Chick-fil-A

I am open to hearing good arguments for why fast-food consumers like me should continue to eat at Chick-fil-A despite the offensive politics of its founder. This, however, is not a good argument, and it’s taking over my social media streams to the point I can’t help but point out its main flaw.

Here are a few lines from the piece. I’m plucking them from context because I want to show a thread that weaves throughout:

I’m flummoxed that so many consumers are so quick these days to call for boycotts of any company that deviates from their personal or political views.

But my bigger question is this: In a nation that’s as divided as ours is, do we really want our commercial lives and our political lives to be so wholly intermeshed? And is this really the kind of culture we want to create?

On both sides of our latest culture war divide, we must learn to have level-headed disagreements without resorting to accusations of hate speech and boycotts. As Josh Ozersky argued on TIME Thursday, “businesses should be judged by their products and their practices, not by their politics.”

I agree: I don’t care how my dry cleaner votes. I just want to know if he/she can press my Oxfords without burning my sleeves. I find no compelling reason to treat sandwiches differently than shirts.

The premise is that politics and economics are separate realms, and we are “creating a culture” of division by dragging politics into such things as economic transactions. One could hardly better encapsulate the reality we live under, where economics have completely replaced politics. That’s pretty much the definition of classical liberalism: true politics, where human values are disputed, are expected to be sublimated by economic transactions. The winner is the corporation, which can now reap the profits of a society where no human value is allowed to be more important than a business deal. (If you question that orthodoxy, you’re likely to be labeled a “radical” or a “partisan,” or better yet, just “too political.”) This ideology owes its entire existence to the need for capitalists to keep human values out of the way of the market. Above all, it must keep politics a dirty word, because people who know what politics are and how to use them can cause trouble for capitalists very quickly.

So, to Jonathan Merritt, I would start by pointing out that our commercial and our political lives are already completely intermeshed, because under the current regime we basically only have commercial lives. The only political power to be had in the United States is money, and even if you don’t have enough to make a corporation hurt, how you consume is one of the few expressions of political will open to the average citizen. They may not have enough money to shake the economy, and may not even when pooled with a large group of like-minded people. But a visceral awareness that money is politics is an excellent first step toward the average person realizing his or her political agency and taking responsibility for it.

If it baffles Merritt that people expect the corporations that live off their support to reflect their political views, it baffles me that a religious person would be admonishing people to submit to a system that works aggressively to suppress any realization that economic transactions have profound implications on human values. Even if the corporatization of our society is so complete that it is objectively impossible to avoid giving money to entities that are at that very moment working to undermine our political freedoms, every religious and ethically-minded institution should be urging those under its influence to be aware and resist wherever possible. You can agree or disagree with Chick-fil-A’s stance on the rights of gay citizens to get married, but you cannot pretend it is irrelevant.

In sum, you should absolutely be supporting corporations that put human values ahead of profit, and doing your best to keep your dollars away from ones that exploit workers and try to obstruct democracy, whether directly by stripping workers of their rights or indirectly by supporting the exclusionary social fantasies of religious reactionaries. The market-ideology-generators in the media will always be there to pooh-pooh genuine political efforts, to remind Americans how powerless their protests and boycotts are to stop the almighty economy. They will call you angry and partisan and disaffected and closed-minded and illiberal. Above all, remember that when they tell you to “keep politics out of it,” they are telling you to throw away your selfhood as a citizen. When they whiningly demand if really, you have to make even this little thing political? The answer is yes.

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About The Author

David Sessions

David Sessions is the founding editor of Patrol, and is currently a doctoral student in modern European history at Boston College. His writing has appeared in The Daily Beast, Newsweek, Jacobin, Slate and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter here.

  • Peter S.

    So a person like me who probably agrees with what are being represented as Chick-fil-A’s political views should make a point of spending more money there in order to add my voice to their supposed political statement? Or does it only apply when I am withholding my cash in order to punish them for not being progressive enough?

    • http://www.thethepoetry.com/ Stewart Kahn Lundy

      It should be both. I think this statement: “a visceral awareness that money is politics is an excellent first step toward the average person realizing his or her political agency and taking responsibility for it” means that it is both: both what you buy and what you do not buy have political consequences.

