Unethical Quote of the Week, Regarding the Most Unethical Idea of the Month: Prof. Herb Asher

“It might attract some customers. It might drive some away. If I were a businessperson, the first thing I’d ask: Is this a winner or a loser for me?”

—-Prof. Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political science professor, commenting on an initiative in Dayton, Ohio that will have participating businesses give discounts to Tea Party supporters.

Gee, Professor…I would think the first thing you’d ask would be, “Is this program ethical and civically responsible?”

Because it isn’t, you know. Oh, I’m sorry…that’s right, you don’t know, and that is why you said the first think you’d wonder is “What’s in it for me?”

It is crucial, in a diverse, pluralistic, open and democratic society, that the community provides goods and services on a fair and equal basis to all citizens, regardless of race, nationality, religion, age, gender, or political persuasion. Irresponsible and narrow-minded zealots on the Right and Left would divide the country into hostile camps, each believing the other is affirmatively and unequivocally bad, wrong, un-American, and unworthy of basic fairness, respect, kindness, courtesy, or civility. This vile program, in which businesses give favored treatment to customers whose political views they share, is a blind leap onto a slippery slope to social unrest and shattered communities. Lower movie ticket prices for pro-choice advocates. lower grocery prices for same-sex marriage advocates, lower gas prices for open-border supporters….or higher prices, depending on whom a business wants to reward or punish.

This is thoroughly unAmerican, as unAmerican as any other form of bigotry and intolerance. The only difference between the Dayton program and the practice of charging extra to blacks, Jews, Mexicans and gays is that the latter is illegal, as well as being despicable and wrong. The Dayton program is just despicable and wrong. Prof. Asher, however, just thinks it’s a business decision. Like the Dayton businesses that are participating in this exercise in ideological arrogance and political bullying, he sees no contradiction in trampling on core American values in order to support a grass-roots movement that purports to uphold them.

The companies willing to discriminate on the basis of political belief are wrong in principle, but if they truly think like Prof. Asher, it is the duty of all citizens in Dayton, not only including Tea Partiers but especially Tea Partiers, to make certain bigotry is not profitable in their city. They can do that by shopping in establishments owned by people who believe that all Americans should be provided equal access to commerce, which are not the companies listed below:

  • Anderson Mechanical Associates, LLC
  • B & K Heating, Inc.
  • Cool Solutions Heating & Air Conditioning
  • D.A.R.E. Automotive Specialists,Inc.
  • Essex & Associates, Inc.
  • Essex HR & Associates
  • Evans BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen
  • Flash Quick Copy, Inc.
  • G.L. Dart General Contracting/A-1 Roofing
  • Graphic Impact
  • Marketing Consultants
  • McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.
  • O’Learys Pub & Grub
  • Rich Roofing
  • Right at Home-Dayton
  • Ryan B. Walker CPA Inc.
  • Safeguard Print & Promo
  • Screen Works, Inc.
  • Susan Essex Realtor
  • Tea Party Payroll, LLC
  • The Accounting & Business Coach
  • The Bronze Salon Tanning

NOTE: It has been suggested that this program is similar to customer loyalty discounts. It is not. Anyone can qualify for a customer loyalty program. A discount based on political affiliation constitutes discrimination on the basis of sincerely held beliefs.

4 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week, Regarding the Most Unethical Idea of the Month: Prof. Herb Asher

  1. Jack,
    If the initiative wasn’t passed as part of some official municipal legislation which would give tax breaks or other incentives to businesses who applied the policy, I fail to see how it’s at all unethical.

    It may very well be bad business policy to engage in overt political favoritism (I likely wouldn’t shop at such a place), in which case they’ll suffer the appropriate losses. However, businesses aren’t obliged to service every potential customer or client, they do so out of necessity so as to stay in business. That said, they’re more than free to create or change any policy they see fit, and their customers will decide whether it was for the better.

    How is this any different than offering discounts to veterans, or AARP members? No one is forcing people to patron these businesses, and no one is forcing the owners to change their policy — so who’s being harmed?


  2. I think you know how it is different from giving a discount to a veteran or a senior: society has a shared ethics that recognizes a debt to the one and an an obligation to recognize the problems of the other: in both cases, its a demonstration of respect, not favoritism. The reason, I hope, the operation of a business would suffer if it favored on the basis of beliefs systems is that it’s wrong, and would be shunned.

    Whose being harmed? It violates Kant’s “What if everybody did it?” test. If every business did that, we could be in towns where you couldn’t get reasonably priced food or medicine if you were a Catholic, or an atheist, or a Red Sox fan, or a vegan, ….libertarian! If the only flower shop in town gives huge discounts–which are really just fair prices—to Christians, and your family is the only Islamic household in town, is that conducive to peace, justice and the American way?

    I know Rand Paul thinks this is swell, and it is certainly legal—just wrong.

    • Jack,
      We, as people, aren’t born with an unalienable right to “stuff.” Thus, business which provide goods and or services do so completely at their own discretion. As an extension, they should be allowed to serve (or not serve) anyone they so choose. Am I wrong?

      A policy whereby the sole florist in a community decided to provide fair pricing only to Christians would be decidedly bad (as he’d be limiting his/her potential market-share) and would likely fail as a result. The same holds true in regards to similar such policies at other business, but either way, its entirely up to the proprietor to decide for themselves which is, most definitely, the American way.

      Finally, the original initiative in question wasn’t designed to make participating vendors “Tea Party Only,” but rather offer added discounts and incentives to card-carrying members whose political ideals they agree with. How is this any different than the owner of a particular business donating a lump sum of money, or offering to give a percentage of sales to the Tea Party movement directly?


      • Yeah, I think you’re wrong. I think it’s unethical to discriminate among customers absent affirmative harm in the offing (dram shop laws). I think this one area where the law has been right to step in to stop discrimination, and that it’s not enough to let the market work: the fact that the bigot running the best restaurant in town will be run out of business eventually doesn’t help me impress my sate tonight.
        Charging less to favored customers is only charging more to disfavored ones looke at from the other side—a distinction without a difference.

        Again, as with so much that’s unethical and bad for everyone, this program is legal, and they have a right to do it, but I would support an initiative to make it illegal, just as it should be illegal to refuse to sell birth control pills to single women. It’s wrong, and there isn’t one single thing I can think of that’s good about it. It promotes social and political division, and validates an inherently unfair practice.

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