NOTED WITH AMUSEMENT: the squawks of fury and disbelief from commenters over at The New York Times -- and undoubtedly elsewhere -- over news that PayPal, along with Amazon, have severed their ties with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, of course, is the shadowy group slowly releasing a cache of myriad American diplomatic cables in an attempt to subject Foggy Bottom to the Chinese water torture.
I can't for the life of me figure out why people are upset with these companies. For one thing, WikiLeaks is arguably engaged in conduct that violates federal law, which isn't exactly conducive to convincing companies they ought do business with them. Besides, here's a newsflash, folks: this is what happens when you give the Government such extensive power that it only has to snap its fingers to get things like this done.
I mean, yeah, that's really a tough decision for the businesses in the middle. On one hand, they can cooperate with the Government and give it what it wants, thus making the situation go away. On the other, they can stand up to the Government, thus causing the FBI, the Department of Justice and anyone else who wants in to show up and cart off all their records, interrogate their executives and essentially bring their business to a screeching halt.
If you don't like that, then get to work on inventing a time machine. That way you can travel back to 1912 and warn the people they ought vote for Taft. More realistically, you can fire up iTunes, put on some Shoskatovich, and weep softly as the mordant strains of the strings play through your speakers. (I suggest his Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a, particularly part IV. Yes, there's a reason those first notes sound like harsh knocking on a door).
True, some people have suggested the way to show one's disapproval of these actions is to stop doing business with the companies in question. But let's be honest: 29.8 percent of the people now approving such suggestions would sooner cut off their pinky fingers than actually cut ties with the folks providing them valuable and useful services, while the remaining 70 percent don't actually do business with the firms in question, making their approval moot. (What about that last 0.2 percent? As they say in business, that's not material).
But let's play pretend for a moment and say that enough people did stop doing business with these firms to make it noticeable on a balance sheet. You know what would happen then, right? No, the companies wouldn't change their decisions. They'd lay off a bunch of low-level employees who had nothing to do with the matter at hand, then shift the laid-off folks' work onto the remaining staff. Way to stick it to The Man there, angry customers blaming the companies for making sound business decisions.
As radical as it might be these days, the only practicable solution is to somehow convince our elected geniuses that the Government's bureaucracy ought not have the power to utterly crush companies for doing business with people it does not like -- or for that matter, doing anything else. Would that lead to some distasteful scenarios down the line? Yeah, probably. But there's something to be said for having a Government that must wait for a guilty verdict before it starts knocking in heads.Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 4, 2010 07:43 PM | TrackBack