Abortion: Walmart, Lowe, and your oil delivery

According to some, big corporations must take a position on the abortion debate (“Wall Street is forced into the abortion debate,”). The Wall Street JournalJune 3, 2022):

Shareholders have offered abortion-rights in proxies to three major retailers this spring: Walmart Inc. …; Lower 6; And TJX মালিক, owner of off-price chains including TJ Maxx. Many more could follow next year.

Despite the present perfect in the first sentence, two of the three proposals, introduced in December, have been rejected by a large majority of shareholders (Walmart and Lowe) for the past week or so. But we can expect more pressure from employees with large asset managers who are “focused on environmental, social and corporate-governance” (and not necessarily known for their in-depth knowledge of economics and political philosophy). To be pessimistic, only catastrophic events such as a deep recession, a nuclear war, or a sudden nine-foot rise above sea level can stop the movement.

Abortion is a very complex problem because it depends on the basic questions we know very little about and which may not be entirely unanswerable, at least in our current universe: When does human life begin? When Human Is life over? What is the specialty of human life, or human beings just animals or plants or biological slime? When is it morally reasonable to end human life? Should abortion be banned for black women because black life is important? This last question shows how slippery the problem is and how irrational the conventional wisdom of the call-of-the-mill activist is.

But here’s my question: What does Walmart, Loves, TJX, or your hot oil supplier have to do with all of this? Why would they have a corporate opinion on these questions and advertise it to their customers? One reason that has been called for is to promote their (greedy) political motives which will reduce their labor costs:

Activist investors submitted proposals to shareholders in December. Broadly, they ask each company to produce a report assessing the risks and costs of limited reproductive rights, including hiring and retaining employees.

(Once upon a time, apparently, greed was good, but many did not increase it.)

The strange idea is that instead of higher wages and benefits, companies should attract and retain employees by echoing the views or prejudices of the latter. But what about employees who have other opinions? Should young social workers be encouraged to think that their opinions, often publicly stigmatized and irrational, are important enough to brand customers like a scepter who do not share them?

Perhaps all producers, from Walmart to your oil supplier, should be nationalized only to ensure the official opinion of the government is publicized? Would racial inequality in the Old South be more widespread if all private companies, like the railways, were forced to follow the local majority opinion? (In addition to “Jim Crow: More Racist Than Railroad”, see my post “Markets Against Maabe’s Purpose”)

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