Using your money to manage, manipulate and intimidate

Published 8:48 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

Editorial by Bobby Tingle

Decisions regarding who can use what bathroom have been in the news lately.  There are some who desire rights regarding this decision resisted by others.  Local and state governments have sought and in some cases, passed ordinances and legislation seeking to define the boundaries of those rights.  There are inevitable differences of opinion.  Once decisions are made winners and losers in these arguments then must decide what comes next.  Some have sought the involvement of the federal government.  Often these contested decisions end up in court.  Regardless of how you feel about this or any other issue you can’t overlook the way in which money is being used to manage, manipulate and intimidate.

Celebrities get into the fracas by way of some sort of boycott.  For example they may exercise their right to not do business within the geographic area of the offending entity.  Often entertainers bring profitable events that are economically beneficial.  By refusing to participate, the entity loses that economic benefit.

Is there anything wrong with a celebrity denying their performances to someone or some group based on personal principle?  I say no.  I support their right to do so.

Advocacy groups may join the fray as well.  They may also seek their own version of a boycott.  This could take the form of the group rallying their followers to sign petitions to present to offending parties.  Verbal and written requests or signed petitions may not get the desired result.  The last resort step is to issue a call to cease doing business with the offending party.

Is there anything wrong with an advocacy group calling on their supporters to boycott a retailer acting in a way that is offensive to the group?  I say no.

Governing officials have also jumped in. One form of action is to prohibit traveling to, meeting within or doing business with the offensive entity.

Is there anything wrong with one state disagreeing with another state and refusing to do business with them?  Is there anything wrong with moral principle guiding state governments?   I am not so quick to give my assent to these questions in this case.

Then there are those cases when the federal government is drawn in.  One tactic employed is the threat of withholding expected funding.  A publicly funded institution, dependent on those funds, may be more apt to see the light and follow suit with those who have the power of the purse.

Is there anything wrong with the federal government threatening to or actually withholding funds based on moral principle?  Yes, I think so.

I do not mean that the United States Congress should not have that power. They should. But not federal agencies or better put bureaucrats.

Private individuals have the right to make these choices seeking their desired outcomes.  The potential for loss for the boycotter and the boycotted may not be equal but both could lose.

Government officials or agencies, at any level, should only act within the letter of the law. Of course that is a quagmire. What is the letter of the law? Interpretations often muddy the waters of understanding. Governments must in fact impose a moral standard. But often it is difficult to agree on what the moral standard is.

It is wrong to use the power of the purse, withholding expected funds, when the letter of the law and the prevailing moral standard are in dispute. Money, in these cases, should not be used to manage outcomes.


Bobby Tingle is publisher of The Orange Leader. He can be reached at