Two days ago, I visited my bank (a branch of TD Bank) in my suburban town of Maine.
A classical liberal or a liberal should be tolerant: it is the building block of the brand. Tolerance, or respect for the preferences of others, was part of, or used to, the underlying ideological influence of microeconomic theory. This means, of course, tolerating the individual liberties of others, not their oppressive aspirations. We should be tolerant of anything that does not directly threaten the spontaneous order where every person can adopt his or her own personal way of life. (I use “he” to refer to him. Please be patient.) James Buchanan and Frederick Hayek, two economists and political philosophers who have each won the Nobel Prize in economics, have done a lot.
Inside my bank celebrates the month of pride with small posters and a large rainbow flag at the double door entrance of the small building. Inside, the staff was, as usual, enthusiastically helpful and customer-centric.
Can we assume that the company, consistent with its consumer focus, will be tolerant and will celebrate their next monthly, say, the month of individual freedom or the month of free speech or the month of the Second Amendment? (Ironically, I was armed when I went to the bank, but no one is forced to be armed, which is an essential part of freedom and tolerance, and I didn’t shout about it: “Hey! Look at my sig below me!”) “Free (not fair) speech” should be said to confirm what it says. The answer is no: they won’t do it. Business politicization is a zero-sum game;
In a free society, tolerance between consumers and producers seems to be disproportionate. Producers (in the general sense of suppliers) are very tolerant and certainly do not dare to challenge the views of their customers, while consumers generally do not shy away from expressing opinions that their suppliers may not like. Your heating oil supplier company does not advertise political views on its truck but you do not care if a political sign on your lawn displeases your oil supplier. There is a reason for this behavior, the norm of commercial society throughout history: producers are serving consumers, not otherwise. Although most individuals are both consumers and producers (some, such as children or social welfare recipients, consumers only for a period of time), consumer sovereignty reflects the notion that we produce to enjoy, not otherwise. It is like saying that a person naturally wants prosperity, not slavery.
This is different from authoritarian regimes where producers first serve political power and consumers must be satisfied with the rest. In his 1969 book Appreciation of the consumer society (In praise of the Consumer Society), French philosopher Raymond Ruer, describes the difference between a market economy, where consumers are sovereign, and a planned economy, where producers run shows (under government control):
In a market economy, demand is irresistible and supply is demanding. . . In a planned economy, supply is irresistible and demand is demanding.
In a market economy, demand is irresistible, and suppliers . . . In a planned economy, supply is irresistible, and demand is dependent. A