Black Friday Ethics: Holiday Capitalism Hate In The Media

Thanksgiving shopper. How DARE they?

Thanksgiving shopper. How DARE they?

Left-leaning media and pundits are so biased against corporate America and the profit motive that they will concoct ridiculous theories of wrong-doing just to bombard the ears of listeners with accusations about how cruel, crass and greedy the nation’s employers and retailers are. There is no ethical basis on which to criticize Walmart, Target, Macy’s or any of the retailers who chose to lure shoppers this year by “Black Friday” sales that reached into Thanksgiving. None. 

Yet sitting in my Baltimore hotel–meanly open for business over Thanksgiving because the Scrooge-like owners were determined to wreck the family gatherings of their employees in order to make their filthy profit—while waiting to join my extended family at a downtown restaurant (that outrageously chose to ruin its employees’ Thanksgiving by staying open to make a few more stinking dollars), to which we were delivered by a taxi—driven by a beleaguered and exploited cab driver forced by our needs to neglect his family so we could dine with ours—I watched angry TV pundit after pundit condemning these stores and consumers (for taking advantage of the hypnotic sales)…even though the complaining pundits were working on Thanksgiving, and their networks were operating on Thanksgiving, in many cases happily and enthusiastically broadcasting football games (that are normally played on Sundays) intentionally scheduled on Thanksgiving, forcing players, coaches, concessionaires, refs, cameramen and announcers to miss Thanksgiving dinner.*

But what does consistency matter when there is a chance to take cheap shots at capitalism?

When these enraged dictators of acceptable economic activity (guess which political party they embrace?) were challenged with the fact that many, many businesses and service providers have operated on Thanksgiving for decades without any complaints, the best retort they could come up with was “Yeah, but it’s always been that way.” This, of course, is a rarely seen variation of the invalid “Everybody does it” rationalization: the same conduct that is unethical for a new participant is ethical for others since they have been doing it for a long time. This is a rationalized “grandfather clause” for ethics. It, like the other aspects of the “Black Thanksgiving” critics’ lament, is neither ethically coherent, logical nor fair.

The next shoe to drop will be the suggestion that the government prohibit merchants from making money on Thanksgiving. Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island actually do this, harkening back to those states’ “Blue Laws,” of times past, which similarly expressed their disapproval of any business daring to give citizens a choice by staying open on Sundays. Such legislation is absurd and paternalistic. Consider:

  • The nation is still struggling with high unemployment, yet the critics condemn retailers for employing workers.
  • Many of the same pundits who criticize  “Black Thanksgiving” routinely attack businesses for laying off employees, as if the extra income generated by these sales won’t help make such lay-offs unnecessary.
  • Millions of Americans want to shop, as indicated by the fact that millions of Americans DID shop yesterday, yet critics are so contemptuous of commerce that they find the fulfilling of consumer wants and needs wrongful conduct.
  • Retailers who make working on Thanksgiving voluntary report that there are usually more employees who want to work (at higher holiday rates) than they can accommodate.

Me, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Target or Macy’s at any point this week—but I’m glad I have a choice, glad my neighbors have a choice, and happy that more money is being injected into the economy because they have that choice. I also think that when pundits’ reflex contempt for free enterprise makes them spout complaints this irrational and unfair, it is time they examined their underlying beliefs.

Bias is making you stupid, guys, as it usually will

* I know. Long sentence. 153 words! This is, in fact, the longest sentence ever to appear on Ethics Alarms. Never mind: I like it. ( Bite me, Hemingway.)


