On Hobby Lobby

“Sincerity, yea, I tried to throw a lot of that in there…”

Approximate response of Alex P. Keaton to the Princeton admission officer who told him that his application to Princeton seemed sincere.  (Family Ties…a sitcom)

 

SUCKERS! Of the many choice words that come to mind to describe the five members of the Supreme Court who supported the majority view in the Hobby Lobby case that is the word that most often comes to my mind. SUCKERS, one and all.

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court enabled companies to gain tactical advantages in the marketplace based on their so-called “sincere” religious beliefs. Before this decision, these companies had to compete based on efficiency or innovation. The cruel free market was at the bedrock of core conservative thought and the courts were the arbiters of keeping the markets fair and free. Forget that. Corporations have been given a new tool by this Supreme Court…Sincerity.

For-profit companies like Hobby Lobby and every other company in America are in business to make money. They often need to distinguish their products and services in a very crowded and brutal retail marketplace. One way to do that is by establishing a corporate personality. These companies hope that they figure out a way to encourage some shoppers by developing a personality that does not alienate too many others, thereby defeating the purpose. It is a calculation. Take gun stores, for example. One would be hard pressed to find a gun store owner who does not have a broad view of the second amendment. They are not constitutional scholars, it is a necessity for their business.

So the managers at Hobby Lobby made their calculations to be an entity espousing Christian values. The fact that I may disagree with those values and boycott the stores means little to them since they hope to more than compensate for me with their target shoppers. Of course, I have never been to Hobby Lobby anyway, so their calculation is probably correct. That analysis is OK in the normal rules of a free marketplace.

The calculation is beautiful; take a stand and advertise it with a trip to the Supreme Court. Those that agree with your views will beat a path to your door. Those that disagree were largely not a part of your target audience anyway. And when the Supreme Court actually tells the world that your religious beliefs are sincere…BINGO. Those shoppers who share those beliefs are now incentivized to shop at Hobby Lobby. Either the justices purposely wanted to increase the business of certain companies AS AGAINST THEIR BUSINESS RIVALS, or they were suckered by a calculated corporate strategy into using the case to achieve other ends. I’m going with the latter.

These justices gave an actual economic advantage to one company over its competitors based on its “sincere” religious beliefs. Perhaps the costs involved will be the difference between success and failure for these competing business entities. That is not fair, contrary to the First Amendment, and frankly it is Un-American.

The good news is that business conditions change. The current market conditions favor management, as employees are happy to have jobs. In these argumentative times shoppers seem happier spending their discretionary cash at places that agree with their life philosophies. But these are difficult times and that is when bad managers do a lot of stupid things, especially for short term profit. Withholding certain health care benefits is one of those things. Maybe the managers at Hobby Lobby are business geniuses and when market conditions change they will rethink the policy. Maybe they will refuse to change and go out of business. Either way, the day will come when nobody will care about Hobby Lobby’s sincere religious beliefs.

In wartime some Quakers refused to pay their some of their taxes due to their religious beliefs. I understand that they would put the withheld amount of money into some kind of trust. Some Quakers went to jail over the issue. No high court ever supported them. While I do not agree with this form of protest because I see the issue as a slippery slope, I do not doubt the sincerity of those who practiced it. That is religious sincerity, when one takes actions against their own interests because of faith. This smells to me of something else. It seems like a calculation bought hook, line and sinker by five members of the Supreme Court so eager to prevent women from exercising constitutional rights that they personally disagree with, that they would blow past precedent, then logic, then common sense, and into situational comedy. To show their support for a business decision of Hobby Lobby, these guys were willing to break the constitution. I’m going to Michael’s today to see if they sell a kit that will put the constitution back together. This mess is going to take more than just a little super glue.

 

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