      Of course, the idea that you can consume your way out of consumerism is a bit foolish — that somehow, simply by only supporting “ethical” or “moral” companies you can transform capitalism into a moral system… not happening.

      Also, I don’t know why Chick-Fil-A’s treatment of animals isn’t being brought into this.

      • Peter S.

        Maybe because their treatment of animals could be (by contrast) a legitimate reason for not eating there.

        • wolf

          While I care about chickens, I care MUCH more about humans being treated badly!

  • http://mmckinniss.wordpress.com Mike

    You should be

    doing your best to keep your dollars away from ones that exploit workers and try to obstruct democracy.

    In other words, conduct no business with unions. Also, be sure to avoid businesses that block union entrance. Don’t forget to steer clear of large corporations; they’ve got too much to lose to keep their hands off the political process. And don’t frequent a mom & pop unless you’ve had the chance to interview mom & pop for their political stance. Best just to become a subsistence farmer and make your own clothes. Actually, scratch that. You’ll probably end up fighting yourself over your own political views.

  • toddh

    I think you’ve made some great points in the post, and I agree that we

    “should absolutely be supporting corporations that put human values ahead of profit, and doing your best to keep your dollars away from ones that exploit workers and try to obstruct democracy.”

    However, I think it matters if the practices of the company you are protesting match up with the products or services that the company provides. In other words, Chick-fil-a’s stance on gay marriage has nothing to do with the fast food products or service that you receive at their restaurants. More germane issues could be worker compensation and benefits or sourcing of ingredients for their products. So, I would say ‘yes,’ protest away, but for policies and practices that directly have to do with your consumption of their business products.

    • http://www.davidsessions.net/ David Sessions

      I think that’s a good qualification to add – well said.

    • wolf

      It has to do with them funding anti-gay groups and legislation to the tune of millions. I will make sure not one of those dollars used for that is mine. It is absolutely related, to me–their business is making money, which they in turn spend lavishly to harm other Americans. I’ve every right to refuse to fund that, whatever it is they are peddling to make that money.

  • Kyle

    Should political consumerism be a personal statement, or should I write a letter to every merchant every time I avoid spending money with them? If it’s only personally gratifying and they aren’t made aware of my political statement, won’t the merchant merely determine my lack of patronage as a missed demographic?

  • Scott

    Are Chik-Fil-A’s politics “offensive” because they disagree with yours? I mean, I vehemently disagree with them on gay marriage, but their opinions on the subject aren’t at all offensive. Why would they be? Is it imperative that opinions I disagree with are not just “different opinions” but also somehow offensive, wrong or simply EEEEEVIL? That’s absurd and immature.

    They find gay marriage to be unbiblical and, therefore, something that they wish to work against. I disagree with their position, but it is far from 100% certain to me that my position is the one that Christ himself would advocate.

    Wow, that much out of the first sentence. But, for the rest of your article, that’s fine. I believe that since Chik-Fil-A made a choice to go extremely public with their views and their money, it is perfectly acceptable (even commendable) for those who disagree with how they spend their money to not give them any more.

    Their biscuits are tasty. I don’t spend money at CFA because they aren’t in Oregon. That’s unacceptable.

    • Patrick Sawyer

      Scott,

      While you and I may be in different places with some of our politics, I found your comments refreshing, much like the ice cold lemonade I routinely get from my local Chick-fil-A. I hate it for you that Oregon is out of the loop. I’m in NC where they are prevalent. Next time I’m buying the best spicy chicken sandwich fast food has to offer, I’ll think of you. In fact, that will probably be tonight my friend. Cheers.

    • wolf

      ” I vehemently disagree with them on gay marriage, but their opinions on the subject aren’t at all offensive. Why would they be?”

      It isn’t the opinion that is offensive, it is the action–the money spent to restrict the rights of others.

      • Patrick Sawyer

        But marriage is not a “right”. It is a privilege if certain conditions are met. Marriage has been legally defined and codified within states. There are requirements that must be satisfied before the status of marriage can be granted and conferred.

        If a homosexual of legal age wanted to marry someone of the opposite sex who was not an immediate relative and was of legal age, yet he or she was barred from marrying, that would be a violation of rights. If one meets the requirements for marriage as legally defined and then is disallowed to marry, then (and only then) have rights been violated.

