Business Ethics: Tales Of Two Partisan Dunces

grocery Discount

1. The Trump Supporter: Jose Colon, owner of the Fresh Food Supermarket in Oakdale, New York,

Mr. Colon, a legal immigrant  from the Dominican Republic and a naturalized citizen, advertised a discount for supporters of President Trump on the store’s Facebook page last week.

“Trump supporters get 20% off.  Mention at the cash register you are a Trump supporter to get discount. (Excludes beer),” it read, as you can see above.

The store was immediately inundated with threats and social media posts advocating a boycott. Colon says he’s puzzled. .“We’re supposed to live in a free country,” Colon told Fox News. “This is weird. It’s crazy…We live in a free country where we support democracy, where we can go both ways, we can support left, right — whatever you want. I decided to vote and support the best interest, I believe, for this country.”

He has responded by offering the same discount to Biden supporters, and is claiming that this was his intent all along, though he is a vocal supporter of the President.

Let me try to explain what this particular citizen doesn’t seem to understand about his free country. It’s not going to remain free if people and businesses withhold goods and services from citizens based on their political beliefs, just as it is destructive to discriminate based on other criteria. If you want to break the nation into armed camps, having special restaurants, bars, grocery stores and movie theaters restricted to those of certain political persuasions is an excellent way to do it. What Colon did was well-intentioned, but un-American. He deserved the blowback, though the social media messages quotes don’t demonstrate any more civic comprehension than the grocery store owner seems to posess: what’s wrong with the discount isn’t that “Orange Man Bad,” but that it is unethical  for businesses to reward customers for their political views, which is the same as penalizing other customers for their political views. What does Colon think he’s doing? Buying votes with his discount?

I wouldn’t organize a boycott against a store that did this, but I wouldn’t buy groceries there again.

Then Colon’s solution to this dilemma of his own making was to offer the same discount to Biden supporters, discriminating against those who want to vote for the Libertarian or Green Party candidates, or Kanye West. Or me. Wrong. This flunks the Golden Rule test, Kant’s Universality test, and simple utilitarianism. In short, it’s unethical, and there is no ethical or civic defense for what he did. To be fair, the conservative news sources I’ve checked on this story, like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, don’t seem to comprehend the problem any more than Colon does.

Meanwhile, does anyone believe that Colon always intended to offer a 20% discount to both Trump and Biden supporters as he now says? This is another reason for amateurs to stay out of politics: the pros lie better.

Well, usually.

2. The Biden Supporter: David Barrett, CEO of the software company Expensify.

Apparently in the throes of Trump Derangement, Barrett assumed it was a legitimate use of his company’s customer contact data to send an email promoting Joe Biden to everyone on the list. It’s hard to read Barrett’s screed in the jpeg below,


….so you can also read it here.

The thing is stuffed with Trump-Hate talking points, and it isn’t worth the time and effort to rebut his arguments (but boy am I sick of hearing from Democrats about how the President is a “threat to democracy,” when they have done more damage to democratic institutions in four years while trying to destroy the President than either party had done in the previous hundred, and are openly preparing to do more), nor is it relevant. As with grocery stores, universities, news organizations and major league baseball teams, tech companies must not abuse their business relationships to push political agendas, and if they do, they should suffer for it. In his email, Barrett tried to justify his unsolicited political pimping:

Biden email

Bad answer. To be clear, customers not only don’t need to listen, they don’t need to find this crap in their inboxes. Sending mass political email to commercial lists without permission is unethical, and in some cases illegal. The First Amendment does not give Barrett a right to use company data to advance his own political beliefs: if a captive and submissive board approved this abuse of customer trust, it, and he, deserve all the antipathy that is coming their way. Barrett has a right as a private citizen to advocate whatever he wants; using his company as a promotional platform is unfair, disrespectful and irresponsible, and, I will add, his tone is pompous and self-righteous. Again, I will not delve into his bias and ignorance, but if you want to advertise that a company you depend on is run by a fool, this is a fine way to do it.

I’m happy to be able to report that many of his clients are dropping Expensify in response to this egregious behavior, and this arrogant overreach is likely to cost Exepensify dearly. One CEO eloquently explained to Barrett, or tried to, where his email crossed ethical lines:

Response letter



Pointers: Jeff and Matthew B.

22 thoughts on “Business Ethics: Tales Of Two Partisan Dunces

  1. Such abuses of the First Amendment, as exemplified by Rothschild’s letter of refute (i.e., hate speech), must NOT be allowed to exist unchallenged. Unfortunately, his signature information brought the George Mason University into the mix. Those politicalized forces about which he so correctly lamented are about to fall on him like a ton of bricks. Unless the administrators at GMU demonstrate that they possess spines, I put the over/under until he is forced to “apologize” or resign at 3 ½ days.

  2. Colon was absolutely wrong, but his influence is very limited. He’s also one person making a less than wonderful business decision, who’s going to pay for it pretty quickly.

    Barrett wasn’t doing it on his own. If you research further, you’ll see that apparently a company-wide vote was taken on the email and he solicited input from employees. Essentially that whole company has decided to take a stand on this election, and its employees feel strongly enough that they need to tell everyone else get out there and do your part to get this orange Mussolini wannabe out of the White House. It’s basically Penzey’s Spices gone high-tech. Do business with them, and you know what you’re getting into.

