HILL: Doing business with bad people

Dustin Johnson during the final round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., Sunday, July 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A lot is being made of top PGA golfers jumping to the LIV Tour for monumental amounts of money.  

It brings to mind conflicting thoughts: 1) Shouldn’t any American be free to make as money as possible? 2) are these golfers any worse than American businesses, including the NBA, making billions of dollars in profits from products made in China and 3) are they worse than any U.S. consumer buying cheap products made in China?  

A billion and a half Chinese citizens are probably wonderful, peace-loving folks. The relative few who run the communist government of China have produced the worst human rights record in modern history. Tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens and dissidents have been summarily executed by the communist Chinese regime since 1948. God only knows how many Chinese died as a result of COVID where the government sealed infected citizens in their apartment with no access to food or supplies. Muslim Uighurs are sent to concentration camps daily. 

Chinese businesses, with the complicit approval of the communist government, have stolen U.S. patents and copyrights, undersold American companies and taken American jobs to China for decades with impunity. The Chinese government laughs at any American government attempt to stop their pirating behavior. 

Check your own wardrobe. If most of your underwear, dresses, suits and shirts has not been manufactured in China, they may be homemade like the sackcloth made of camel hair John The Baptist wore in the wilderness while eating locusts and honey. 

Isn’t buying products made in China “selling out” to a blood-thirsty, unethical and disrespectable government run by thugs and thieves? How is that any different than professional golfers getting paid millions to play golf by Saudi sheiks who were behind the 9/11 attacks and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamaal Khashoggi?  

English consumers loved getting low-cost cotton from the antebellum American South so they could turn it into fine clothing and lace. They didn’t care if cotton came from the labor of slaves or from their own backyard as long as it was cheap, of high quality and easy to get. Most of them never even thought about it. 

Milton Friedman said anything a nation did to cheat in international commerce such as subsidies and currency manipulation would ultimately mean lower prices ― which was good for the American consumer ― and a lower standard of living for the home country ― which ultimately leads to their competitive detriment. The problem with such a strict, steely-eyed objective cost/benefit monetary equation is it allows the human brain to rationalize almost anything into being morally acceptable. 

During the early growth stages of IBM, Thomas Watson secured a contract with Der Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler in 1933 to perform census data collection. IBM technological expertise combined with precision German mechanical engineering made IBM the world leader in identifying individuals by gender, race, age and religion. 

By 1940, when the world to its horror slowly began to understand the extent of Hitler’s madness, Hitler tried to nationalize IBM and end their then-enormous multimillion-dollar contract.  According to Edwin Black in his meticulously researched book, “IBM and the Holocaust”, despite the fact that IBM could have pulled out of all operations in Germany and effectively ruined the Third Reich simply by not selling billions of data punch cards to the Nazis that were used to round up Jews for extermination and mobilize blitzkriegs, Watson ferociously held onto the business simply because it was so lucrative for him and IBM shareholders. 

Was it worth it for IBM to have made a fortune during World War II when they could have suspended all business with the Nazis and wrecked their devilish goals in 1940 when their heinous plans started to come to light? 

Capitalism in the absence of ethics and religious faith becomes a form of economic cannibalism. Who cares what happens to anyone else as long as I get the best product for the lowest possible price? 

Each person has the right to make as much money as they can from whatever pursuit they choose to pursue ― but each has to live with the consequences of their decision later. They can’t unwind the immense moral and ethical complexities after they have cashed the $100 million check or bought the 12-pack of underwear for $10 from China at Wal-Mart. 

The LIV golfers are no different than the rest of us. Their decisions are just so much more public and have maybe six more zeroes attached to them.