        It is important to note that this is an altogether different thing than anything related to the civil rights movement. To have a law that bars someone from something due to skin color or gender (sex, for my progressive friends) that would be evil and egregious because it would be act of discriminating based on genotype. Sexual orientation is NOT rooted in genotype. It is a fact that in cases where someone is gay and also a monozygotic twin, in those cases, the VAST MAJORITY OF TIME their monozygotic twin (same genetics) sibling is NOT gay. Sexual orientation is determined, ultimately, by factors outside of genotype.

        Moreover, heterosexuals are also restricted from marrying in a number of situations. In my state, I can’t marry my mom or my sister. I can’t marry a 12 yr. old. And even if I am sexually oriented to be with multiple women at the same time, I can’t marry multiple women at the same time.

        The folks at Chick-fil-A have not broken any laws. They are serving homosexuals and hiring homosexuals. It is also important to note that it is not a RIGHT to eat at Chick-fil-A. For instance you can (and will) be refused service if you walk in naked or fail to have enough money to pay for your order. Eating at Chick-fil-A is a privilege where certain conditions must be met. Sexual orientation is not one of those conditions. Homosexuals are not being discriminated against by Chick-fil-A.

        In addition, Chick-fil-A’s support of traditional marriage is in keeping with the law (a law that is not prejudiced towards genetic ontology). It is in keeping with those who respect the Bible on this point, which is 100s of millions of people. It is in keeping with the position of billions of people around the world. It is in keeping with the majority of Americans. And finally, it is in keeping with the majority of corporation shareholders and business owners in the U.S.

        Clearly, their position is not the one that is purblind or myopic.

        • Daniel

          Just because denying a gay couple the right to marry is legal, does not make it just. Gay people would have the right to marry (many such laws have been passed), except enough people with enough resources are fighting to prevent gay couples from gaining this right. This is a policy issue. Not really a legal issue.

  • Joshua Carden

    David, if you’re still looking for a reason “to continue eating there” after your analysis of Merritt’s article, then I wonder if you are buying your own analysis? Eat there/don’t eat there, as you choose, by putting your dollars towards companies with whose politics you agree. That’s what you’re saying right? Why look for reasons to keep eating there despite your disagreement? Chik-fil-a has made public a political bed made long ago, and will now have to see if the economics were worth it. The Mayor of Boston is in exactly the same boat – has he made a wise political decision? Time (and releection results) will tell. The only thing that truly bothers me about this story is that the idea that the Boston Mayor believes someone can or should be kept out of an economic market because of their politics. Sure Chik-fil-a is just a largely-faceless company (not counting the cows), but I’m sure there are plenty of privately owned partnerships and sole proprietors who may share Chik-fil-a’s views that need a license to operate in Boston. In your mind, is the mayor any less guilty in this scenario than Chik-fil-a? I.e. is he using “genuine political efforts” to make his point – or is he making fast food choices for all of Boston?

  • http://campuskritik.blogspot.com Malte

    My real problem with the Atlantic article is that it attempts to abstract from the real people the company’s politics affects, turning marriage equality into a mere ‘political issue’. Gay people aren’t an issue: they’re people. Chick-Fil-A is donating money to hurt people. That’s reason enough for a boycott – which may be financially ineffective but can create PR damage.

    • Scott

      “Gay people aren’t an issue: they’re people.”

      Absolutely.

      “Chick-Fil-A is donating money to hurt people.”

      You lost me here. Chik-fil-a MIGHT be donating money to hurt people, but they are probably just donating money to a cause that they believe is biblical and moral (and possibly even ethical). Perhaps they believe that allowing gay people to marry will hurt society as a whole and individuals as well.

      Again, they (probably) aren’t EEEEEVIL, they’re simply doing something that you disagree with. If you choose to “boycott” them in order to give them less money to donate to causes you disagree with, great. But demonizing people you disagree with is beneath the standards to which we as people should hold ourselves to.

      I mean, I guess they could be anti-gay marriage just to be jerks, but it seems like way too much money to toss around for spite.

      • DenguyFL

        Chick-Fil-A’s donations go directly to organizations that DO demonize gay people. Take a quick stroll through the Family Research Council and American Family Associations websites and their “justifications” for stances against equality. Gays are certainly demonised there. The WinShape Foundation (wholly funded by Chick-Fil-A) holds camps where they stress the superiority of straight people.