    What’s more, if you look around, yes, you’ll see a lot of folks making the points you make, which have merit. You’ll also see a lot of folks dropping this company, which is only one such company available. However, you’ll also see a lot of folks picking them up and a LOT of encouragement. A lot of folks buy into the idea that this is an existential election, you don’t get to sit this one out, you don’t get to stay neutral, and only an affirmative vote for Biden will do. Voting write-in or not voting at all, they say, is a de facto vote for Trump, and a vote for Trump is a vote for racism yada yada yada. There is no discussion because there is no other side to this discussion. This needs to be not just a Biden WIN, but a Biden BLOWOUT like Reagan/Mondale 1984. No, it needs to be BIGGER, because even then Reagan only won just under 59% of the popular vote. This needs to be 67% or more, a ringing repudiation of Trump and everything he stands for.

    If you asked me, though, I find this action unethical. I find the excusing or open support of it and the mentality behind that scary. In its history the United States has faced grave threats from without probably about a half dozen times (the War of 1812, the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the social disjunction of the Vietnam/Civil Rights era, and the War on Terror) and truly existential threats from without only three times (the Revolution, the Civil War, and the Cold War). Only twice have there been, at least in this armchair historian’s opinion, existential threats from within. One was the dangerous combination of slavery and states’ rights being paramount, that not only led ultimately to the Civil War, but led at least twice more to this country almost tearing itself apart before then. The other was the Red Scare and McCarthyism, that stoked paranoia and came close to destroying our freedoms to defend them.

    Only a few times in all of these times have there been widespread beliefs or views that there was only one side to the discussion, and that anyone not on that side was an idiotic flat earther or a heretical blasphemer. In World War II FDR talked about “rising as one man” and mistreated Japanese Americans on the mainland (and initially German and Italian Americans, although that ended fast), but he never said you are with the allied cause or you are with the Nazis. George W. Bush actually said “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists” in his earthshaking address to a joint session of Congress that kicked off the War on Terror and announced the greatest governmental reorganization since 1947, and many lambasted him for such simplistic (and arguably jingoistic) language, that effectively called libertarians, pacifists, and others instant enemies. Lincoln shipped one Copperhead (peace democrat who opposed the Civil War), historical footnote Clement Vallandigham, off to the Confederacy while the US was fighting for its life in the Civil War, and never once said anyone who opposed the war was a traitor.

    It was during the ideological battle that led up to the Civil War that people were forced to choose ideological sides, risking ostracism (and, in the case of those who ran into people like John Brown, worse) if they chose the wrong one, and during the Cold War that individuals were forced to denounce the Communist Party on pain of being declared enemies. Both times people really believed that those with different views were enemies who deserved no mercy and no recognition.

    I’m not going to repeat all the anti-Trumpist canards about racism, xenophobia, everything is terrible, etc. Jack’s done a very good job of that. However, I will point out that they, and the crazy behavior associated with them, have been around since November 9, 2016. It wasn’t even 24 hours before we began to hear them, and not much more than that before cyberspace was flooded with declarations to the effect that “if you voted for Trump, you’re dead to me.” The mistake was thinking that this was just venting after a shocking election result and disappointment that what a lot of people thought was a sure thing hadn’t materialized, and eventually we’d all shake hands and move on as a country. The unthinking hatred and anger never stopped, and it never really even let up. Over 20 removal plans, a dozen big lies, one impeachment, a lot of riots, the turbocharging of BLM, and more anger, hate, and certitude than could fill the Pacific Ocean if it was water later, and it should come as no surprise that those who opposed the President from the get-go and now smell victory believe they have been absolutely right all along, and, once they win this victory, intend to not just grind it into the faces of those who opposed them (Ha! Ha! We won! You lost! Suck it!), but punish those who stood in the way of this righteous movement and make damn sure that NOTHING like Trump can ever happen again. Obama said once that the GOP drove the car into the ditch, and now it has to ride in the back, it doesn’t get to drive. Biden, and his nothing-else-will-do supporters, like Barrett, are saying that those who didn’t actively support them have the blood of every victim of COVID and every victim of racism, the pain of every rape and harassment victim and the tears of every mistreated refugee on their hands. Not only do they not get to drive, they should get down on their knees and thank whatever they believe in that this blue wave doesn’t put them against a wall and shoot them…yet.

    • Steve-O, the opinion piece by Leonard Pitts in this morning’s Houston Chronicle validates just about everything you say (and imply) in your concluding four sentences above.

      Pitts will not be forgetting or forgiving. He sees the coming months and years, under the Biden regime he expects, as the golden opportunity for a new banana plutocracy to, once and for all and forever, hold Trump and anyone and everyone who ever showed the slightest positive sentiment toward Trump, or agreement with Trump, “accountable.” Of course, it requires a rather unaccountable government to take care of such business. But also of course, what other kind of government is there, for Democrats, than an unaccountable one? I hope Pitts re-thinks and backpedals at least a little bit about the mass incarceration he is explicitly advocating. Governments tend to make themselves accountable in mysterious ways, especially when they try too hard to make themselves unaccountable. Nice government you expect there, Pitts. It would be a shame if it was incompetent in any way.

      • For follow-up: one stand-up comic’s “Exhibit A” of California Governor Newsom to illustrate the “Pittsville” our country is on the brink of becoming:

      • You mean this borderline threat?

        Let’s take this apart:

        You did not stand up.

        Granted, America faced neither enemy bombers nor terrorist plot, but the threat to her was — still is — no less real. Your country needed you.

        And you did not stand up.

