Political Harassment From Your Suppliers
By Pierre Lemieux
One reason why nominally private corporations become politicized must be to please the most insistent mobs as well as “the regulator”—that is, the feared governments that follow or inflame the same mobs. Otherwise, nearly every supplier’s incentive would be to serve all its customers equally and independently of their politics (except perhaps for small businesses serving very limited market segments). The happy situation is when your oil delivery man and your software manufacturer are blind to your physical and political color and only want your money.
In an article on “The Problems with Politicizing Corporations” in the just-published summer issue of Regulation, I mention some consequences of the current politicization of businesses. I quote a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Dave Seminara, a former ambassador (“What I Wouldn’t Give for a Shave That Isn’t Woke,” April 4, 2021):
When I look around my house, I see many products from woke companies that want me to know how strongly they disagree with me on pretty much every issue of the day. … It doesn’t seem like too much to ask that the businesses I patronize refrain from actively and loudly despising me.
Another example: By refusing to accept gunshops as customers, PayPal prevents all its individual customers from using its system to pay for guns or ammunition. I note:
PayPal certainly has—and should have—the right to prevent its customers from using their accounts to purchase guns or ammunition, a right protected (against government) by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. I would also defend the company’s right to discriminate against its customers who exercise their First Amendment rights. But I would recommend that PayPal’s executives read [Samuel] Brittan’s book as well as Milton Friedman’s 1962 Capitalism and Freedom to appreciate the importance of separating politics from the market. It’s urgent.
I further observe:
This politicization of business contributes to alienating a sizeable part of the American public from “the community.” This discrimination is not a recipe for social peace nor, of course, for liberty.
As I was reflecting on the present post and unlocking my computer, the Windows-10 Lock Screen Background that appeared (and is reproduced as the featured image of the post) showed luxuriant vegetation with the words:
Once known for its heavy industry, this place is now an example of how a city can…
I clicked the message and the rest appeared:
Get clean and green
Most Microsoft customers may like anything that is “clean and green.” If Microsoft had operated in the environment of my Catholic childhood, most of its customers would have preferred something “clean and pure.” In the old South, its customers would have preferred it “clean and white.” But whatever is Microsoft’s opinion (the opinion of its executives or even some of its shareholders), why does it feel allowed to propagandize it on its customers’ computer screens? What if I preferred that city when, instead of being “clean and green,” it welcomed the paper mill that manufactured inexpensive paper for poor school children? Cleanness and greenness are not the only things in life.
In this case, of course, despite my annoyance, the solution was simple: go to Settings – Lock Screen. I simply canceled (à la woke) this Windows feature and replaced it with an image of my own; for now, it is the Chisholm trail in Kansas with the ruts of the great cattle drives (for a detour by the Chisholm trail, see my “Cowboys and Entrepreneurs in the Cattle Kingdom,” Regulation 38:4 [Winter 2015-2016] pp. 67-71). But the constant political propaganda from our suppliers is often worse than that, generally naïve, and always inappropriate.
And yes, my Regulation article also talks (rapidly) about Facebook’s “community standards” and Twitter’s equivalent.