        I, for one, haven’t eaten at Chick-Fil-A since I first knew of their stance on equality nearly 20 years ago. I wouldn’t care if they didn’t use their profits to fund groups that actively and willfully seek to codify their bigotry.

        • Patrick Sawyer

          DenguyFL,

          Since (I assume) you wouldn’t want to be guilty of demonization and bigotry yourself, could you please give us your definition of what it means to “demonize gay people” and then give us specific examples where the Family Research Council and the American Family Association have done so? Thanks.

  • Rob

    Oh please. I realize you’ve recently read Carl Schmitt on the moral vacuity of liberalism, but this post is one of the most thoroughly impractical arguments I can imagine.

    If Mr. Cathy’s “politics” are so “offensive” that they merit the boycotting of his entire business, then it is utterly impossible to participate in the American economy without tarnishing oneself by supporting “offensive politics.”

    The food politics of every single company that sells food in every single one of my local grocery stores is deeply offensive to me (cf. Stewart re. cruelty to animals, above, as well as the general horror of industrial agriculture). So are the politics of every major clothier, restaurant, electronics company, etc. ad infinitum. And frankly, the politics of all these companies are far more dangerous and offensive than the private views of Mr. Cathy. At least his view, after all, is in the mainstream of American political discourse, and doesn’t do much tangible harm, regardless of how many millions of his personal fortune he tosses in that direction.

    But even if I propose to patronize only businesses and vendors whose politics I find to be agreeable or innocuous, I’m, as they say, SOL. I’ll be starving on the streets. Most of the local tavern owners around here are virulently partisan in a way that departs sharply from my own political preferences. The farmers market is full of vendors who are either fundamentalist Christian conservatives or naive Maoists. The universities are full of neoliberals and Marxists. So are the local schools. And the churches? Egads!

    My point is this: if you think Chik-Fil-A doesn’t “deserve” (y)our support simply because its founder opposes gay marriage–again, a fairly mainstream position that has nothing to do with his actual business practices–then you’d better plan on moving out of Brooklyn and becoming, quite literally, autonomously self-sufficient. I’ve heard Stewart is making some progress in that direction, so I suspect he has moral authority on this question that exceeds yours by a nearly infinite amount.

  • http://www.davidsessions.net/ David Sessions

    Rob, I wish you would learn to read what I write before you get on your high horse. (And by the way, the snobbery is truly suffocating.)

    For example: “Even if the corporatization of our society is so complete that it is objectively impossible to avoid giving money to entities that are at that very moment working to undermine our political freedoms, every religious and ethically-minded institution should be urging those under its influence to be aware and resist wherever possible.”

    It doesn’t get more practical than “wherever possible,” proposed with full awareness that it mostly isn’t possible.

    But then again if you had read what I wrote, you would have realized that it was not about the politics of Chick-fil-A, which I’ve said repeatedly are relatively unimportant in the universe of evil corporations. Neither it is about nickeling and diming the politics of every business/product we support. I’m directly taking on Merritt’s recommendation that people _ignore_ the political implications of their purchases, and pointing out the extraordinary political impact of taking that advice. As for which corporations we feel able to resist, that’s entirely up to each of us. But awareness at least is better than the ideological slumber Merritt is advocating.

    • Rob

      But that’s what’s so impractical! There is no bright line across which or metric by which to assess what companies are “evil” and which are not. By my standards, most are evil, as I noted. There are no companies that put “human values”–whatever those are–above profits. I can’t even fathom what companies you have in mind when you say something like that. Companies and businesses exist to make profits; they’re not charitable ventures, and as progressives are so wont to remind us, they cannot have a conscience, which faculty is proper only to human beings.

      If Chik-Fil-A supported, say, the internment of Jews or the summary execution of illegal immigrants with their profits, that might be a clear case where Sturm und Drang are warranted. But where’s the bright line between a company like Monsanto, which embodies the evils of industrial agriculture (which Heidegger compared to shoving persons into ovens) and Wal-Mart, which arguably treats its workers like wage slaves while undercutting local enterprises? If boycotting those companies were even remotely feasible, which should I choose? Both? Or what about the vendor at my farmer’s market whose truck is plastered with anti-Obama stickers, or the bar whose walls are papered with pro-choice paraphernalia, since personal opinions also count? Can I, in good conscience, patronize any company whose politics are “offensive” to me?