        – This is your opinion. This is not fact. Some of us would say it was you who did not stand up, as in stand up and NOT run the second most hated candidate of all time, with more baggage than the Pennsylvanian, or at least run a fair primary with more than just a few tomato can opponents. As in running a damn primary, not a coronation. As in finding, somewhere among 16 damn candidates, one who was not crazy, not near 80, not cognitively impaired. As in not setting up one of the least popular from that bunch to be a heartbeat away from someone who will be over 80 at the end of his first term.

        You told yourself party was more important. You told yourself the courts were more important. You told yourself tax cuts were more important. And you convinced yourself you could put up with his bluster and bullying, with his lies, his hatefulness, his bungling, his complete unfitness, if that was the price those things demanded. You could keep your head down, nod a lot, say as little as possible and, when pressed, pretend to believe the unbelievable, support the insupportable, find no offense in the blatantly offensive.

        – I’m glad you can read minds. No you can’t, no one has that power. Maybe you’re getting warm, though. Party should NOT trump country, true. However, when has it NOT been about party for you? When your Attorney General thumbed his nose at Congress? When your IRS hobbled groups that didn’t agree with you? Or when your House made up these half-baked impeachment charges that were nowhere and that you knew were going nowhere? The courts? Right now we have two conservative justices, soon to be three, confirmed to the SCOTUS, and more than 200 others confirmed to the other Federal courts. The alternative was to have that many liberal justices and judges, solidifying a liberal stranglehold on the courts for generations and endangering rights we see as important. You set this situation up when you killed the filibuster, ensuring that, rather than 41 Senators being able to make sure an appointment was fully vetted and discussed and not too extreme, 51 Senators could could make certain an appointment sailed through, few questions asked. Tax cuts? Is there something wrong with the idea that ordinary Americans should be allowed to keep a little more of the money they make? Lies? From the party that defended a perjurer? Hatefulness? From the party that backs destruction of cities by black supremacists? Bungling? From the party that gave us the clueless, feckless failure that was Obama? Complete unfitness? From the party running a senile old man bordering on incompetent? Just WHO is it who believed the unbelievable, supported the indefensible, and found no offense in the offensive?

        Your country needed you. You did not stand up.

        – Yes, you said that. Contrary to what you folks think when you have C-list actors make those videos with tinkly piano music and stark white backgrounds, saying something twice does not make it twice as right.

        Now here we are, just days before the election, and your president, the man you Republicans clung to like Jack and Rose on the stern of Titanic, seems poised to do what Titanic did. No one old enough to remember the airless shock of election night 2016 is taking anything for granted, mind you. On the other hand, one would much rather have Joe Biden’s polling numbers right now than Donald Trump’s.
        Many of you seem to agree. Lately, one can hardly open a paper or go online without seeing one of you edging carefully away from the man to whom you once stuck like Velcro. There’s Sen. John Cornyn comparing his fealty to Trump to a woman who marries a bad man, thinking she can change him. There’s Sen. Ben Sasse criticizing Trump for cozying up to dictators and white supremacists. There’s Sen. Martha McSally bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali when asked if she’s proud of supporting Trump. And so on.

        – You mean like you clung to an adulterer and a perjurer? Or to his enabler? Or to an incompetent whose chief selling point was his color? Or how you’re clinging to a man whose grip on reality is slipping every day? You may well be right, although, as you point out, take nothing for granted. I’d also remind you that Hillary’s numbers looked just as good, and you’ve given those who voted for Trump no reason to change their minds, and MANY reasons to keep their mouths shut, including to pollsters. Last time you guys were just writing nasty tweets. Now you’re sending black-masked thugs to beat up those who don’t agree with you and burn their houses and shops. Three Senators fighting tough races their own way because you are throwing mud at them doesn’t mean the whole party’s coming apart. BTW, do I need to mention how your man Gore threw Billy Boy under the bus in 2000?

        Well, to all of you — lawmakers, administration officials, party hacks and other assorted enablers — who have tardily discovered that Trump is a disaster that walks like a man, we have something to say. That’s not the editorial we, by the way. It is, rather, the we of those Americans who watched in apoplectic dismay as our country — its norms, its values, its virtues, its verities and its laws — came under attack while you failed to stand up.

        – Oh, cut the lofty rhetoric and lose the lecturing attitude. A few of us watched this country go the wrong way too, and you didn’t want to hear us then. What makes you think it’s any different when the shoe is on the other foot?

        I suspect I speak for more than a few of them when I say that your 11th-hour attempts to put distance between you and Trump do not fool us. As far as we’re concerned, the stink of what you did — what you failed to do — will follow you the rest of your days. May it make you less employable. May it haunt you at sidewalk cafes. May your kids ask you about it. And for any of you who broke the law — up to and including Trump himself — may there be prosecution to the fullest extent.

        – You suspect? What you suspect other folks think means nothing. And what is this rhetoric? Are you pronouncing a curse on those who don’t agree with you? Wishing failure, harassment and family issues on someone you don’t agree with, because they didn’t vote the way you wanted, or do your dirty work for you, is the height of arrogance, bullying, and juvenilia. Wishing criminal prosecution on others is dangerous, but, I’ll tell you what, if you believe you have information that forms the basis for a criminal prosecution, you are free to walk to the nearest U.S. Attorney’s office and ask that one be brought.

        Maybe that sounds vindictive. America is, after all, a nation of second chances. Mike Tyson went from a rape conviction to Hollywood movies. Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton went from scandal-tainted punchlines to respected party elders. And the argument will inevitably be made that we ought not dwell in the past, that we need to move on.

        – Ya think that really sounds vindictive? I dunno…

        To which, we say: not this time. Redemption is a fine thing. Moving on is, too.

