Thursday, November 15, 2012

Clarification: The Donald vs. The Thought Police

By, Chris Rossini
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My post from earlier today has received some fiery comments, so I want clarify my argument so that it's not misunderstood.

First, I'm well aware that a petition is not the same as using the government. I never stated that petitions should be abolished because of any type of aggression.

All 500,000 people that signed the petition have the option of never buying a Trump product, and never shopping at Macy's again.

However, that doesn't seem to be good enough.

The signers want Macy's to cut ties with Trump because of his political beliefs. In other words, the signers want to disrupt trade that would take place between Macy's and people that could care less what Trump thinks politically.

Can you imagine what would happen to the division of labor if we had to check with every merchant where they stood politically?

Should I ask my deli where each employee stands on abortion?

What if my plumber supports the Iraq war?

I disagree politically with just about every Hollywood actor, but yet I go to the movies.

I could start petitions all day long.

America has already morphed into a politically correct society. But that political correctness, and tying politics into everything, is now spreading into the area where peaceful trade occurs.

Whether it's companies plastering on their websites how "green" they where Chik Fil A stands on gay whether or not Donald Trump thinks that Obama is a foreigner....

The destructiveness is not in the petition itself, but in the disruption to the division of labor and to the satisfaction of customers, who can care less about the political positions of their trading partners.


  1. I got your just the first time, but thanks for clarifying for those who didn't.

  2. As an entrepreneur he should realize his image is part of his 'brand' and thus he is subject to the market forces and should keep his mouth shut if he does not want the consequence.

    Personally its ridiculous as you say but this is a reflection of deeper issues. The mob is just getting started...

    1. "and should keep his mouth shut if he does not want the consequence."

      Perhaps Mr. Trump does not fear the consequence. I agree with your comment about "the mob" Dark times are near.

    2. If I were Trump I don't know if I would care. In fact I'd probably be a little more outspoken.

  3. I think there is nothing wrong with urging others to reconsider with whom they do business. This happens all the time in entertainment--the (usually misguided) masses urge Network XYZ to get rid of entertainer E because he says something politically incorrect, or they go the show's sponsors and urge them to pull their ads because of some aspect of the show they don't like.

    Look, it's all speech. If it changes trade choices, then so be it. That's the price of living in a society where speech is at least marginally protected. I guess I'm just repeating what several said re your previous post, even if Geoff thought he was on Saturday Night Live in the 70's ("Chris Rossini, you are an ignorant moron.").

    1. Agreed, but the original complaint on the petition was particularly bad since it charged one with being a racist for questioning the forged birth certificate on the white house website, and makes angry and unfounded attacks on people who do not buy into the myth of climate change/global warming.

  4. Chris, you are still wrong.

    “Should I ask my deli where each employee stands on abortion?”

    That’s up to you. If you felt it an important point to help decide between mustard and mayo, then yes.

    “What if my plumber supports the Iraq war?”

    Again, that’s up to you. If he is a really good plumber and you don’t want to lose him, then I suggest not talking politics or religion.

    “I could start petitions all day long.”

    Again, that’s up to you. If you felt it a good use of your time, feel free.

    “The destructiveness is not in the petition itself, but in the disruption to the division of labor and to the satisfaction of customers, who can care less about the political positions of their trading partners.”

    What about the satisfaction of those who want to sign the petition? It is the expression of an opinion, and some opinions are disruptive (ask Bob).

    Are they using a gun to come between Macys and The Donald? Are they advocating a law requiring Macys to stop doing business with him?

    If there are customers of Macys that disagree with these 500,000 – let them start their own petition. If it is important enough to them, they can certainly make their voices known. Macys can then decide on which side they choose to fall.

    Macys knew what they were getting when they cut a deal with this guy. Bad publicity is part of the package.

    1. How can he still be wrong when all HE ever did was state an non-aggressive opinion of his own?

      I see a lot of hypocrisy here in the defense of the petitioners' "opinion", when at the least Rossini is speaking on behalf of freedom of expression, whereas the petitioners are OBVIOUSLY trying to use veiled threats to silence it.

      You may all be right when the petitioners are not violating the NAP, but the intentions they have are a hell of a lot more odious and questionable than Rossini's in defending Trump's speech.
      But apparently some of you like the chilling of free speech more than the ability to engage in it. How ironic that you want to use the NAP as a weapon for it.

  5. bionic mosquito- well put.

    Chris is missing the point that while free speech is (or should be) allowed by law, it is not free of consequence. If I insult someone, he may choose not to associate with me anymore. Every individual has the right to determine who he/she associates (or trades) with for whatever reason he/she deems important.

  6. Bionic Mosquito is completely correct. The only thing the first amendment guarantees is the protection on your speech from governmental intrusion. Too often, people conflate this right to mean that they should be protected from the consequences of their right to speak. I'm in no way insinuating that you have made this conflation, but the general public often does.

