Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Free markets in action (yes, another Barilla post)

The right-thinking people routinely tell me that free markets are powerless against bigotry and that only government can protect us. Yet The Washington Post, citing the Human Rights Campaign (and the latter is not exactly known for its libertarian bias), reports,
Not long ago, pasta-maker Barilla was just one more major company that had run afoul of the gay rights movement, a distinction it earned last year when its chairman said he would never feature a same-sex couple in an ad. If gays didn’t like it, he added, they could eat something else.

But in a sign of how toxic it has become for a company to be viewed as unfriendly toward gays, Barilla has made a dramatic turnaround in the space of one year, expanding health benefits for transgender workers and their families, contributing money to gay rights causes, and featuring a lesbian couple on a promotional Web site.

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The remarks grabbed headlines around the world and prompted boycotts in the United States, where the firm has 30 percent of the pasta market with $430 million in sales in 2013, and elsewhere. Harvard University dumped Barilla from its cafeterias, gay rights groups promoted names of other brands of pasta, and Barilla’s competitors seized on the opportunity to present themselves as more forward-thinking, with Bertolli Germany posting a comment on its Facebook page promoting “pasta and love for all!”

So no law was needed to enforce goodthink. Instead, private parties, acting freely in the marketplace, convinced Barilla to change course.

Social conservatives have left some amusing comments. It seems that they are so outraged that Barilla has caved in to a boycott that they will punish it by boycotting it. Um, okay.