        – Oh, I’m hanging my head and shaking in my boots.

        But sometimes, you need accountability. Not simply as a salve for what is wounded in us now, but also as a warning to those who would wound us in the future. Maybe they’ll be less likely to do so if they see that there is a price to pay for sitting down when your country needs you to stand. So let this be the message from the American majority to Trump and his enablers.

        We will not forget.

        And we will not forgive.

        – Consequences? For not voting the way you wanted? For supporting the candidate you happen to hate? That’s not a crime, and if you try to make it one you’ll run slap up against the Bill of Rights. You can try to force it, but I shouldn’t need to tell you why that’s a terrible idea.

        What you describe, sir, is a political purge. You’re in really great company with that. It’s what Mao Zedong did after enticing those who differed with him to express themselves so he would know who they were and make arresting them easy. It’s what the Bolsheviks and the Soviets did, and encouraged their viceroys to do. None of the viceroys quite matched up to the originals, especially when they rolled right over Hungary and Czechoslovakia when they dared to disagree, but Enver Hoxha and Nicolae Ceaucescu came pretty damn close. I shouldn’t need to say this, but it’s also what a certain scrawny failed artist turned politician from Vienna who wore khaki and sported a now infamous mustache did.

        You think you are ready to take the other side down, once and for all time, but, like everyone, from the blue collar guy who wants to hit someone in a bar for what he said up to the high leaders in both parties, you’re now focused on destroying and punishing the other side and you don’t know or care what would come after, just the other side would be gone.

        Well, you’d better make damn certain you destroy, imprison, or intimidate the other side completely, because, as long as there are even a few of the other side left, they’ll be like sparks on the hearth long after you think the fire is out, ready to burst back into flame when you least expect it. Do you have it in you to do that? Even if you do, what makes you think that someone else won’t arise looking to do to you as you did to them? It might even be one of your own. Once you’ve shown that the way to success is by crushing, punishing, and destroying anyone who disagrees, what’s to stop someone else from trying to achieve his own success the same way? Maybe he’ll achieve it too. The thing is, a good chunk of this fine country you act like you’re so proud of is likely to suffer while all this happens. Those freedoms that this country is supposed to be all about won’t be more than empty promises. That Constitution that’s supposed to be the foundation of everything we hold dear? You might as well rip it up, or use it to start a fire, because it will be worth EXACTLY as much as the paper it’s printed on.

        I don’t call that achievement, I call that destroying this country and ruling a ruin. I don’t call that standing up for what’s right, I call that tyranny. I don’t call that justice, or even revenge, I call that anger begetting anger, hate begetting more hate, and abuse begetting more abuse.

        By the way, that’s assuming the other side allows you to exact this penalty that you think is due without fussing much about it. Realistically, just how likely do you think the other side is to hear you say you are coming for them, know you are coming for them, and simply offer no resistance? I submit it is not very likely, and once you force that issue, all bets are off.

        • Thank you, Steve-O! I could not have done the takedown of Pitts’ delusional nonsense better or said it better. I most regret that I did not read your comment above until so late tonight. You inspire me to read so much more history! (Texas history alone is a daunting but captivating challenge to learn.) I have been meaning for over three days to do a similar takedown of another Chronicle crap-piece focused on Amy Barrett. I might still do it, after her nomination is confirmed Monday. Thank you MANY times over!

  3. I have the sudden urge to send Mr. Rothschild a gift basket. The more people like him stand up and speak out, the better. It sends the message that people do care about honor and can get along just fine without turning everything into a partisan issue.

  4. This is an exceptionally powerful paragraph to illustrate the point being made. Jack writes:

    “Let me try to explain what this particular citizen doesn’t seem to understand about his free country. It’s not going to remain free if people and businesses withhold goods and services from citizens based on their political beliefs, just as it is destructive to discriminate based on other criteria. If you want to break the nation into armed camps, having special restaurants, bars, grocery stores and movie theaters restricted to those of certain political persuasions is an excellent way to do it. What Colon did was well-intentioned, but un-American. He deserved the blowback, though the social media messages quotes don’t demonstrate any more civic comprehension than the grocery store owner seems to possess: what’s wrong with the discount isn’t that “Orange Man Bad,” but that it is unethical for businesses to reward customers for their political views, which is the same as penalizing other customers for their political views. What does Colon think he’s doing? Buying votes with his discount?”

    Unfortunately, this next line basically states that if your do something I don’t agree with I will not buy from you again. That too is a punishment based on a particular frame of reference.

    “I wouldn’t organize a boycott against a store that did this, but I wouldn’t buy groceries there again.”

    Call it a political statement or an economic one it is designed to send a message that one must change to fit my norms or I will punish you by not buying from you. If one that posits that an ethical response is that we are not to discriminate based on political differences then why would we seek to punish the store owner?. Every transaction is unique and bilateral. I see the choice to buy or sell or the unwillingness to buy or sell based on perception of value neither ethical nor unethical. Neither side is compelled to consummate the transaction. Even prices on the shelves are deemed to be mere suggestions to enter into a transaction instead of being an outright offer. Each side chooses what he or she is willing to give up to acquire what they deem more valuable. Therefore, what Colon did is not as un-American as it may seem to appear.

    In the statement above the consumer is withholding his right not to engage in a given transaction and is consequently no different than a vendor who chooses to give a discount to a person who makes a statement or presents a coupon. It is the perception of value that allows or terminates a decision to transact.

