During the fiscal cliff negotiations, DC-area Starbucks stores wrote “Come Together” on their drink cups. Mickey Kaus worries that this anodyne gesture was a violation of the moral rights of Starbucks workers; Joe Barista ought to have the liberty to punch the clock for a paycheck without being asked to affirm even the most bland of moral statements. Allow this, and before long you’ll see major corporations practicing religion! Kaus asks: “Is Starbucks a Cult?”
Did Schultz take a poll of his employees–sorry, “partners,” he calls them–before
ordering pressuringasking them to join in this lobbying effort? What if he were, say, the CEO of Chick-fil-A and he “asked” his “partners” to write “Preserve the Family” on the outside of cups and containers?
Heaven forfend! (Or can we say that?)
This determination to protect people’s right to live in an amoral system of economic work is directly connected to the current threat to religious liberty. The basic idea is that only individuals have conscience rights; institutions like businesses are expected to be morally and even culturally neutral. This seems to be easily accomplished by giving every individual employee a veto power over the firm’s ability to say or do anything morally or culturally significant. However, in reality all human action is moral and cultural; this system doesn’t actually remove moral and cultural formation from business, it just requires businesses to conform to whatever beliefs are so socially predominant that the majority don’t even recognize them as beliefs, or see that anything significant is at stake in requiring companies to affirm them. Business is culture making, and we should let culture makers be culture makers.