Monday, April 12, 2010

The Curious Case of dermdoc

So I came across this news report, which, by itself, isn't particularly newsworthy. Basically, a guy on a message board claimed to be laying off someone because he (the employee) was an Obama supporter, and Obamacare was going to cost the medical business a lot of money, and people need to understand that [political] actions have consequences. There was also some general semi-founded ranting about Obamacare, and not much else to the story... but it got me thinking.

I've ranted before about the problem, especially in a representative democracy, of people being unable to correlate the consequences of their political actions to real-world changes. In a high-level sense, this might be an area where employers could really make a positive contribution to enforcing the correlation directly: by laying off people who indirectly created the business need to lay off people (eg: by voting for socialists), a business owner would be aptly rewarding people for their political actions. After all, if you have two equally-qualified people vying for one position because another position was eliminated due to the actions of one of the potential employees, it seems only fair to let that employee go, both to that employee and the system as a whole.

On the other hand, though, it brings up the interesting and potentially precipitous concept of discrimination based on political views. Now, political views are not a protected class, so there's no direct legal issue; indeed, employers are doing more extensive personal background checks on employees now, and disqualifying people for a variety of non job-related personal things. The counter-argument to the [legal] discrimination would be that an employee can keep his/her political views private if they don't want them to bias employment applications. However, this begs for a much higher level of anonymity than is currently the norm, especially in the age of social networking and information aggregation, and much more discretion in inter-personal discussions, which is also not preferable.

Furthermore, there's an inherent danger of abuse based purely on ideological differences. While it might be noble and beneficial to have an employer bias employment decisions against people actively working to the detriment of his/her business, it might be hard to make the distinction between that case and an employer just biasing on the basis of ideology, without respect to the effect on the business. Moreover, there are some specific legal protections for supporting some ideologies and organizations which are explicitly working against the best economic interests of the businesses (eg: unions), and you could argue that those protections have legitimate justification in our society. Clearly, then, there would be advocates on both sides of the debate.

The question, then, remains: should an employer bias employment decisions against those supporting anti-business laws and/or political candidates? I don't know which side I would support. The best answer, in my mind, is more education and better correlation; it's unlikely that employees would support policies/candidates which caused their jobs to cease to exist, and it would be better for the country if people were better able to vote in a way which was actually beneficial for them. In discriminating against anti-business supporters, though, you would also run the risk of creating a large enough section of the voting populace to overwhelm the free-market supporters entirely, and bring the whole system crashing down in a government-largess, Atlas shrugging style event. Clearly if the direction was to allow alienation of those people who could not grasp correlation, for whatever reason, there must be a mechanism to protect the rest of the social organism from their continued cancerous influence, and without such a mechanism it might be better for the organism as a whole to maintain whatever unsustainable balance exists for as long as possible (sort of like prolonging the life of a terminally-ill cancer patient, and making them as comfortable as possible). In that case, if the patient is already too far along to be saved, it doesn't make a lot of sense to start cutting out bad cells and causing trauma, which argues for not exploiting or emphasizing the correlation.

As I said, I don't know what the right answer is, which is why I found the case curious. Let me know what you all think.


  1. In my experience business is so hard that there's no time for this type of discrimination. You've got other people doing what you do, and you've got alternatives different from what you do that your customers can turn to. I can't imagine not working with vendors/employees because of their political beliefs.

    I have no idea why you think discrimination could bring down the government. Wouldn't the Democrats simply do the same thing and hire only Democratic vendors/employees? This creates inefficiency b/c the best supplier and customer are kept apart by something unrelated to the product/service they're buying/selling, but it sure wouldn't crash society.

    This is like saying if I stop working with Republican vendors, Republicans will start feeling the effects of their fascist policies. The top headline on the front page of the WSJ today says high-tech is hiring like mad. But if we only hire Democrats, the Republicans will be forced to face the inevitable consequences of their policies leading them to create a fascist revolution. This obviously won't happen.

  2. Yeah, I can't imagine most business owners turning away customers or employees purely based on ideological differences, even if it's clear those opposed views could be directly harming the business: you may need the revenue enough to ignore the long-term damage. Still, I can't imagine most people knowingly helping thieves obtain the means and support to better rob them and their children, yet that's what many business owners could very well be doing. If you're aware of the downside, it becomes a tougher call.

    The case where it could harm the country would be one where people are too accurately rewarded for the policies which they support, and consequently the socialists are not allowed to steal money from the people who create it any more, but forced instead to try to steal only from other socialist parasites, leading to much unrest in that segment of the population. Alternatively, if they are allowed to continue to steal wealth from the people who create it, eventually those people will lose their tolerance to be abused by the political system, and revoke the sanction of the victim, leading to the death of the parasite host. In either case, too much realization of the truth disrupts the status quo, and puts the country on the path to unrest. In both cases, there would be hard lessons which would need to be [re-re-re-...]learned before the country could return to an amicable state.

  3. I think I understand better, especially if I consider the question about an individual: Should I work with an employee with a character flaw with the hopes of helping him overcome it, or is that just enabling him? That’s always a hard question.

    I start to disagree when it comes to ideology. I don’t accept the premise that average supporters of Democrats or Republics are parasitic.

    I would like to see a post on three types of socialism (or more if you notice more):
    a) The gov’t taxes people and uses the money to manage some of their expenses.
    b) The gov’t taxes the wealthy to provide things for the middle class.
    c) The gov’t taxes the middle class to pay for the poor.

    I agree with C but not A or B. A is not parasitic. A is a bad idea, but it’s not parasitic b/c people are paying their own way via the gov’t. C might be viewed as "parasitic" in some ways and still be a good idea.

  4. I don't think any of those really meet the categorization of socialism, although I readily admit that people have different definitions. If anything, to me, (a) the closest example, although I would characterize it as more just "big intrusive government" than socialism on its face. (b) and (c) are wealth redistribution; this is a common aspect of socialist governments, but not only those types (eg: our progressive tax system and selective bailout programs are also clear examples of wealth redistribution).

    To me, socialism is about the government trying to run people's lives, through controlling businesses, the economy, wealth redistribution, and laws to restrict personal freedoms. To some extent rampant wealth redistribution is a strong indicator of socialist tendencies in the government, though, and that's why it's sorta the "leading indicator". It's also true that socialism can't exist without forced wealth redistribution, whereas other types of governments and tax schemes can (eg: capitalism, flat tax).

    The communistic nature of socialism is parasitic to the people who create wealth, because it takes that wealth away and encourages lack of enterprise. Ideally, you could segregate all the people who want to steal wealth away from those who are willing to work to create it, and just let them try to steal it from each other (hence the saying, "the problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people's money to steal"). The problem is that real people aren't black and white, capitalist or socialist exclusively, and people continue to strive for the "middle ground" (as the government abuses the tolerance to take more power).

    The real frustrating part is that all this has been hashed over, again and again, and people seem utterly unable to retain the lessons of history and apply them to the present. Even if I can see the path and predict the outcome, there's nothing I can do about it... I sympathize with Hari Seldon. Obama's election, the bailouts, the auto industry takeover, the health care takeover... they're all just academic case-studies to prove the point.

  5. You need to establish a remote seastead with the ostensible purpose of recording all human knowledge in case of a collapse of all civilization.

    It would be like the island microstate of Minerva. They got taken over by Tonga, but maybe if they had played it right they could have played the Tonga against other tiny island states and ended up running the world centuries later.