    If Fresh Foods Grocery had bought a list of persons from a data provider who developed the list from zip-codes and known Trump supporters and then sent them a 20% off coupon the effect is the same. Interestingly, the coupon method may not infuriate the social media crowd but it far more effectively discriminates as a mere sign allows a person to lie about who they support and get the 20% off. Like any treasonous bastard I will be the first to sign the loyalty oath to make you think I am one of you at your expense. Unless the store owner was harvesting ballots from Trump supporters, I don’t think anyone would conclude he was buying votes for the discount.

    Expanding on the idea that a discount not given is a punishment, as someone that could be called a disciple of Milton Friedman, the grocer’s choice of whom to reward is for him alone to make. Does it matter whether you spent enough to rack up 100 “bonus bucks” to get the free Thanksgiving turkey, give out your personal information to get the frequent shoppers savings card, or actually give something else up to get the discount? If he errs, misreads the market and demand falls because more people spend less than he acquires from the promotion that is on him. The only person that can be punished is the store owner. If I get a coupon from Store X and customer B does not have the coupon customer B is not being punished because Customer B did not present the requisite coupon and is not compelled to continue the transaction and has the ability to satisfy his or her wants elsewhere. If I go to a restaurant that has nothing but CNN or MSNBC political programming on its myriad TV’s I don’t stay long. Therefore I don’t spend as much. “NO SOUP FOR ME” The probability that substitutable products exist elsewhere is high and evidenced when one says they won’t buy groceries there anymore. The store owner is at the mercy of the customer not the other way around.

    From the political perspective, I think the idea of breaking the country down into armed camps having special programs and services for distinct political groups is a ship that sailed a long time ago with the advent of affirmative action. The difference however is that instead of giving preference to one group or another we have effectively provided government sanctioned or mandated “discounts” or special treatments to virtually every class of person save one. Whether we are compelling persons to attend sexual harassment , Critical Race Theory or any other sensitivity oriented training for “protected” classes we are in fact inflicting punishment based on potential behavior rather than actual behavior. This gives the protected classes power over another. The letter from Danial Rothschild proves that we have devolved into Team Red and Team Blue. For that reason alone I am not going to hold a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic to blame for what our academic and political institutions have created.

    Today with the development of so many different classification of people, all of whom are vying for special protections, we have bifurcated our society into (BIPOC/feminists/LGBTQIA+) versus heteronormative white males. Certainly there are a substantial number of crossovers on the political spectrum but in general we have created those camps by legislatively limiting or socially discouraging personal choices and their voices rather than enhancing them.

    When the current malevolent group can no longer be maligned or the ability to exact resources from them ceases, the existing alliances of the woke will fray and a new malignant group will be identified. I expect that to be suburban white women. That will be the easy target because they are the most malleable.

    If the goal is to have a more equitable and harmonious society creating more protections for discrete groups will surely create more problems then they solve. If the 14th Amendment is to live up to its ideals we must eliminate all legislated preferences and protections. Only by allowing choice do people truly become liberated and live up to the ideals of Jack’s premise above where we are not living in segregated ideological camps of the government’s own making.

      • I would have supported Colon if his motivation had been to highlight these destructive acts by Democrat. Time and time again, we have seen people pushed out of restaurants, attacked at protests, and censored off social media for not having the right political opinion. I have not seen anything similar from Republicans towards others until this. If he had done this to cause a backlash and then said “What is the problem? You are the ones who keep saying ‘it is a private business, they can do what they want’. Now you see what can happen if both sides start acting like Democrats.”, I would have supported him.

    • Chris, I think I understand what you are saying. What I believe I am seeing increasingly in our country’s political climate is an insidious “marriage” of compartmentalization to holistic considerations. You can’t be just a voter for Democrats or just a seller of Product X. You are expected to be both, or else, your liberty that stems from your offering and selling of Product X will be so limited that everyone else who is not both must suffer an opportunity cost that, in turn, limits those others’ liberties as well. “Check-off all the social justice boxes, and I’ll buy. If you fail to check-off even just one, though, NO SALE.” It’s economic blackmail.

      • Lucky
        It all boils down to individual choice. There can be no liberty without it. No doubt that what you said is true. I don’t want to be told what I must agree with or else. The ultimate consequence of the business decisions made fall squarely on the shoulders of the person that made them. Marketing that turns off a great deal of your prospects is just stupid but not unethical.

  5. I agree that such behavior is toxic. So are most medicines they too can be toxic when abused. But your choices are your choices. Like it or not you are punishing a person that is doing something you find wrong by boycotting a merchant’s store. That is your right and I believe you have that right to do so just as I believe he has the right to do as he chooses. Those are the consequences to which you speak. I define negative economic consequences as punishment.

    Unless a transaction is illegal or part of a fraud I see the individual’s decision to transact as a unique set of circumstances that reflect both the buyer and seller’s current valuations. Both enter into the transaction knowing full well that every bit of information is not known. The buyer does not know what the seller would take nor does the seller know what the buyer would pay. If nothing else, both of these examples facilitate information gathering regarding the seller by the buyer. Hence, any voluntary transaction that is, or is not, consummated cannot be assumed to be unethical as long as no explicit or implicit coercion exists. There is no safety net in business. Mr. Colon has every right to fail just as every other candidate’s supporters have the right to buy or not to buy from him.

    The point I was making was that if it is unethical to punish any potential buyer it must also be equally unethical to punish a seller by not buying when the seller does something that negatively affects the value proposition from the consumer’s perspective. Favoring one over another in a voluntary bi-lateral transaction imputes a third party’s normative judgements. It is the equivalent of putting one’s thumb on the scales. Therefore, my point was that it was not unethical to punish because that is what occurs with a negative choice but that these choices involve non-ethical considerations. The decisions made are neither ethical nor unethical. I would agree that promoting a boycott would be pushing the limits of ethical behavior. It would be unethical to exact retribution from those who do not wish to participate in your boycott.

