As you can see from the sign above, the I Love Drilling Juice and Smoothie Bar in Vernal, Utah, owned and operated by a local pro-oil and gas activist George Burnett, charges liberals an extra dollar for its fare. The smug owner then donates the proceeds from his partisan surtax to the Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations.
I hate to pop Mr. Burnett’s self-satisfied balloon, but his stunt is unethical and profoundly un-American. The former is best illustrated by the scheme’s obvious failure to satisfy Kant’s Rule of Universality, a.k.a. the “What if everybody did this?” test. If every business discriminated on the basis of political and ideological belief, daily life would be unbearably complicated, contentious, and nasty, with all communities broken into exclusive, inconvenient and hostile camps. The practice of making people pay extra for basic goods and services according to whether their politics are Blue or Red is also hostile to basic American principles of respectful diversity, open minds, and civil discourse. Yes, Burnett’s liberal tax is legal and constitutional. But it is unfair, and violates the principle, if not the letter, of equal treatment for all. Punishing citizens for their beliefs is bullying, whether the culprit is a city mayor who wants to ban a business because its owner opposes gay marriage, or an arrogant activist who wants to make anyone who disagrees with “drill baby drill!” to have to pay more for smoothies.
It’s unnecessary to expend much energy tracing the roots of Burnett’s misguided assault on independent thought. Obviously it springs from the irresponsible tendency of both political parties and the various media voices that support them to demonize and denigrate any one holding opposing views. The fact that our sick political culture is moving in the direction of intolerance and polarization, however, does not excuse Burnett from piling on and making things even worse. Conservative smoothie-consumer Corey Peterson told a Utah TV station,
“For him to do this kind of puts a face out there on people who are, in my opinion, in the wrong. ‘In the wrong’ being liberals. To see them being charged a little bit more, it makes me happy.”
Yeah Cory, and I hope you’re similarly happy when you have to pay a “conservative surtax” when you go to a restaurant in San Francisco.
I like smoothies, I think more drilling is a good idea, and I detest boycotts on principle. I’d boycott Mr. Burnett’s vile establishment. I think any American who believes in free expression, mutual respect and productive civic dialogue should boycott it too. What he is doing is dangerous, for reasons that have nothing to do with his political beliefs. If Americans begin punishing each other for having different views, democracy is done for.
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