Necessary Distinctions

I’ve spent a fair amount of time on this blog criticizing corporate interests–Big Oil, the Kochs, all the mega-corporations evading taxes by any means arguably lawful, and others of that ilk. But a recent story reminded me that markets often exert powerful pressure for good, and not just because competition tends to drive down prices and make goods and services affordable. The vast majority of businesses operate in competitive markets that reward good behavior as well as low prices.

A good example is the fight for equal rights for GLBT citizens. Business has been in the forefront of that fight.

The link in the first paragraph is to an article about Chik-fil-A, which is furiously backpedaling from the anti-gay remarks made last year by its founder and CEO. While it would be nice if that retreat was the result of some sort of moral epiphany, the truth is that it has been forced by the realities of the market. (As one consultant recently wrote,  “There are few more treacherous actions a CEO can take than to make derogatory comments about gay men and lesbians or to be publicly exposed for funding anti-gay causes.”)

Chick-fil-A’s socially conservative agenda, which formerly led the company to donate millions to charitable groups opposed to gay marriage, has been tempered. This, just as the company aims to quickly expand into Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Southern hospitality must give way to urban reality as the 1,800 store chain moves to compete with big city success stories like McDonald’s, Panera Bread and Chipotle.

Homophobia, racism, anti-Semetism and the like are bad for business. That lesson has been learned by hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, middle-managers and HR folks–and along the way, many of them have become true believers in the value of valuing diversity. Their advocacy, in turn, has moved the entire culture in a more inclusive direction.

For every asshole who is buying politicians and squirreling profits away in the Cayman Islands, there are twenty companies genuinely making America a better place–by treating GLBT people fairly, by becoming more environmentally conscious, by adopting local schools or supporting civic and charitable causes.

We need to rein in the bad actors, but we also need to appreciate the good guys. Even the guys who are only being good because that’s what the market rewards.


  1. Thanks SK. It has been kind of fun seeing the Repubs wetting themselves and getting all lathered up over the fact that Being a BIGOT is NOT OK in 2014. They are trying to spin this every which way.. Trying to make the Gay community the problem. Truth is that it is just not OK for the CEO to be a bigot. I never thought I would live to see this. YAY.

  2. Keep patting ouselves on the back for what appears to be making strides against the racists, bigots, anti-any-religion-not-the-GOP-version of Christianity but never lose sight of the fact that they still have all the money. They still have the right to pour billions of 1% dollars toward the purchase of politicians and maintain control of this country, given to them by the SCOTUS. They still have the right to prevent and/or purge votes and, in Florida, control the bladders of voters waiting in line to vote. This upcoming primary is vital because, if you remember, in the past the GOP crossed party lines to vote in primaries for the Democratic candidates they believed would be the easiest to beat come election day. “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” This holds true to prevent a repeat of the 2010 results when we lost control of this country to a Congress who voted 50 or more times to repeal the ACA rather than work to better conditions for all Americans. Follow the money!

  3. Do we know whether there were any negative financial consequences with Chick-fil-A or was he just persuaded that it was just smart business to back off? I was made to understand that his restaurants were packed with people who really didn’t care what his attitude was about LGBT.

  4. I would disagree slightly, not with what was said, but with what some people might take away from what is said. While true that it is bad business in some parts of the country to be a bigot, it is not true that the “invisible hand of the market” will always punish bigotry and therefore civil rights laws are superfluous. That is the Rand Paul argument, and it ignores the fact that bigotry was only bad for business when Chick-fil-A decided to expand out of the South and into big cities. Before that, bigotry was actually very good for their business, with people lining up in support of their hateful actions.

  5. It’s ugly business whether it’s Chik-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, or any other business that stands for racism and LGBT bashing. They should be about selling chicken or paint-by-number sets. Wrapping up in the flag, waving the Bible around, and proclaiming how holy they are is not about business. The word ‘Pharisee’ comes to mind. Personally, I drive right on past those types of establishments to take my business elsewhere.

  6. I believe that Papa John’s Pizza is also involved in these types of discrimination.

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