    Everyday, when I turn on my computer and launch the Microsoft Edge browser I am inundated with Microsoft’s decisions on which political propaganda it supports. I could use Firefox or Mozilla but I tolerate (read ignore) all the news stories about how awful Trump and his supporters are. Stories on Biden’s alleged pay to play scheme don’t even exist. In this case I have very few alternatives but grocery stores have numerous substitutes from which to choose.

    Both Barret and Colon are presenting their normative views of the world. It is how they go about doing seems to be at issue. Both are positing their views as the way the world should be and the candidates are mere proxies for those views. How is it any different than the tax exempt Sierra Club pushing for environmental candidates or the police benevolent associations endorsing their favored law and order candidate or Wall Street promoting campaigns that will expand the regulatory environment and erect barriers to entry thus protection the monopoly positions of the companies in which they are heavily invested? Why should newspapers have editorial sections and endorse candidates when they limit countervailing opinions? Both Colon and Barrett are subjecting themselves to public scrutiny. Each is putting their personal fortunes on the line. Each could be metaphorically lynched in the marketplace for their heresy just as our early founders placed themselves in jeopardy. Barret could find himself out of a high paying job and Colon could see his business dry up. Colon obviously has more to lose than just his job. (I am assuming he is the owner of the small grocery)

    Many on the Right complain that the media plays favorites and is biased against them. Well boys and girls put on your big kid pants and build your own media to serve up your propaganda (er, I mean real news). That is what is happening with Parler in social media, OAN, Newsmax and WGN on cable TV.

    If the Left finds the discount offered objectionable the same goes to you. You have stores; compete – offer your own discounts and don’t whine. Ultimately, the consumer wins with lower prices. Suppliers will learn that given the roughly 50/50 split left and right and that men and women are rough equivalents it does little good to sacrifice part of half your market to get a roughly equal other half.

    Any rule that is unenforceable is both impotent and unethical if it is unequally applied. I am of the opinion that any peaceful exclamation of a political perspective is inherently ethical and is more likely to allow and promote dissimilar perspectives to come to an agreement rather than silencing them and then coming down hard for expressing those beliefs. The two exchanges between Barrett and Rothschild are exactly how civil discourse should occur.

    • No, and indeed, this is why we have laws against discriminating in public accommodations based on race and other designations. Whether it is illegal or not, doing what the store-owner did is spectacularly unethical, and damages society. He either needs to change his ways, or be removed from a position where he can harm society….and we should all recognize it, and not patronize such enemies of democracy. (By the way, individual decisions are not boycotts.)

      Whether bad conduct is illegal or not is matter of taste and chance. This is unequivocally bad conduct, and also bad civic comprehension. The medicine analogy is poor: if someone is poisoning people with medicine, we need to demonstrate that such conduct is intolerable. Similarly, the duties of a service provider and a service consumer are not remotely similar. A service provider, if he or she believes in America values, will provide services, and should, to anyone who needs them and who can pay the price. A consumer has no obligations to buy services from anyone And while it would be unethical for someone to refuse to patronize a service provider because of bigotry, refusing to patronize someone who uses his establishment to divide is just responsible citizenship., like refusing to join a country club that excludes Jewish members.

      • Jack
        I really don’t think you are understanding my meaning. People make discriminatory decisions every day based on what adds or subtracts value to their lives. Your choice to not buy from someone like Colon is based on the fact that you find his behavior reduces the overall value proposition he is offering. I have no problem with that. Nonetheless, by articulating your reason for denying him your business you are saying that you shall punish him for behaving badly. You have that right. My point is simply that any consumer that chooses not to buy from a Trump supporting seller is acting no differently than a seller that will not sell to or makes higher priced offers to sell to non-Trump supporters. Both seem to be behaving in a divisive and discriminatory manner which, again in the words of Milton Friedman, leads to inefficiency in consumption and production. It appears to me that you are arguing that exclusionary behavior is acceptable for righteous reasons but not others. You may be right. My argument is that such statements are not universal because we cannot be certain of what is righteous.

        I believe one of the reasons why I have trouble with this is that we are looking at the idea that people are being excluded for a particular belief when it could be possible that Colon sign could be an incentive to join a group rather than a punishment for not joining. It is all in how the sign is interpreted. Is 20 cents off a gallon of gas if you get a car wash an inducement to get a car wash or simply a discriminatory practice against lower income people who cannot afford the extra cost of the car wash?

        I know Trump is a supposed white supremacist and racist that uses dog whistles and secret handshakes and signals to communicate with his supporters but where is the evidence that Trump supporters are anti-anyone. Sure many don’t agree with many policy issues espoused by the left but I think there is far more evidence of anti-conservative bigotry and hatred among others that are not Trump supporters. So who exactly are the excluders? Was it not Aunt Maxine that told people to get in Trump supporters faces and tell them they are not welcome here anymore, or was that President Obama regarding how to deal with recalcitrant family members at Thanksgiving. I cannot keep track of how many times politicians have told me I don’t deserve what I have because of my skin tone.