      Let’s face it: while it’s not quite accurate to say that either all companies are irredeemably evil worthy of boycott or none are, it’s pretty close. The only ethically/morally consistent way to do business is not to do business at all. In the meantime, all you’re saying is that it’s acceptable and even praiseworthy for individuals to boycott certain businesses for arbitrary reasons even though such boycotts won’t accomplish anything, and even though such individuals will still be supporting any number of other atrocious companies. That’s not really a meaningful contribution to the debate.

      In other words, your editorial is either vacuous or, as I said before, consummately impractical. Thought experiment: I grew up in a small, isolated Appalachian town where the only options for fried chicken (working from the Chik-fil-a motif here) were Kentucky Fried Chicken, D & J’s Diner, and the Wal-Mart deli. Kentucky Fried Chicken’s food sourcing and preparation practices are abominable, so that’s not an option. But Wal-Mart’s pre-prepared fried chicken is from, well, Wal-Mart, which is verboten for reasons already discussed. That leaves me with the local diner. But D&J’s, I’ll tell you, is greasy and, frankly, gross; they also allow smoking in direct contravention of state law, which makes eating there a nauseating, smelly experience. And they don’t change the grease in their fryers for two weeks at a time. So if I want fried chicken, I’ll have to make some–which will force me to procure raw chicken from Wal-Mart. See the problem? I can’t eat chicken in a morally acceptable way unless I raise my own. Or just suck it up and transact business as I please.

      Now extrapolate this scenario to every other commodity you could ever need: beverages, clothing, automobiles, tools, housing, etc. I repeat: there is no morally consistent way for you to spend your money in a way that is responsible and ethical on anything like a regular basis. You refuse to eat at Chik-Fil-A, but you still drink Pepsi, shop at Target, and drive a Prius? Well, good for you.

      So, David, where’s the line? I submit that there is none. It is never “possible” to participate in the modern capitalist/neoliberal economy as a consumer in a way that is not morally questionable. This is why Wendell Berry, among others, argues that the only option is non-participation and withdrawal. This is why Stewart, for example, is actually doing it. (And this is why my post is absent the snobbery of which you accuse me: I make no pretension to behaving as a morally praiseworthy consumer, because such a thing is oxymoronic).

      • Ram

        What a fatalistic bunch of crap.

        Yes, all transactions are inherently political, and that’s why we make arbitrary and/or pragmatic trade-offs about the economic decisions we make to try and impact the actions of the companies we patronize or don’t to whatever extent we can. Sure we can’t have absolute knowledge of all the political consequences of our choices, but that’s true for all of our decisions in life so we run off the the information we have and make the best decisions we can. But overall, it’s worth it to at least making an attempt at having a political voice even it doesn’t ultimately bring anything. Dignity is important.

      • wolf

        “If Chik-Fil-A supported, say, the internment of Jews or the summary execution of illegal immigrants with their profits, that might be a clear case where Sturm und Drang are warranted.”

        They DO support the execution of gays in Uganda. Isn’t that bad enough for you?
        Literally–they gave money to an org that lobbied Congress to NOT condemn a law establishing the death penalty for being gay.

        • Patrick Sawyer

          Wolf,

          For your above statement to mean anything meaningful, you need to show us many things. For starters: Proof that Chick-fil-A gave money to said organization. Tell us who the said organization is. Demonstrate that the ONLY possible reason to not support this “law” was to have gay people executed. Demonstrate that there are no other legitimate reasons to support the said organization. Demonstrate that Congress had no other things it was doing in connection with the condemnation of this law that Chick-fil-A did not find egregious or concerning. Demonstrate that Chick-fil-A’s support of the said organization was to specifically support the execution of gay people in Uganda.

          Wolf, you are not going to be able to do what I have listed above.

          If you actually think that Dan Cathy or anyone in leadership at Chick-fil-A supports the execution of gay people in Uganda for the simple reason that they are gay, you have disqualified yourself to be taken seriously in this discussion. I say this with sincere respect, you need to put down the Kool-Aid.

