Freedom, Business and Change

If conservatives want to run America like a business, they should never turn a potential customer away.

Unless you’ve been living in a hole or fallout shelter recently, you’ve probably noticed a shift in the country’s mood. Social contracts and taboos are rapidly changing. Same sex marriage was voted in by referendum in several states, including the place where I was born, Washington State, as was the legalization of recreational marijuana (apparently I hail from the American equivalent of Amsterdam). The days when men and women had to fake malaise and joint pain in order to legally get high are slipping away.

The growing acceptance of same sex marriage, combined with the de-demonization of marijuana, has worked quite a few ‘severe’ conservatives into a tantrum. Disheartened, and losing ground socio-politically, the most intransigent voices on the right now claim they no longer recognize the country in which they live (some have even threatened to secede). If you happen to be a conservative of this ilk, ready to huddle beneath your bed covers in the fetal position until the rapture eventually proves you right, I’m here to tell you that you can take heart. You might not be happy with certain shifts in demographics and the collective consciousness, but once you get past a few conservative sticking points, these changes might actually be a blessing in disguise.

Many on the right have preached that America should be run like a business, not a charity. Regardless if you believe this or not, most pundits would agree that businesses need as many customers as they can muster, which means no one should be left behind as far as the markets are concerned. At the end of the day, the concept of ‘freedom’ so often lauded in our culture finds its ultimate expression in the freedom to consume.

While I would be the first to admit that the notion of ‘commercial liberty’ falls short of the inspirational and romantic ideals of emancipation, racial equality and women’s suffrage taught to us over the years, all you have to do is stroll through a typical shopping mall and soak in the diversity of the consumers on hand to understand what I’m talking about. George Washington, or even my great grandfather, never lived in such a varied world when it came to their daily lives. Once a disenfranchised group of people have been liberated, or at least partially liberated from oppressive forces, subtle and overt, they’re freer to focus on the mundane battles a consumer-oriented society offers most of its citizens, which means buying and producing an awful lot of stuff.

If conservatives want to run America like a business, they should adopt sound business practices, and never turn a potential customer away. A gay couple acquiring a home should never be dissuaded from their purchase because of the prejudices of neighbors or a local church. An entrepreneur and horticulturist specializing in the cultivation of marijuana should be able to legally grow and sell a plant already in widespread use (like it or not), thus generating tax revenue for the state, and relieving an overworked justice system at the same time. Excluding or marginalizing a group of people simply because they differ from the standard of ‘normal’ or ‘real’ that existed in the past is not only morally wrong, it’s bad business.

Business and government, no mater how they’re run, need to be able to adapt to change –– otherwise they’re destined for destruction. The lesson an intractable conservative needs to learn, and even an overly idealistic liberal, is that once a man or woman has passed through the gauntlet of oppression keeping him or her down, and then gains access to educational opportunities and a more balanced treatment in society, he or she can contribute to the ‘business’ side of the American experiment, as well as the cultural side, in some pretty spectacular ways (whether as entrepreneur, innovator or consumer). The energy it takes to keep another human being down simply isn’t worth the effort, and it hurts us all.

It seems modern conservatives need to redefine themselves. Are they trying to protect the powers of a certain (and dwindling) demographic of society by separating it out from the rest of the nation, and labeling anyone who disagrees with them as ‘other,’ or are they trying to conserve the collective and pragmatic values—open to innovation and change—that have made this country strong? My guess is that there are individuals coming at this problem from both sides, although if I were a gambling man, I’d bet on and root for the latter.


Read more of Carl Pettit’s weekly column, Root Down, on The Good Life.

Image credit: vharjadi/Flickr

About Carl Pettit

Carl Pettit is a writer, illustrator and musician whose education and travels have taken him all over the world. When not out exploring, or pondering the universe, he finds time to produce fiction for both adults and children. You can catch up with him on his blog, or twitter.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    There are some conservatives, of the more libertarian variety, who do see things this way. To them, what’s the problem with same-sex marriage, if gay people’s money is just as green as anyone else’s? The market system doesn’t care about what you smoke or don’t smoke, the laws of supply and demand are the same. Not all political conservatives are cultural/social conservatives. There are some pro-free-market folks who would wholeheartedly agree with you. They may not be steering the Republican Party, but they are out there, and they don’t always get along well with the social conservatives.

    • I’m not versed in disagreements between libertarian factions, but I feel like the people you describe aren’t even well represented outside of Republican heterodoxy. What are the calls for “state’s rights” heard from the Gary johnsons and Ron Pauls but an attempt to centralize state power on a slightly more local level? As if a infringment on your rights is only legitimate when coming from Albany and not DC…

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