        Nonetheless, consequences that you suggest should be exacted against offending firms must be done in a decentralized consumer driven manner otherwise we will all lose our ability to maximize personal well being and value. I can fully agree with you on the elements of your argument that using your firm to divide is a dereliction of civic responsibility. I will stipulate to that. But, like the saying that states “I hate what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it” I make the similar statement that “Your marketing ploy is divisive, idiotic and will cost you customers and sales but go ahead it is your choice and your firm to destroy” . Neither the government nor I am here to ensure you don’t screw up your business.

        I also do not agree that organized boycotts are helpful. I believe they tend to do more economic harm to the innocent than to move the firm toward being non-exclusionary. Moreover, legislative acts that give rise to one group over another are as divisive, if not more so, than the behavior the legislators sought to control. The protected side has proven time and again that it will use its protected legal status in court to exact concessions while the unprotected side eventually decides to organize around its interests which may not be very constructive.

        I come at this from a purely economic perspective and argue that it is the consumer that should make the ultimate decisions regarding right and wrong and not a mob; even if I agree with the mob. My medicine analogy was to illustrate the point that acceptable discrimination allows for consumers and sellers to best match buying and selling decisions with the products and services they hold in high esteem. When discrimination is abused it reduces overall value and thus inefficient.

        If you choose to not buy that is perfectly fine with me. And again, it is only punishment if you say it is because he did something you did not like. It may also be that despite what he did, the value gained from the product or service outweighs the negative values you placed on that behavior; so you still buy. It makes no difference to me except that you maximize your utility.

        Where we disagree is on the point that consumers and sellers do not have similar responsibilities. I acknowledge that consumers are the economic drivers and that what they desire is what should be produced. So let them drive the social evolution through their purchasing decisions. They do not need government intervention to effect a remedy.

        What I believe you are arguing is that every social exclusion committed by a seller is per se wrong and it will be necessary for an arbiter (government) to eliminate the exclusion based on the reference to the public accommodation laws. Consumers hold all the cards. Consumers that rely on government to protect them are lazy and unwilling to perform their own fundamental civic duties of becoming reasonably well informed. Consumers cannot outsource their responsibilities for promoting a civil society to government.

        The problem is that we don’t think that it is wrong to use exclusionary rules and that government is often called upon to enforce exclusionary rules so we do not have to do ourselves. How often do we see student groups demand that they get exclusive use of a building or exclusive content in the curriculum. You have published numerous posts ridiculing the pernicious behavior of spineless officials that grovel to the demands of the those consumers of government services who want differential and deferential treatment because of their exalted status as a descendant of an oppressed minority.

        We have all seen the signs “No shoes, no shirt, no service” – and now no masks. How much of that is driven by politics and how much can justified as a public health measure. The media have created the meme that only Trump supporters are people who eschew wearing masks. Almost daily, the news feeds tell of a maskless Trump supporter spouting a racist rant to some poor minority store clerk. I have been tracking this and it most stories are duplicative and rerun after several days by a different aggregator to make it appear that such outbursts occur with regular frequency. Is that practice designed to divide? Of course it is. Government has always imposed age restrictions for the purchase of certain products thus excluding that group from the marketplace. Why do we not simply have one age of consent or majority for all things? If a person is not mature enough to buy cigarettes why do we allow them to vote? This is all arbitrary and in some cases simply political.

        Real world example of legal price discrimination: Bole and Branch sheets can give listeners to a conservative talk radio show a bigger discount when they use the correct identifier than what they might give on NPR ( or vice versa). That choice by the seller is reflecting what the seller believes will encourage more sales from that discrete market group than a different discrete market group. It is no different than what Colon attempted. The only difference is that both groups will most likely not see the the pricing differential with Bole and Branch. Price discrimination is legal when the seller can demonstrate that the buyers are in two distinct markets. I believe it would be impossible to prove that shoppers at the same store at the same time buying the same products of like grade and quantity are in two distinct markets. That is what should be argued. That policy, communicated only visually, would discriminate against a blind man who supports Trump as much as it does to exclude non-Trump supporters.

        When a store flies a rainbow flag it is designed to entice shoppers that support the LGBTQ community. It is not excluding anyone but it does act as a deterrent to bigots so it is effectively exclusionary. So, if a bigot chooses not to shop at a store with a rainbow flag is that person the divider or the shopkeeper whose messaging is such that it knows it will keep bigots out and they will not have to serve them. At which point does the perceived excluded one become the bigot whose acts exclude those it does not like. How one seeks to exclude is irrelevant.

        Neither of the examples in the original post involves denial of service like barring membership based on religion or gender. Barret is not saying we will not sell Expensify to you if you don’t vote for Biden and Colon is not saying you cannot buy from him unless you support Trump. Both are clumsy ass marketing ploys. Both deserve what they get. If I had to guess, Colon will suffer more economically because those buying Expensify, if they support Trump, will ignore the pitch from Barret or not get terribly excited about it because as corporate decision makers they have bigger fish to fry while those who despise Trump will want to crucify Colon because it gives them a sense of power. My reasoning is based on the fact that only Colon got irate threats while Barret got a well constructed opposing perspective in a letter.

        We slice and dice consumers by every political perspective, sex, race, orientation or other measurable characteristic we can gin up. We talk about the Black or Hispanic vote. We wonder whether suburban women will tip the scales for this candidate or that candidate. If politics slices and dices the electorate, for whatever its purposes, the effect is far more divisive. Yet no one calls out this practice. Who wants to be left out of their peer group? If the media says suburban women Hate Trump who am I (as one of them) to argue with the collective wisdom of so many educated professional women that are like me. If I am Black and others like me tell me that I am acting white I will stop and behave as expected so as not to be excluded from my peer group. It takes a special type of person to suffer the slings and arrows of the person’s preferred group identity. This is Trump’s secret sauce. He does not identify with the groups that hate him for being wealthy, white and not a true blue blood. That is why he appears to not care about what his detractors believe about him. If he did he would be as spineless as Romney and petulant as McCain.

