In 1925, addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors, President Calvin Coolidge remarked, “After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing, and prospering in the world.”
Sadly, it’s growing more and more common for considerations that have nothing to do with business to determine who gets to do business. Many are finding it impossible to even participate in the day-to-day business of America due to ideological litmus tests, cancel culture, and de-banking.
Last year, without notice or explanation, JPMorgan Chase closed the account of the National Committee for Religious Freedom — a nonprofit advocacy group that exists to defend the right of everyone in America to live their faith freely. NCRF’s chairman is Sam Brownback, a former U.S. Senator (R-KS), Republican governor, and U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. In order to reconsider the account closure, Brownback said that Chase required NCRF to disclose a list of donors who contributed 10% or more to its operating budget.
If someone like former Governor Brownback is forced to turn over information about his supporters to keep a checking account, what chance does the average small-business owner have if a loan officer doesn’t like his latest social media post?
This is un-American. A society where adherence to a particular worldview is required to access business services essential for functioning in daily life puts us on a path towards the social credit scoring system of the Chinese Communist Party. When a person discovers that he or she is headed in the wrong direction, the only way to make progress is to turn back.
Nearly 100 years after President Coolidge’s assessment, it seems the chief business of the American people is inserting politics into every aspect of life. While there are certain aspects of the roaring ’20s we would do best to avoid repeating, a return to a cultural view of politics as one aspect of American life, instead of its entirety, would let off some of the steam currently pressurizing the civic sphere.
The stakes in each election seem higher than the last, while our Balkanization continues to accelerate. As our rhetoric becomes more bombastic, civil discourse feels like a quaint but distant memory. Now even the ability to participate in the economy is a question of politics.
Many, if not most, consumers would like to get back to making decisions based on who provides the best product or service. Instead, because so many corporations have loudly entered the national political conversation on controversial subjects, some far-Left activists boycott Chick-fil-A, as some on the Right boycott Disney. Liberals might prefer Starbucks coffee, while conservatives may prefer to drink Black Rifle, and so on.
Wouldn’t it be nice to make a decision based on who makes the best chicken sandwich or cup of coffee without the added stress of wondering if our money is going to fund advocacy that limits our freedoms or if the bank has cancelled the card we intend to use to pay for it?
Depoliticizing our economy is a two-way street. Businesses must realize that a healthy corporate culture must treat all employees respectfully regardless of ideology and avoid pushing political agendas that alienate a large portion of their customer base. Depoliticizing corporate America will also allow consumers to keep their votes at the ballot box and out of the marketplace.
With a modicum of courage, titans of industry — particularly technology and financial services firms — could lead the way in a return to normalcy that would benefit all citizens and the bottom line. To paraphrase President Coolidge, we could get back to business as usual in America.
Lathan Watts, who obtained his law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law, is vice president of public affairs for Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal).
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.