In the category of essays breaking down very simply a complex evolution in political philosophy, Kevin Williamson traces how a royal proclamation that, specifically, a ferry owner can be regulated because he crosses a public water way between his two private docks has (nearly) become license for bureaucrats to command a small-time baker to offer a specific product for a particular event:
From the regulation of public waterways comes the principle that a man may not grow wheat on his own farm for his own use without the king’s permission: The slope is, in fact, slippery.
The principle that private property takes on an unalterably public character whenever a chicken crosses the road is central to American civil-rights law — which, contrary to the account sometimes given by our Democrat friends, has a history that does not begin in 1964. …
It is not the case that discrimination is discrimination is discrimination. Telling a black man that he may not work in your bank because he is black is in reality a very different thing from telling a gay couple that you’d be happy to sell them cupcakes or cookies or pecan pies but you do not bake cakes for same-sex weddings — however much the principle of the thing may seem superficially similar. If the public sphere is infinite, then the private sphere does not exist, and neither does private life. Having a bakery with doors open to the public does not make your business, contra Justice Harlan, an agent of the state. A bakery is not the Commerce Department or the local public high school.
As Williamson notes, the slope is slippery, and it’s always some seemingly desirable principle that drags us farther down.