“Nikon Corp has has rights, too.” So says Joseph Jaworski, the latest in a line of those promoting corporate rights. Now, I don’t totally disagree with the sentiment implied by the sentence…
But it’s when he invokes the name of Thomas Jefferson for his argument, that’s where I draw the line.
Sure, the shareholders of Nikon has a right to chose how their money is spent. But, they don’t have the right to renege on contracts.
The story is this. Nikon made a contract with a photographer. It then broke the contract, not because of Nikon’s own opinions, those of its shareholders, those of its board, or those of its employees. No, it broke the contract because of pressure from some outside protestors. You see “conservative” groups in Japan didn’t like the World War II inspired photographs.
I don’t think I personally would have wanted to see the exhibit. It was about South Korean women who were stolen away as slaves by occupying troops, and some of the images could have been disturbing, to say the least. But, imagine if Nikon won the case? That would give protestors, from the left and right, the power to use their power of boycott to shut down any show they disagreed with. Yes, even after the ink on the contract was dry.
So, what does Thomas Jefferson (aka Jeffs) have to do with this? Jeffs said “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Jeffs did not see forcing people to keep their contracts as tyrannical. He saw forcing them to pay money toward things they didn’t agree to as tyrannical.
What kind of things is he talking about here? Government run propaganda, in particular, government financed churches. He continued to say that even forcing a man to pay toward disseminating a viewpoint he believed in was wrong.
So, what Jefferson disagreed with was using tax money to put forward opinions. If we take that beyond religion, we might say that Jefferson was against all forms of government propaganda. (I wonder what he’d think of modern universities, or government advertising in newspapers and social media.)
Jeffs was against people having to pay taxes. It had nothing to do with keeping contracts.
So, if my tax money is going to pay for advertisement in the Tokyo Times, then Jeffs would be against it, regardless of what I thought of the message.
What’s the danger you ask?
The danger is this. Let’s say I start a history film club. We get a contract to rent the top room, so we can have some quiet time to discuss history and exhibit films about the past. Then, some fundamentalists who think that cinema is immoral, or disagree with a portrayal of the Alamo, pressure the cafe to discontinue our club. We get a refund, at the last minute, but we have nowhere to meet. We have to refund any members who paid for the exhibit, and this involves accounting problems. It also destroys our accountability to hold future meetings.
If people don’t have to keep their contracts, then it’s impossible to trade and acquire wealth.
Since the first draft of this post, I’ve heard of another boycott in the United States. This one involved a fast food restaurant called Chick-Fil-A.
Now, it’s nothing new for individuals to boycott companies because of what someone said. Boycotts have been called against radio show hosts, some resulting in shows being cancelled. In the UK, Waitrose removed its adverts from Fox after a few customers complained about the views of a host.
What makes the Chick-fil-A boycott unique is that government got into the act. The mayors of a few American cities have claimed that Chick-fil-A is not welcome there.
Now, this poses a tricky question. Would Jefferson and the founders have liked these politicians using government money to push their opposition to the statements of a business owner?
No one forces people to buy at Chick-Fil-A, but shouldn’t individual customers be able to decide whether or not to shop there? I mean, I’m not really into mass processed fried “chicken”, but one junk food is as good (or bad) as another.
For ordinary citizens to boycott is one thing, but what makes this especially ironic is that the secular left is calling for a boycott. Why is that ironic? Because these are the same people who try to stretch the constitution to prevent politicians from speaking about prayer.
Well, if Thomas Jefferson’s words apply to political speech of public servants, then they surely apply to the calls for boycotts of Chick-fil-A.
Despite what you think about the statements made by the Chick-Fil-A chief, or what you think of their processed “meat”, you have to admit that the boycott has failed massively. Former Presidential hopeful has called for a Chick-fil-A appreciation day.
And, the shooting by extremist Floyd Corkins may have been motivated in part by the public calls for boycotts by hysterical politicians. Now, whatever your party, it is totally unamerican to shoot someone just because “I don’t like your politics.”
While freedom is all about the right to protest, and the condemn messages one disagrees with, no one has the right to renege on contracts or to go around shooting people because of politics. There is no freedom without law.
Now, get me a greasy sandwich and a camera.