Respect and Pursuit of the Greater Good

by Paul Meshanko

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It’s been awhile since a social issue has captured the attention of the press and social media as much as the recently vetoed Arizona SB 1062. This bill would have made it legal for business owners in Arizona to refuse to provide goods or services to certain classes of customers when doing so would specifically violate the business owners’ firmly held religious convictions. On the surface, it’s a classic reenactment of a drama that has been replayed in American society for over a century.

The question is and has always been this: Can we choose to not conduct business with another person (or class of people) because of who they are or because they do not have the same beliefs or lifestyle that falls in line with our own moral convictions?

Let’s face it.

We all have beliefs about what’s “right” and “wrong”. Some of these beliefs are individualized, but most are shared by members of the groups we consider ourselves to be a part of (Christian, Jews, educators, Republicans, etc.). It is this feature that makes human society so beautifully complex and, as this case demonstrates, so contentious at times. The conflict comes from the fact that, by and large, we don’t like to be challenged on ideas and concepts about which we have already made up our mind. Neurologically, it’s easier (and more rewarding) to stick with what we believe and defend it until the sun goes down…even if it means that there will be negative consequences for doing so.

Moral argument aside, the debate in Arizona is likely to be settled by a force that can and should govern such debates in a civil society – what is best for the greater common good. Since this case stems from commerce, it should be no surprise that some of the most respected names in American business (Intel, AT&T, American Airlines and Marriott Hotels to name a few) have come out squarely opposed to the legislation.

Why?

Because, as the business consortium stated in a letter to Governor Jan Brewer, “When the legislature passes bills like this, it creates a reputation that Arizona is judgmental and unwelcoming. This will haunt our business community for decades to come.”

Despite our historic tendency to “go small” and apply labels to ourselves that oftentimes divide us from the common good, we are all still part of the greater collective called humanity. It’s nice to see, in this case at least, that the growing consensus is that what is good for the greater good is also good for business.

Photo Credit: Flickr CC License by nooccar.

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