —intended as a gift—and head for the taxi. The taxi driver does not have to search my luggage to gain an idea of what I’m carrying.
So Come on and Omar that is how the taxi driver might suspect that you’re carrying alcohol. Do you guys not travel or are you just throwing weak excuses out in an effort to justify discrimination?
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
In a perfect imperfect world...

The taxi driver could refuse passengers on any grounds, so long as it was stated on the cab.

The taxi passenger could also refuse to be serviced by taxi drivers based on any particular reason, including the drivers refusal to service passengers for whatever reason. So, white people could avoid the bigoted white taxi driver, just as much as they could avoid the Muslim taxi driver who wont service passengers with dogs. (Because they are dog lovers or they know that argument is bunk.)
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Keith_Indy beat me to it. I’d love to hear the whines of Islamophobia when potential fares start asking drivers if they’re Muslim and making decisions based on that.
 
Written By: Grisha
URL: http://
The issue rose to prominence because the muslim cabbies objected to being sent to the back of the 2 to 4 hour long cab queue when they refused to carry those with alcohol. For a while, the airport was considering developing some sort of alternate queue or identification for those who refused to carry alcohol carrying passengers. However the local public, rightly IMHO, object to this level of accomodation to the imposition of another’s religious beliefs on the public.

Now the airport is promulgating a rule change that would notify the cabbie that refusing to accept the fair would result in the loss of the airport license, which gives them the right to pick up a fair at the airport.

So the issue really developed because the cabbies didn’t want to pay any price for forcing their customers to comply with the cabbies religous beliefs.

And yes, when people return to Minneapolis/St. Paul from cruises, etc. they often have multiple cardboard carriers of liquour bottles, which are well marked as to the brand contained within.
 
Written By: Loren
URL: http://
"asking Muslims to transport alcohol "is a violation of their faith" as well as of the spirit of the First Amendment."
""Muslims do not consume, carry, sell or buy alcohol." Islam also considers the saliva of dogs to be unclean, he said."

So I guess driving a truck, when the cargo contains alcohol, is a violation, too. Woring in a gas station or convenience store is a violation(big problem there). Stocking shelves in a grocery store or pharemacy is also a violation. A great deal of the medical profession is a violation. No wonder there are so many unemployed Muslims around the world. Perhaps the west is not the right place for devout Muslims to live.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Why do the cab companies hire drivers who refuse fares in the first place?
Indeed, seems to me the cab OWNER’S wishes should enter in here somewhere. The driver, generally speaking, is not the owner of the cab.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Indeed, seems to me the cab OWNER’S wishes should enter in here somewhere. The driver, generally speaking, is not the owner of the cab.
Not their problem Bithead. You go to a cab company, pay them X dollars per day for the use of the cab. You make more than that and it is yours. Make less than that and you lose $ that day. The cab owners rents out the cab at a price he KNOWS he will make money at.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
well, that depends on the arrangements, but your point is taken.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
My take is that IF there is an airport contract with the taxi company that grants ANY degree of exclusivity, the airport can and should demand that these particular exclusions (dogs and alcohol) be disallowed or terminate their contract and bring in another cab company.

Or, bring in other cab companies that will not inconvenience a fraction of the customers, and let the market sort it out.

The exclusivity is where I see the problem. It doesn’t bother me if one cabbie discriminates, as long as other cabs are there to take my business. But when only one cab company is allowed to serve me, and they won’t, there is a problem.

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Sneaky! This is the same issue as when the pharmacist didn’t want to sell morning after pills because of his religious beliefs. So the same answer applies now as it does then:

A state/city license is involved, so that means playing by the licenser’s rules. In this particular case, the cabbies have to man up and transport anyone who wants it.

Without the licensing issue, I’d say the cabbies could refuse fares to whoever. Just like any private person could refuse to serve Muslims in any way if they wanted it. It does cut both ways. Maybe it’s time to remind the muslims about that
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Tom,
Do you guys not travel or are you just throwing weak excuses out in an effort to justify discrimination?
Well I travel and I have never dealt with the duty free bag issue, so my guess is they just didn’t know just like me. Especially given that Omar has traveled quite a bit over the years from what I have read.

I have no problem with cabbies desire to discriminate (even if as Omar has pointed out it is based on dubious religious grounds as well) on the basis of alcohol or anything else. If there are unlimited easy to get licenses then I have no problem. Of course that isn’t the situation, so tough luck. If you want a career with a protected market then you have to deal with the terms of that protection which is universal service. If they were organizing a protest to allow open unlimited licensing in return for being allowed to discriminate I would support their efforts to the fullest.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Lance, my quibble was with these statements:

From Come on, please

But really: how do they know when someone is carrying alcohol?

From The Poet Omar:
I tend to agree with Come On, Please’s question which is:......But really: how do they know when someone is carrying alcohol?
I mean if someone is a drunken idiot, sloshing around booze, then yes it’s quite obvious what they are carrying, but your average tourist, just off a plane, has probably packed his or her liquor.
Wrong
As you probably know bags are checked before you are allowed in the area where the duty free liquor is sold. The alcohol is generally put in a duty free bag and carried aboard the aircraft as handcarry. It is generally carried off the aircraft, through Customs and INS and out to the taxi. The driver does not have to know what is in his luggage. He can see the duty free bag. So the comment about how the driver knows what is in the passangers bag is just a dodge.
I don’t know how to make it more clear.
As Loren noted:
And yes, when people return to Minneapolis/St. Paul from cruises, etc. they often have multiple cardboard carriers of liquour bottles, which are well marked as to the brand contained within.
The argument "how does the driver know what’s in the luggage is a non sequitur and because I believe that Omar is quite possibly well-traveled. Therefore I think his use of this argument is just an attempt to obfuscate and provide cover for the taxi drivers. One doesn’t have to partake of the duty free to notice all the duty free bags being carried aboard as you are seated.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
In all honesty, I’ve only travelled by air four or five times since 9/11. Most of my globetrotting days were prior to 1999. My recollection of where duty-free stores and the placement of other alcohol-selling stores in airports is, at best, imperfect (much like my knowledge of where the women’s restrooms in airports are; I don’t use them (alcohol or women’s restrooms), therefore I make no particular notice of them.

tom, I don’t agree with the cab drivers’ objections here on any kind of religious grounds. Quite the contrary, as I demonstrated above. I therefore have no particular reason to "obfuscate" as you put it regarding their actions or motivations. I do believe that cab drivers have no reason to ask their passengers what the contents of their luggage and/or personal baggage is.

From a purely theoretical point of view, yes I absolutely believe that as private business owners, they have the right to deny service to any customers whom they wish. The issue here isn’t theory, however, but actual real world business practice in a closed (non-free) market environment. As someone above pointed out, there is an artificially imposed limit on the number of taxi licenses issued. Those who accept such licenses are, therefore, under certain obligations to provide the services expected of general practicioners of the public transportation profession. As with the pharmacy example given above, in Libertarian land, where there is an absolute free market with no government regulation, you may absolutely act based on your conscience or religious morals when dispensing a necessary public service, as alternatives (competition) exists. In this case, however, no alternatives seem to exist; therefore failure to execute the duties ascribed to licensed taxi drivers seems not to be an option. Or rather it is an option if you wish to lose your license.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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