  • Rob

    In other words, David, in case it wasn’t clear: I know what you wrote, and I agree with you that it’s foolish to pretend that our economic transactions don’t contribute to and participate in various politco-ideological visions. That’s exactly my point: all of our purchases are political, even pathologically so. And that’s why your advice is supremely impractical, unless you’re willing to pursue your logic to its conclusion. Flipping off a line about “choosing” what companies you’re “able” to boycott, etc., is just, well, flippant.

  • Kyle

    David, I can appreciate the philosophy behind your article, that “awareness at least is better than the ideological slumber Merritt is advocating.” But if, “It doesn’t get more practical than ‘wherever possible,’ proposed with full awareness that it mostly isn’t possible.” That’s hardly convincing.

    If I avoid company A and support company B, I’ll probably find out later that company B is more politically offensive than company A. We, as consumers, simply do not have the resources to be sufficiently knowledgable.

    In your own words, the “corporatization of our society is so complete that it is objectively impossible.” How can we can rely on “every religious and ethically-minded institution” to keep us adequately informed? Those institutions are certainly not free of political bias. Even then, what about non-religious consumers?

    I just don’t see a compelling argument here for political consumerism. Only in the rare instance of two companies selling the same product/service for the same price could I see politics becoming a tie breaker, but never a primary factor.

  • http://www.chomsky.info Noam

    But that’s what’s so impractical! There is no bright line across which or metric by which to assess what blah blah. By my standards, most are blah, as I blah. There are no companies that put blah blah. I can’t even fathom what blah you have in mind when you say something like blah. Blah and blah exist to make blah blah blah, and as progressives are so blah to remind us, they cannot have a blah, blah blah.

    If Chik-Blah-A supported “insert Nazi reference” blah blah blah. But where’s the bright line between a company like Blah, which embodies the evils of industrial blah blah (which blah compared to shoving blah into blah) and Blah-Mart, which arguably treats its workers like blah blah while undercutting local enterprises? If boycotting those companies were even remotely feasible, which should I choose? Blah? Or what about Oblahma? Can I, in good conscience, patronize any company whose politics are “blah” to me?

    • Rob

      I assume this is some sort of response to my argument, but I have no idea what it means. Care to elaborate or, rather, articulate?

  • Brian

    By all means, don’t spend your money in a business that is opposed to your ideals. Just don’t use the government’s power to keep a business out by force of law to do your bidding and force your decision on others. That’s my beef (weak pun intended). And the money you earned to spend? Did it come from a corporation or business that may have imperfect people doing questionable things somewhere within the organization? Could there be a taint on the check you got last Friday? I’m not calling anyone out, but you do the best you can, stand up for what you think is right, accept that there’s a lot of gray, and that there is no practical way to perfectly earn or spend the money in an economy as broad as ours. A hermit subsistence farmer, perhaps, but nothing practical. Do your best, rely on grace.

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  • Greg

    I have been thinking this thru before I stumbled on this sight and it was an interesting give and take. I think Rob had one of the best presented arguments I have read in a long time. I enjoyed the give and take. There is one thing that puzzles me. As much as I appreciated Rob’s response and learned from it I am troubled. As I read thru all the responses, the one common them that came thru was that, well business is evil. Lets take each of you for example. What if you invented the finest software program on the face of the earth, and it took you years to produce, at a cost of millions. And you decided to sell it to help pay for the college classes it took to train you to develop the program. And there would also be oppertunity to help all the causes you deemed worthy(as you defined worthy). Now your program becomes so popular and grows so fast you have to hire people to help you. Would you do that or would you give it away, after all business is evil? Maybe you could give it to the state, I mean let them decide how it should best be used. You all seem to be morally upright. What do you do? If you sell it for millions, you could support the causes you personally believe in. I mean the poster boys for this kind of business’s are companies like Ben and Jerry.
    But lets look at a company that seems to be everyone’s wipping boy, Wal Mart. They give MILLIONS to charity. You can question their motives, but you dont really know what it is without knowing the people in charge. I not only do they give millions to charity, but I will bet you money that their giving is far more broad in scope than Ben and Jerry’s. I guess I get puzzled when people bad mouth business. They also employ thousands of people. Now one could argue their pay structure, but what would you replace it with? And how big is to big before in becomes evil? Should there be no business’s at all. Or is anything above a mom and pop store big business?
    While I believe Rob’s argument is the clearly the one that makes the most sence to me, I get the feeling that not only is business evil, but anti God’s intent. Am I missing something here”

    • Jon O.