        Marketing, be it political or product/service driven is specifically designed to break people into groups with similar likes, hopes and dreams. It categorize them so that the messages can be crafted to appeal directly to them. Subliminally, it tells the consumers of that information that they and their issues are more important and pressing than the other group’s interests. The only way to eliminate all discriminatory messaging in marketing is to create ads that read: “Wonder Bread, 39 cents a loaf at Fishways Market 10th and Broadway. Offer good while supplies last or Friday whichever comes first. ” Everything else that requires creativity could be considered puffery or could be seen as exclusionary.

        If there is a place to start critiquing that which tends to divide society we should start by disassembling all vestiges of communal interests that are based on immutable characteristics. First to go: Congressional Black Caucus.

        • I’ll make this a COTD, Chris, because it’s a provocative theory. But I belive it fails right at the start, as I already said in the last comment.

          “My point is simply that any consumer that chooses not to buy from a Trump supporting seller is acting no differently than a seller that will not sell to or makes higher priced offers to sell to non-Trump supporters.” That’s not true, because the consumer has no duty to buy anything from anyone. A provider of good and services, however, has taken on a societal duty that must be met equitably and fairly. As i mentioned in the post, not doing so violates mulipe ethical systems, which is why it cab be ruled destructive.

  6. This guy’s email is certainly the norm these days. Perhaps unusual for a business email, but I keep hoping for a return to the days when I could receive emails from friends that don’t include gratuitous swipes at Donald Trump just because the sender feels like tossing them into the email for no reason at all related to the email. This is unprecedented and bizarre and totally a phenomenon of the left.

    • I had a grad school professor in the early 1980s who took those gratuitous swipes at Ronald Reagan and the Reagan administration. The classes were hosted on a military base, no less, attended by mostly active duty military and career Civil Service DOD employees. I wonder if the guy, after leading that class, ever taught again at that base. I’ll never know. But I believe all his students (including me, while I was on active duty) passed his course, somehow. It must have all happened before his little niche of academia got its cancel-culture act together, like it is these days.

      • That behavior has definitely become endemic since HILLARY LOST. It exploded literally over night.

        I suspect that prof of yours thought he was bringing enlightenment into the heart of darkness. What a jerk.

  7. It is so rare that I disagree with one of your posts, Jack, that I had to go back and reread it several times. The owner of a business was offering a discount. . There are discounts for police and firemen. There are discounts for students, union members, new mothers and people over or under particular ages. There are discounts for repeat customers. There are discounts for supporters of football, basketball and yes, baseball teams.

    He is not “withholding” anything from anyone else. I presume the prices were the same for others.

    It’s clear that he wasn’t expecting the vicious response, nor the boycott (unannounced) that will surely follow. There are sections of San Francisco (well, two of them) where someone’s Biden sign in a business would get the same reaction. In the past, I have seen not discounts, but an extra goodie or special item for supporters of one candidate or another in a retail store. One was a grocery, the other a liquor store. Nor do I think he was stupid or even naive.

    As I see it — and I am seeing all over in different situations — is that he was a victim of what I call the fracturing of the media. This has been happening for the last People aren’t split in two or three or even more directions, we are splintered into (excuse the phrase) closets of information. This is by choice and by coercion from advertisers. (I’m not referring to “ads” but to the programs that sell particular ideas). The sheer enormity of selections drive people into narrow niches. After you get your first hundred channels, you settle on the few you will be watching regularly. If you only have (that’s ‘had,’ as in pre-virus) a few hours of infotainment after working all day, you have to restrict your sources to an even smaller number. And when it comes to politics you shut down even further. Newspapers haven’t disappeared just because of technology. People stopped reading. Those who had looked at two or three papers a day or read a book once in a while didn’t have time for that anymore. TV and computer games filled in the rest of the time. The days of going to a bar after work and debating anything, having a friendly argument with a stranger about something you’d seen or read in common were over. The time of people coming to your school or church ….or NIMN! … front door to talk about an issue in person. It began about 40 years ago and it was supposed to widen people’s interests, promote more new and different ideas. There was no limit to what man can do if you just give him enough to choose from.

    It makes me think of Lucy at the chocolate factory, with each piece of candy being a new idea. The more one’s devices have opened the world, the more we have shut down in the past four decades. The schools are limiting subjects right and left (mainly right). [Full disclosure: I go rid of my TV 12 or 13 years ago; I subscribe to no “social” media; and my alarm clock is set on NPR, just as long ago it was set to Paul Harvey – either one eventually penetrates my head to rouse me and my hackles. Now that I have the time, I search for rational dissent and discussion, though both are becoming rarer than poultry’s dentures. In spite of all reason, my own city is closing down on me. ]

    The owner (who soon may well have no business to own), got stuck in a small, single-minded, well-intentioned corner. He watched certain channels at certain times, read a certain paper, talked with certain family, friends, and probably neighbors as well. He saw lots of stuff happening on television …. to other people in other places. He wanted to “get involved,” to help out his team, to be a nice guy. The other customers would understand. They’d come and argue to give him a chance to tell them why Trump was a Good Guy. He dreamed, perhaps, of changing a mind or two. That was the American dream, valued as much, if not more, than profit or peace.

    I made it all up, but there it is right in front of me. I am truly sorry for Joe Colon.

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