Source: Mail Online

10 thoughts on “Black Friday Ethics: Holiday Capitalism Hate In The Media

  1. Target. And I have a choice. And others have a choice. And pundits foam at the mouth. My choice. Death.

    And Hemingway bites you back. 🙂

  2. I’ll say it again (although for the first time on Ethics Alarms):

    The Free Market, especially in a Commercial Republic *like ours* is INHERENTLY fair. There will be outliers in the system, who allow self-interest (a good thing) to out-prioritize other aspects of their life, leading to what we would term “excessive greed”. Those outliers will make the system look bad. BUT, those outliers would exist in EVERY system…socialist, mutualist, communist, corporatist, fascist, nationalist, and other collectivist constructs. At least in a Free Market system, those outliers can be adjusted for and ultimately achieve failure (without bloodshed). Unlike the other systems I listed, where inevitably the outliers end up in political power and can’t be gotten rid of peacefully.

  3. I would be upset if I was ‘forced’ to work on Thanksgiving.
    I would be doubly upset if I was missing a big family gathering because of it.
    That being said, many of us who work in the Health Sciences do routinely work for a few hours on every holiday, Saturday and Sunday.
    We take turns with other employees so it’s not the same person working every Christmas (or whatever).
    It is something that is understood ahead of time and a matter that you would sort out with your employer and co-workers.

    I don’t work directly with patients anymore so I have more flexibility, but keep in mind that hospital doctors, nurses, techs and so on are likely working 12 hour shifts (or more) on holidays.
    I just wonder why no one thinks of us when they complain about people working holidays.
    My guess is because they don’t actually care about people who are working holidays.

  4. I blogged about this too, and my take was almost exactly the same as yours. Between civil servants, care-giving institutions, transportation and hospitality workers, and businesses that supply the Thanksgiving celebration itself, there are already millions of people working on Thanksgiving. But the chattering class is only freaked out about parts of the retail sector because “Ick! Consumerism!” or something.

  5. When the workers were hired, was it an agreed part of their contract that they would work Thanksgiving? If not, there is an ethical argument against making Thanksgiving a work day. Newscaster and professional football players all knew they would work Thanksgiving when they took their jobs.

    I’m not sure why “capitalism” and “left” lead your post. If the question of Thanksgiving work is to be approached from the point of view of what’s conservative, then allowing retail employees a day off on Thanksgiving is like wearing a jacket and tie to dinner at Harvard. It shows respect and dignity to continue honoring a traditional national holiday.

    Blue laws were, I believe, motivated by conservatism, specifically religious conservatism.

    I personally lean toward libertarian ethics and think that law and ethics should allow economic acts between consenting adults on Thanksgiving. In addition, speaking freely to disagree with that idea is also a valuable thing, unless it is somehow unethical to criticize libertarianism.

    A better criticism of the critics is that they’re failing to honor the country’s increasing diversity. They’re not allowing for the many people who don’t observe Thanksgiving.

    • 1. Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday, and the three states that restrict economic activity on Thanksgiving are very, very liberal (Mass and RI) and moderately so.

      2. I don’t know what kind of contract you think employees at will sign, but the general terms are “when we’re open, you work.” They typically discuss when over-time and holiday rates apply. You are shifting from ethics to law—dirty pool. Obviously, if the requirement to work on a holiday breached the contract, that’s unethical. Nobody is alleging that, and that’s not the basis of the criticism I was discussing.

      3. Why did anti-capitalism bias lead the post ? Because, in case you haven’t noticed, Big Box retailers have been targets of unions and the left since they started, and this was the focus of most of the Black Thanksgiving bitching, except for those like Ashleigh Banfield , who repeatedly sneered at the entire sales phenomenon.

      4. Yes, conservative voices could be found declaiming the loss of the tradition of one universal national day of rest and thanks. And yes, that is conservatism at its worst, presuming a national norm that doesn’t exist, doesn’t need to exist and may never have existed, as well as presuming there’s anything wrong with it going the way of the dodo.

      5. There’s no such thing as “libertarian ethics.” Libertarianism is a theory of law and politics. Like all such theories, it aligns ethical principles in a particular hierarchy.

      6. The criticism of the critics is that there is nothing whatsoever wrong or hurtful with the conduct they are criticizing, and that it is based on bias, not reason. And anyone paying attention to who is doing most of the objecting will admit that not respecting diversity is the last thing on their minds.

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