On Mixing Politics with Business
Here’s what I’d like to discuss over the next few posts
- Is it appropriate to mix business and politics?
- When does it become inappropriate?
- What price do you pay (loss of sales, etc.?)
Let’s start with some arguments in their most stark terms:
Argument one: There should be a wall between your
business and your politics, and the business should never reflect your
politics. Your clients don’t care, they don’t need to be exposed
to your politics, and you do yourself (literally) immeasurable harm. We’ll
call this the Church&State argument.
While it is not necessary for every client to know all my politics,
I am an activist in a cause that benefits from being not only “out” but “
in your face
” and failing to integrate these two aspects of who I am is an
opportunity lost. Let’s call this the Out&Loud
There are many intermediate positions, but these will get us started.
I have chosen, over the past few years, to let my politics bleed into my
business presence, and as that continues to grow, I think it is worth
discussing whether or not it is a good idea (my family and friends have
an easy answer: “no.”)
Example 1: I have a page on my
business web site
called “Articles and Publications” – There you
can find links to my articles both print and on-line. I’ve
added a section for my political articles printed in my
Argument in favor: Writing is what I do for a living. Argument
against: this is a technology business site and these articles are not
Example 2: I had repeated requests for recommendations on
technical books by readers and students. I created a Recommendations
page on my
business web site
(click on Books, then click on Recommendations). Over time, I received
requests to go beyond technical books (“what fiction do you like,
what else are you reading?”) On the one hand, what does that
have to do with business? On the other hand, reinforcing that Liberty Associates,
Inc. is me, a real person, not a part of a large conglomerate is part of
what I bring to the table.
So I started adding recommendations. For a while this was apolitical (lots
of literature) but then I got into a spurt of reading political books,
and so now the non-fiction section is divided into categories: “
,” “Evolution,” “Neuropsychology,” “Philosophy,
Politics and History.” It is the first category that dovetails
with my other politics.
Does having a section on Neuropsychology diminish my site? What about evolution?
What about Queer? Why would one be more problematic than the
other. Of course, the answer to that question depends on whether
you are asking “what is appropriate” vs. “what is
likely to lose more business?”
We’d all like to believe that we do now let money affect our deeply
held political and identity positions, but when you have two children and
a mortgage, reality intrudes.
One of the more interesting trends in Queer theory is the concept of “Covering.” Two
The Long Arc of Justice
by Kenji Yoshino.
Covering is the process of coerced hiding of crucial aspects of one’s self.
The assertion is that there are four stages that marginalized groups and
individuals go through:
conversion (assimilation), passing (the closet), covering ("just keep it to
your self") and acceptance.
The question I’m raising today is wheter separating one’s politics from
one’s business identity is a form of covering if the politics are
assocaited with a group that is struggling with covering or passing in general.
This leads to two different branches of discussion: (1) would this issue
arise if your political cause was unrelated ot issues of identity (e.g.,
if you were an anti-war activist) and (2) is there a special obligation
if, like me, you are both bisexual and happily married to someone of the
opposite sex (in which case
is the default unless you go out of
your way to continually declare otherwise).
I actively invite your participation in this discussion, through comments and replies to these posts.