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Seuss debate shows canceling Republicans’ culture war is a fight against the free market

Republicans have long declared their supposed unwavering obedience to the large invisible hand of the market; as the former GOP House leader, Dick Armey liked to say, “Markets are smart; the government is stupid.

And yet, several recent moments have made this engagement situational. Whether it’s discussing Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, voting rights, or Twitter, Republicans seem uncomfortable with – or just plain ignorant of – how the powerful market actually works.

Just witness the artificial hysteria about the fabricated “cancellation” of Dr. Seuss, the beloved author of children’s books. Dr Seuss Enterprises – the highly profitable company that controls the estate of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, the man behind the pen name – has voluntarily decided to stop publishing half a dozen of his books because, said the company to Theodor Seuss Geisel. The Associated Press, they “portray people in a hurtful and false way,” unfolding stereotypes about blacks and Asians in ways that Seuss’ own estate considers offensive and inappropriate.

The Fox scandal machine has given itself a big dudgeon on how this private company has decided to conduct its business, bemoaning the Seussian scalp grip; GOP Culture War ambulance hunters quickly followed suit. “First, they ban Dr. Seuss” – notice, Theodore Geisel passed away in 1991 and his own estate making this decision – “and now they want to tell us what to say”, Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Said in a false non sequitur while debating proposals for reform of the electoral law.

The GOP is trying to use the government’s heavy hand to choose who can be a consumer rather than responding to their will.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Tweeted that Seuss’ fake squelching – again, the company that owns the rights to his work chooses not to continue publishing a handful of them in the future – will make history books see this era as ” an example of a depraved socio-political purge motivated by hysteria and madness.

Someone is exhibiting hysteria and madness, but that’s not what Rubio suggests.

Let’s take a step back here: Seuss Enterprises made $ 33 million last year, over 650 million of its books have been sold worldwide and are available in over 100 countries. There is no significant movement – and certainly no Seuss Enterprises – to ban, burn or otherwise cancel Dr. Seuss. A private company made a thoughtful business decision by pulling a small portion of the Seuss catalog (none of its top sellers).

Exactly why is it the responsibility of the federal government? Republicans, who supposedly believe the government should interfere as little as possible in private business decisions, don’t think the market should cease to exercise its infallible will; if Seuss Enterprises gets it wrong and goes for political correctness that no one wants, market forces will correct it. (Of course, the right-wing cancellation choir didn’t hold their breath to make this happen; neither should you. Most people didn’t buy these particular books.)

Or take the story of Mr. Potato Head, the brand of children’s toys under which Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head dolls have long been marketed by Hasbro. Last week, Hasbro announced that this entire toy universe will now be marketed under the “Potato Head” brand – although the titular couple will still be “Mr.”. and “Ms.” – and the Conservatives have lost their collective spirit, including some on Capitol Hill, where some Republicans were not going to let the facts get in the way of their feelings.

The growing disillusionment of the right with free markets could be linked to the drift of the markets of the right.

Glenn Beck assessed the true significance of the Seuss / Potato Head decisions in a typically flowery fashion: “Buy Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head because it’s the end of an era.” he said wednesday. “This is the end of freedom in America.”

But, again: if Hasbro thinks it makes more sense to sell a Mrs Potato Head doll as part of a “Potato Head” brand, rather than a “Mr. “Potato Head” – and it is – isn’t that a business? And if the company is wrong, the market will tell them, with no right-wing indignation machine trying to overturn their necessary decision.

So what is going on?

Maybe researching the voting rights can help refine the picture. In a Supreme Court hearing Tuesday on whether a restrictive Arizona law unconstitutionally discriminates against minorities, Republican National Committee lawyer Michael Carvin told the court that overturning the law – making it easier to vote – would put the GOP “at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis the Democrats.”

It was a surprising admission, if not surprising. Republicans have lost the popular presidential vote in seven of the last eight elections – or to put it another way, they have lost political market share. But instead of adjusting their product (their candidates and their policies) or the way they sell it (their message), the GOP increasingly relies on government interference to maintain power, including distorting nature of the Electoral College and the US Senate (which is equally divided despite the fact that Democrats represent 41 million more voters), radical gerrymandering, and restrictive election laws, like those in Arizona.

The Conservatives may not like what market forces businesses react to, but in a free market that is not their call.

But it’s not just anti-democratic (or anti-republican) to try to reduce the responsiveness of the system to the will of the people; it’s anti-market. The GOP is, in fact, trying to use the government’s heavy hand to choose who can be a consumer rather than doing their bidding.

In other words, the growing disillusionment of the right vis-à-vis free markets could be linked to the distancing of the right-wing markets.

Companies are taking a more holistic view of the factors that drive their decisions. For example, the Business Roundtable – barely a stronghold of AOC Stan and Bernie Bros – announced in 2019 that a company’s purpose goes beyond strict adherence to bottom line and includes “all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. “

The Conservatives may not like what market forces businesses react to, but in a free market that is not their call. But in a less free market, they think, maybe that could be the case.

Which brings us to former President Donald Trump. Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, he reiterated his oft-made claim that social media was part of a giant conspiracy to censor and silence Tories. “Republicans, Conservatives must… repeal the liability protections in Section 230,” Trump told the crowd to applause. (Section 230 actually protects internet companies from legal liability for what is posted by others on their platforms, not what they remove; ending it, ironically, would result in the removal. more content, not less.)

“And if the federal government refuses to act,” he said, “then all the union states where we have the votes, which is a lot of them, the giants of the Big Tech, like Twitter, Google and Facebook, should be punished with penalties whenever they silence conservative voices. “

It doesn’t matter that Facebook has long spoken to conservatives or that it wasn’t conservatism that banned Trump from Twitter for life, but seditious and insurgent lies. Trump called – and the Tories applauded – for more regulation and prosecution of private companies based on their market-based business decisions, and for the party with limited government to unleash the power of federal and state governments to punish these companies for the way they choose to do it. conduct their business.

In an open market where Twitter was making bad business decisions, users would punish it by switching to Talk or Gab. Most, of course, did not; The idea that most users want more abuse, more violent rhetoric, or more conspiracy theories proliferating on their social platforms is absurd. The Conservatives therefore want to find a way for the government to force companies to give it to us anyway.

In the end, the biggest victim of cancellation culture may well be conservative principles.

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