Daily Archives: March 12, 2012

Social Capitalism

I have struggled for two weeks to get this posting out. Even as I write, I cannot reconcile exactly where I should stand on the issue of supporting businesses that absolutely offend my sensibilities as a consumer. The genesis of this posting began when I read about all of the companies that pulled their advertising from the Rush Limbaugh Show. I am not here to defend or support what Rush Limbaugh said,  (he can do that himself), only that he has the right to say whatever he wants. What struck me as appalling was the speed and efficiency in which the left was able to mobilize to bring Rush down. We all know, or should know, the progressives have entire organizations dedicated to listening to conservative voices, waiting for the perfect moment to be offended so that they can snuff out free speech they disagree with.

I must say that I was quite awestruck by the fact that a minority of people, 20% liberal if we go by the latest Gallup survey I could find, could force companies into action despite the fact that 42% of Americans identify themselves as conservatives in that same poll. (Apparently 38% of the people have no idea what they believe in, will not take a stand and they’re called moderates.) With self-righteous indignation I was angered by the fact that companies like Carbonite and ProFlowers.com would acquiesce so quickly to such a small group of people and while I don’t have the purchasing demographics for these companies, I almost have to believe that there are more people purchasing their products and services on the recommendation from a Beck or a Limbaugh or a Levine than the left could ever muster up the support for. (Full disclosure: I tried Carbonite based on one of these recommendations – it didn’t work for me – and I give my wife a box of Sheri’s Berries, a subsidiary of Provide Service which owns ProFlowers, every year, again based on one of these recommendations.)

The original intent of this posting was to point out the fact that these 26 or 27 companies had made a choice. In the name of social Marxism, they would cave to this small but highly vocal group despite the fact that people that label themselves as conservatives are the actual majority of the population. I intended to point out the fact that they could get away with this because we, as conservatives wouldn’t do a damned thing about it. This was going to be a rallying call to all conservatives that believe in the free markets and our freedom of speech to get out there and vote with your purchasing power and call these companies up and let them know that you will not do business with a company that has zero regard for you and what you believe in. All I needed was a few days to think about the best way to articulate how we can make a real difference by supporting other businesses that care about all of their customers. We would take on the defense of our causes by employing the lefts’ tactics. Saul Alinsky would not be remembered if his tactics did not work. And then the wheels started falling off in my thinking….

I believe in capitalism. Not the crony-capitalism of the General Electric / General Motors variety, but true free market capitalism. And while I stand firm on what I’ve previously mentioned, I can’t say that I’m for using the progressive tactic of calling for boycotts every time I disagree with someone. (Note: To be fair, I just found out that some conservatives are also looking at the tactic in the research of this article.) I’m not even sure how effective boycotts are, when they’re actually implemented. Off of the top of my head I do not recall hearing of a boycott that was truly effective in hurting a business’s bottom line. But then again, it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of what a boycott can actually do when any group of fifty people can call, claim they were offended, threaten a boycott and meet their goal of suppressing freedom of speech in the name of tolerance. (Don’t spend too much time thinking about that last sentence; it’s mind numbing when you do.)

However I do believe in personal responsibility when it comes to making purchasing choices but even this has significant downside. I pride myself for the fact that I refuse to pay money to HBO because of what Bill Maher spews out about people – specifically conservative women and people of faith. He has the right to be on cable and say whatever he wants and I have the right not to support the company that supports him. It is hard for me to understand why anyone that calls themselves conservative would pay HBO for their services so that HBO can pay Bill Maher for his services so that Bill Maher can donate one million dollars to a progressive super-PAC. This is an easy case for me to make because there are several choices out there for watching movies and while I do have some movie channels, I rarely watch movies anyway.

What about products this author really likes? I’ll apply the same logic to ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s has some of the best flavors put in pints and they’re everywhere and easy to get. But according to an ABC News story, founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are giving money to the Resource Movement Group, a group designed to fund this year’s Occupy Wall Street protests. Their website openly supports everything I’m against. Using the same argument as delivered in the previous paragraph, every time I purchase a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I’m paying Ben and Jerry to support and advertise for the OWS movement. So much for “Pistachio Pistachio” and “Everything But The…”. The argument for voting with your wallet remains as sound as ever but the practical application of that argument can be very difficult when the purchasers’ choice is to accept a product of lesser quality. I apologize in advance to the fans of Haagen-Dazs. I made the switch but they’re really not the same.

I’ve “war gamed” these issues with several different people over the past couple of weeks and the conversations ranged from, “whatever we do doesn’t make a difference anyway” to “well, if you’re going to stop buying Ben and Jerry’s, you should stop buying Unilever products as well since they own them”. If this is the case, I’ll need more time to get rid of my Lipton iced tea. I really don’t know what the “answer” is. My next jeans purchase will not be Levi’s. My next pint of ice cream will not be Ben and Jerry’s. My wife will get something that’s not Sheri’s Berries next Valentines Day. But is it even possible to stop doing business with every single company that pulled their advertising from the Rush Limbaugh show to make the point that we are the majority and respect the freedom of ideas – even if we don’t always agree with those ideas?

20% of the population has figured out a way to set the agenda for the entire country. They set the tone and decide what the rest of the country is allowed to say and how they are to say it. I read somewhere that Vladimir Lenin was able kick off the Russian Revolution with 10% of the population. We might want to figure this one out.

Authors Note: In my research for this posting I read a little about the history of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. It is one of the greatest capitalism stories I have ever read all the way to the point that they even won the title of U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year, awarded by President Regan. And yet they support the anti-capitalist movement. Figure that one out.

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