    Governmental censorious statists should be shamed and hounded as loudly as possible. However, if the Donald wants to go on national television with some of his views, then Macy's customers have just as much of a right to inform Macy's that if they continue to associate with him, they will take their business elsewhere. That is the single most powerful tool each of us as individuals have; every day we wake up we get to decide where we want to spend the fruits of our hard-earned individual labor. These Macy's customers are not interfering with free enterprise at all. They are putting Macy's on alert that the Donald's speech is sufficiently disturbing to them that they will cease doing business with them because of it. It's up to Macy's to do the calculus on where the cost/benefit final tally lies.

  7. "Should I ask my deli where each employee stands on abortion?”

    No, but if you run a deli in a red state and the guy behind the counter lectures every customer about the right to choose, than yes it might be reasonable for management to fire him.

  8. First of all, 500,000 people "signing" an online petition is not far-fetched. So long as you pass word of it through the right online/email channels such a thing is in fact very easy (or have we forgotten about Ron Paul's Guy Fawkes Day money bomb already?). And that's not even to mention potential fraud; there's virtually no way to verify the legitimate status of all of these "signers".

    Second of all, even if all signers are indeed legitimate, Macy's has nothing to worry about from these signers IMO, as the vast majority of them have never and probably would have never shopped at Macy's anyway.

    I bet the backlash against the petition will be good for business at Macy's come next weekend (coincidence?).

  9. Not good enough, Chris. You should have said you were way off base.

    This petition is not a "dispruption of the division of labor". The 500,000 people signing the petition ARE A PART OF THE DIVISION OF LABOR ITSELF.

    Their input, along with the millions of other people's VOLUNTARY inputs, include choosing among producers along not only direct material utility considerations, but also along a producer's political views.

    The division of labor is not only about getting people material prosperity, but also getting people subjective, Rothbardian "psychic utility." If I find more value buying coffee from a "fair trader" for example, for political reasons, even though I could buy the same exact coffee elsewhere but for less money, then I am influencing the division of labor in a perfectly justified way.

    You went too far Chris, based on an overreaction to a friggin petition, because you forgot to make clear in your mind the difference between voluntary petitioning and governmental petitioning.

    You are factually incorrect to claim that consumers don't care about the political positions of their trading partners. How can you possibly believe that? There is a petition of 500,000 signatures staring at you in the face!

    1. You demand something of Rossini, despite the fact that all he did was express an opinion just like your cherished petitioners did?
      Why aren't you whining to them, especially when Rossini is sticking up for people expressing their opinions, rather than trying to shut people up (albeit with voluntary actions)?

      He did not say the petitioners have no right to petition, no right to their opinions or anything else? He merely sticks up for people expressing unpopular opinions, and tut tuts those who are using (non-violent) means of trying to chill speech.

      And he's supposed to apologize for that? For what? For having an opinion of his own that is much more in line with a tolerance for unpopular speech than yours is?

      You can speak on behalf of the petitioners' non-violent means all you want, but you seem more in love with the concept of shutting up people with unpopular opinions, than you are with sticking up for people who express them.

  10. I think Chris is right and wrong.

    He's wrong for the reasons some posters have pointed is anyone's right to not pursue trade with an individual or organization as a result of their own beliefs.

    He's right because the US has morphed into a society where the word "radical" comes up so often and people's non-violent views are used as a vector for character assault and professional criticsm.

    So "denying climate change, continuing the "birther" conspiracy against President Obama"

    merit that a businessman step down and close his business? Can we be rational?

    To each his own, provided he does not want to break the law, hurt people, damage their property, etc. If the Amazon CEO said climate change was a hoax, do you honestly think I'd stop buying from Amazon? There are people who would, but I really think they're terribly irrational.

    1. I agree. This is really less about politics than it is about culture and economics. It's true that *some* people may find some psychic utility mixing the personal and political, but that itself has other consequences, like Chris has laid out here. Trump's expression resulted in this petition, but this petition if successful would result in other negative consequences. That too is part of the market, however one that is less seen.

      Milton Friedman in popularizing Leonard Reed's "I pencil", had pointed out how the division of labor works to everyone's benefit even if people hate each other if they knew others involved personally.

      There are some food/grocery co-ops in NY/north-east coast I hear about (competing with big chain stores) that are seriously political, almost cultish, where members are required to agree to many things not related to food and they are all _inevitably_ do worse financially. Some members also find them intolerable.

      My contention is that when people very strongly disagree like this, most would actually, personally, like to force other people or other organization to change their ways rather than simply opting out and forming their own organization or business and advertise or market their differences (I use the word "force" because I am sure that is what 99% of them would personally resort to if they could)

  11. It would be nice if we had a legal system where we could transact, do business, invest in things purely anonymously by proxy, where the proxy didn't even know who you were, sort of like the old numbered Swiss accounts I hear, or even a system of pseudonymous direct transactions with the other party (shared handle, unique id, but no publicly identifying info)

    People talk about free markets and consequences... and yet the irony is that in a truly free market, this mechanism would develop as a reaction to other's reactions i.e. this would be a consequence of a consequence.