We All Lose in a Divided Economy

People are different. Different skills, different goals, different motivations – we’re different. Sure, we’re all equal in the sense that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) … but we’re different. Economically, this plays out in specialization. People produce where they have a competitive advantage, and spend their productivity where it most benefits their goals. This is fantastic. As an economic system it provides a mechanism for tremendous prosperity and growth. (The math is pretty cool too … but I’m not going to bring equations out tonight.)

The point is that specialization and “cross-pollination” (if you will) is quite good for us. Inhibiting it ultimately hurts everybody. Historically this has played out most frequently in the form of trade barriers. Smoot-Hawley, for instance, was pretty destructive during the Great Depression. It raised trade barriers, inciting a trade war and dramatically reducing economies of scale and the ability to specialize for increased productivity.

We’ve seen this happening in milder ways inside the US. Early this decade we saw a dramatic rise in private citizens choosing to only frequent businesses whose political contributions matched their own agenda. Now, I fully, absolutely, and in every other way imaginable support a private citizen’s right to shop when, where, and how they want to. Obviously the shortfall here is that all companies fear political retribution if they don’t pony up political bribes. Having said that, I digress. My point here is that if stratify the country into two economies, we all suffer just a bit.

If you’ve been watching the headlines lately, you know that this has come up in the NFL in recent days. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh was part (small part, apparently) of a group trying to buy the hapless Rams. In response, left-wing partisans have pitched a fit, decrying the notion that such a conservative would be part of NFL ownership. Now, I’ll leave out the lies and misrepresentations; only noting that there has been a TON of intellectual dishonesty from the critics. (That’s right folks, Congress can’t use the phrase “intellectual dishonesty” in a floor debate, but I still have freedom of speech.)

We’re headed down a slippery slope here. If somebody who is “controversial” (due to political disagreements) can be nullified from NFL ownership, what’s next. Maybe somebody who donates to conservative (or liberal) causes should be disallowed. Maybe registered Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to serve as GM for major league soccer teams. And no Democrats as major league baseball umpires. Who knows? Yes these are silly examples – but where does it end.

When we start disallowing people from participation in part of the economy because of rather mainstream political leanings that we happen to disagree with, we all suffer something. We all lose something in a divided economy. Yes, we have freedom of association. Yes, we can throw our political weight around if we want to. This doesn’t help anybody in the long term though.

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