      Well, Wal-mart gives millions to charity. They’ve also knowingly bankrupted a number of their supppliers. They go to absurd lengths to prevent unionization at any of their stores. They intentionally schedule workers for just under 40 hours so as to avoid having to provide benefits. They encourage workers to make as much use of public assistance programs as possible. I don’t think those charities put their ethical balance sheet in the black.

      I understand the notion that every company has skeletons in the closet, and so why bother with conspicuous consumption, but let’s be honest – that’s reductio ad absurdum. It makes the perfect the enemy of the good.

      The small scale of my individual buying choices means that even if I make a mistake in my original judgment, I can correct for it later. Just because Chipotle may turn out to be unethical later, that doesn’t make it a less ethical place to get lunch than KFC.

      • Greg

        Jon. Thanks, I appreciate you view. But some of the things you say arnt exactly accurate. You are just on Wal Mart because they are an easy target. That is your right, we all have companies that we try not to deal with. Mine is GE. Jeff Immelt is the key “jobs” guy for Obama and of the roughly 300000 people they employ, half are employed overseas. They have 40 some companies and paid 0, zero in income taxes. So guess what, I wont buy from them. But that is my choice, just as it is yours.
        But you talk about Wal Mart bankrupting suppliers. That is not the entire story. First there are very strict guidlines for getting a product put on Wal Mart shelves. First of which is that you must seek them out. And you have to be able to supply product on a very large scale. And if the product does not sell or people dont want it, what is Wal Mart supposed to do, keep it on the shelves out of kindness? People know going in that there is an inherent risk in putting product there. It is a “free” market system. Supply and demand. But the opposite is as true as well. Several companies (that employ ALOT of people) have become wealthy (which enables them to hire more people) as a result of putting items in Wal Mart. Your criticism could be used against any company, from Ross, to Target. To single out Wal Mart is non-sense. And by the way, in this economy, there are alot of people in my area that are grateful they have a job at Wal Mart. Do they do everything right, or course not, but do you?

        • Rob

          Greg,

          Thanks for your comments. I actually don’t think business–i.e., economic transactions–is prima facie evil. My point was that, if CFA is deserving of outrage and boycott simply because its leader maintains “offensive” beliefs, and contributes to causes in support of those beliefs, then no company is righteous, no not one. Why is CFA worthy of boycotts and the attendant media circus but not, as you note, GE or Bank of America? Why CFA and the owner of the local hunting supplies store who contributes to the NRA?

          The truth is that there is no good reason. The truth is that we pick arbitrary political or moral values from the entire constellation of possible values and then arbitrarily pick companies that support or oppose these values upon which to focus our hysteria.

          The truth is that, by David’s standards, every (large) company in the world is so steeped in “offensive politics” that one makes oneself look rather petty and silly–and, more to the point, inconsistent–in choosing CFA, of all places, to boycott while still washing one’s clothes in a GE appliance, driving a Toyota Prius (huge carbon footprint), eating at KFC instead of CFA (blah blah factory farming), and shopping at Target (banned Salvation Army from its doors). Or just fill in the blanks with the infinite alternative possible combinations of businesses. If you are a consumer, you are participating in the flawed and “offensive” political visions of any number of companies and corporations. CFA is the least of your worries if you find their politics morally problematic.

          • Jon

            Rob, just because the world is a complex place doesn’t give an excuse for inaction. As individuals, we are going to put different weights on ethical issues. So it makes sense that even though two people may agree on something, their moral calculus may lead them to different actions.

          • Greg

            Rob, I very much agree with you. I think my problem (and not with you) was the tone from many people regarding business. It seemed almost like an indictment of everything and everyone. As you alluded to, there is not a company out there that is lilly white. I am sure glad God and my wife and friends dont boycott me when I sin or do something they disagree with cause I would be living on an island.

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  • Thorfinnsson

    I resent Homintern shoving homosexuality acceptance down my throat, and therefore I will be dining at Chick-fil-A as often as possible.

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