For those of you looking for clues as to the rationale for our sluggish economic 'recovery' reflected in today's unemployment report, look no further than the recent Chick-fil-A controversy in Chicago and other cities. This episode tells us how our major economic and political leaders have lost their focus on economic success in a way that is doing dire harm to the country.
Start with the CEO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, loudly proclaiming his moral and religious beliefs in a public forum.
"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" he said. "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is about."
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," Mr. Cathy explained recently in an interview with the Baptist Press. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives."
Can someone please tell him and others in similar positions that they are free to believe whatever they want, but need to be cognizant of how such public declarations impact their businesses? While customers of CFA probably don't care whether Mr. Cathy is married to his first or fourteenth wife when they visit his establishments, they are not likely to appreciate being told that they are arrogant or immoral if they dare to have different moral beliefs or are in different circumstances for any reason.
Mr. Cathy appears to have caught the dreaded CEO disease, which makes CEOs feel omnipotent to the point that they become social and moral commentators on issues far afield from their companies, taking their eyes off the business ball, and offending customers at the same time. In the interest of all concerned, stick to making money!
Even worse are the clueless politicians in Chicago and elsewhere who feel that government must enforce its moral judgments on the private sector, even when the private actors are complying with all applicable laws.
Most disturbing is the behavior of politicians like Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who have joined the crusade. As soon as the controversy emerged, these officials announced plans to hinder Chick-fil-A from operating or expanding in their fiefdoms...
The issue is far more than an attack on religious liberty. It is a clear violation of the First Amendment when an official seeks to prevent a business from opening in a community because of disagreement with the beliefs of management, expressly the case in Chicago. It also converts our economy into a microcosm of France or Italy, with resources being allocated for reasons separate from economic efficiency. This approach doesn't seem to be working very well in Europe, so I'm not sure why we want to try it here. Or, are the politicians who rail about moral values unaware of what has happened in the Euro-zone?
This approach is also totally unnecessary. Consumers wishing to express their disapproval of the values of CFA or any other establishment already have a powerful mechanism for doing so. It is called withholding their patronage. If you don't like what a business stands for, don't go there! CFA is hardly a monopoly, and there are plenty of alternative sources for chicken, fries, etc.
This debacle is just the latest example of government seeking to pass judgment on the private sector. While our president's 'you didn't build that' faux pas is more prominent, I suggest that this effort to directly impede the operations of private companies is more dangerous. No one is going to risk their capital or their time to start or expand a business, when their very existence is subject to the arbitrary whim of a bureaucrat or politician with contrary views. If people won't risk capital, we won't have new [or many existing jobs.
Those who are interested in economic expansion, or just want to keep their jobs in the private sector, need to loudly speak up to their representatives.