Must We Balkanize the Economy?

Must We Balkanize the Economy?

Will Red and Blue states soon have their own banks, hotels, and other businesses?


The 1792 Exchange’s Spotlight Report highlights the risks posed to conservatives by over 1,000 companies.  Companies are evaluated on six dimensions – like denying service to customers or vendors based on political or religious views and funding causes or organizations based on religious or ideological views – and rated as Lower, Medium, or High risk.


Heartland’s Justin Haskins highlights 51 High Risk companies at Fox News and suggests that, “Conservatives should identify companies that offer similar products and services to those identified by businesses that discriminate and switch, whenever possible.”  (Below an In the Tank podcast from a couple of weeks ago with Heartland’s Justin Haskins, Donald Kendal, Jim Lakely, and Chris Talgo discussing the Spotlight Report. Here is the audio version.)



Will Red and Blue states soon have their own banks, hotels, and other businesses?  I will not judge anyone for patronizing (or not) companies based on politics.  I instead wish to reiterate, as first recognized by Adam Smith, that the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.  As more persons participate, firms and individuals can specialize more, enormously increasing productivity.


Specialization lets businesses learn more about the goods and services they produce, and individuals learn about a task.  The division of labor is essentially a division of knowledge.  As we focus our time and attention on a narrower range of tasks, we learn them better and devise tools to boost our productivity.  The division of labor unleashes innumerable small improvements, which in the aggregate have produced the well-being “hockey stick.”


Narrower tasks also yield jobs aligning with people’s interests.  People can play the cello, edit books, paint, or walk dogs for a living.  Work no longer seems like work when you can do a job that you love.  Highly specialized tasks particularly benefit the disabled, who can find jobs utilizing their abilities.


An integrated national and global market is enormously beneficial.  If politicization of business leads to the partitioning of the economies of Red and Blue America, our standard of living will fall.  This may be worthwhile since money is not everything.  Patronizing an institution which might debank you without warning entails risk.  Market exchange benefits both parties, and the profits woke companies earn from your business may be used to undermine your values.


Business once was a force enabling cooperation by people with differing values.  We could purchase goods produced by persons who did not share our religion or culture, with neither party forcing its values on the other.  Consider this famous passage from Voltaire about the London Stock Exchange:


“Go into the London Stock Exchange … and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men.  Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt.  Here the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts a promise from the Quaker.”


For decades businesses steered clear of politics.  Woke employees and woke customers made embracing progressive causes appear to be good for business.  Perhaps it is too late, but I hope business will rediscover that making a valued good or service makes the world a better place and we can trade and work with people not sharing all our values.