Last Word On Mozilla

I wrote about the Mozilla CEO termination thing (I, II, III). The point of my writing on it was just to continue my long-standing project of pointing out that most procedural arguments — by which I mean content-neutral and substance-neutral arguments nominally divorced from policy and cultural preferences — are not serious. It seems to me that most people have some extreme limit to the kind of processes they are willing to use, but within that limit, they just use and find arguments for whatever processes lean towards their preferred substantive outcomes.

In making this point, I have not (as you would expect) tried to make some procedural justification for firing people for their political views. I have not tried to make some procedural justification for market coercion or civil coercion. I have merely pointed out that the same camp that was telling people to use market and civil coercion instead of legal coercion when it comes to fighting anti-gay bigotry actually turn against any efforts to do precisely that.

Truth be told, my actual procedural view (to the extent that I have one here) is that market coercion is a horrible thing that should be stamped out as much as possible. Everyone needs to be able to work and make money and participate in the economy. The economy is, to my thinking, a kind of public utility that should be open to all. We make it with our institutions and laws and we need it to live and flourish.

But this means we need a full-scale project of blowing up market coercion. Load the law books down with as many practicable anti-discrimination laws as possible. You should not be allowed to wall off races or genders or tattooed people or anything else from employment, something they often need to live. Pass ENDA.

Make it as difficult as possible to fire someone without cause. If a boss can fire you for no reason at all, coercion is impossible to avoid. What the boss says reigns supreme, if you want your kids to keep eating. Encourage unionization that can provide on-the-ground protections against biased firings.

Beyond anti-discrimination and job security protections, we need to do as much as we can to provide incomes and resources outside of the employment relationship. Laws that provide recourse if the boss tries to fire you because you have some political view or went to some rally can only do so much. Being able to sustain yourself (or at least somewhat sustain yourself) with social benefits and income is the only way to provide a serious check on the boss’s power. Delivering as much income as possible outside of that relationship takes away that thing the boss has control over that you need.

Even social income, anti-discrimination, and limits on termination justifications wont be sufficient though. We need a cultural shift in how we understand the employment relationship. All of my life, I have heard conservatives say such smug things as “how do you expect to get a job dressed like that, talking like that, with a tattoo like that, with your hair dyed or styled that way” (not always directed at me of course). Career counselors have told me to cease my daily internet trolling and particularly that far leftist stuff, which I am told employers might not look kindly on. I am told to instead build a personal brand online targeted at the bosses who might hire me for the kind of work I am trying to go into.

All of that is just a celebration and encouragement of market coercion. It is saying: capitulate to the conformist norms that the dim-witted and boring boss likes or live a relatively impoverished existence. That should end too. I’d rather that my ability to make income that I need to stay alive not turn on any of that stuff. It is generally conservatives that get real excited about shaping up and showing out for the boss, not me and not the left.

Ultimately, I don’t actually care about this Brendan Eich thing. Let him manage Mozilla or whatever he was doing with it. One anti-gay dude donated a chunk of money to roll back gay marriage? So what. He has ultimately lost on that, and it’s a drop in the bucket relative to the forces that operate against LGBT people, people whose economic and social exclusion has them disproportionately poor, homeless, and heavily discriminated against in the economic sphere.

I am on board with anyone who wants to start a project to domesticate the market so as to prevent it from disciplining people away from leading the lives they want to lead. But that’s going to require a serious overhaul of our economic institutions, an overhaul conservatives, and most liberals for that matter, are squarely against.