Bigotry is a lousy money maker (a reprise)

The following post has been dusted off from four years ago as a result of the current NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s pride in his slurs of transgender and homosexual folks, that have gone largely unanswered by fellow Republicans. I will not repeat them here, but it should be noted his remarks have not set too well with many. The Charlotte Observer has two editorials from yesterday called “Lt. governor’s rants about fake issues do real harm” by the Editorial Board while the other is called “‘Filth’ sends an old message to LGBTQ in NC” by a columnist in the Raleigh News and Observer.

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.

As a Christian and independent voter, one of my pet peeves is when so-called leaders, misuse their mantle and convey bigotry. Whether they are ministers, CEOs or elected officials, we need them to be among our better angels and be inclusive. To me, a chance to be inclusive has been missed by the relative silence of others leaders in the same party. The same goes for the other party, when one of its elected officials goes astray.

Coexist vs. Capitalist Bumper Stickers?

This may be one of those “only in America” things, but I have observed on several occasions car bumper stickers that have the word “Capitalist” portrayed in a manner similar to the ones portraying “Coexist.” The Coexist sticker uses religious symbols from a variety of religions to portray a world that embraces many different ways of worship with a message of respect, diversity and understanding. My wife and I had one on a previous car and I have shirt that I often wear with the same logo. I have seen variations of the concept using words such as “Tolerance” which we have displayed on our door to the garage among other items.

The “Capitalist” bumper sticker uses the same concept to portray a message of free markets, I would presume. Yet, maybe it is just me, but I get a sense that the portrayal of Capitalist is a means to counterbalance the words Coexist and Tolerance. This strikes me as odd, as the words do not have opposite meanings. I also find someone driving a nice car in America not needing the word Capitalist to portray that they believe in making money in free markets.

You see, I am believer in capitalism, provided it has some governance. I have time and again noted that unfettered capitalism is not the answer as it gives greater freedom for the “haves” to take advantage of the “have-nots.” We have unfortunately slipped down that path more in America as evidenced just this week by the increasing disparity in the top end of our wage earners versus everyone else. This slippery slope is traceable back to the early 1980’s when taxes were significantly reduced on the upper end leaving flat growth for most people and heightened growth for the higher income earners. Yet, my business is based on the concept of capitalism and I believe when governed correctly is the more elegant economic model.

Yet, I am also a huge believer in coexisting. We must embrace our differences and be more inclusive. Another pet saying of mine is when religion is inclusive it is at its finest and when it is exclusive is at its worst . An unfortunate history lesson bears this out as more people have been killed over religious differences than any other issue – Catholics versus Protestants, Sunnis versus Shiites, the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews, the Crusades, etc.

So, I am a capitalist who believes in coexisting. But, let me make two final related points. First, for true capitalists, you will make more money by coexisting and being inclusive than you will if you only trade with people who believe or look the way you do. Think about that. As an example, in the Jim Crow south, southern white capitalists still conducted trade with African-Americans. To do otherwise would have hurt their business. The white businesses may have served African-Americans differently, but they did indeed trade with them. It was for this reason that the Civil Rights movement used a boycott of the bus system in a town in Alabama to gain some concessions.

Second, I believe that inclusive, coexisting economic trade does wonders for relationships between disparate groups. When the leaders of a country do bad things, the western world poses economic sanctions on the country. When this is done it punishes the wrong people. The everyday people are the ones harmed by the sanctions and, in a non-free society, they have little power to express grievance unless there is a revolution. I believe if you promote free trade among civilians and open the markets up to many, this is a better way of diplomacy.

You need only contrast the two Korea’s, the flourishing South Korea versus the totalitarianism in North Korea. The restart of the manufacturing complex on the border of the two Korea’s where civilians of both are working side by side, is the best example of goodwill and free enterprise which far exceeds the impact of political maneuverings. People everywhere want a safe and secure place to live and feed their families. If you allow this to happen, then they will care less about political differences.

So, capitalism is not the opposite of coexisting. They work quite nicely together and should. Capitalists will make more money by coexisting than not. Coexisting is the right thing to do and if we focus on doing the right thing, then it makes other things flow more easily and naturally. Even capitalism.