Seriously, I thought it was pronounced Chick-fil-uh.
That’s not the main reason I haven’t posted on this topic (though it did mean I was kind of embarrassed when the subject came up among friends). This just seems like a news story where there are only a couple things to be said, and most people are just repeating them (but with more and more vehemence). Anyway, here’s the selection of hackneyed thoughts I agree with, and then one probably not original one at the end.
Don’t use zoning to curtail speech!
And, frankly, don’t ever use zoning in response to a news story or problem that is less than, oh, let’s say, 6 months old. Zoning is already a shuddering mess, and the last thing we need to do is weaponize it further. The only winning move is not to play.
(Also, can someone please bribe the zoning boards in DC so we can have properly sized buildings here?)
Rod Dreher is right about the weirdness of politicizing every purchase
When something really terrible comes up about a business you patronize, it makes sense to pause and decide if you can continue to do business with them. It makes most sense to give them up if the revelation is related to their product or business model (unsafe ingredients, brutalization of workers, etc). I’m much more likely to boycott a business if it busts its union than I am if its executives give to anti-union causes or candidates.
There’s a certain amount of fungibility here, and I’m mindful of it, but I also don’t want every action I take to be a sortie in the culture war. Back when I was at college, the flagship Blue State Coffee (a coffee shop that tithes some of its profits to progressive causes) opened up near campus, and some of my conservative friends didn’t want to meet up there, if we were grabbing a coffee.
I don’t want every meetup, every gift, every purchase to be something that requires extensive research and might be something that keeps me and my friends apart (how can you have a substantive fight about anything without a mutually agreeable coffeeshop?). There’s a way to lower the stakes of your purchases, without hurting your cause. See the next section.
Don’t ever just boycott, give to advocacy groups
I’m not sure what fraction of the sandwich purchase price goes to fund anti-gay marriage groups or what portion of an Amazon purchase goes to support legalization of gay marriage. But I’m pretty sure it’s small enough that you’d have a much bigger effect just donating $5 or more to the advocacy group you actually back. (In my case, that’s Lambda Legal).
If you think the group you’re boycotting is so awful, you can’t in good conscience support them, fine, don’t buy their products, but still give to the people who are rallying the troops to make institutional or cultural change. If the stakes are high enough that buying a product means you’re complicit, then they’re high enough to make some time to volunteer or give.
And then match that donation with another contribution through GiveWell
In case you aren’t tired of me harping on it by now, GiveWell evaluates charities based on the empirics of what they accomplish, not just on the size of their overhead. Imagine two charities, A and B. Charity A has 20% overhead, and the remaining 80% goes to malaria nets. Charity B has 10% overhead and the remaining 90% goes to buying kids toys.
You should probably give to Charity A. The malaria nets are known to improve the outcomes of the kids they reach, so, dollar for dollar, you know your gift has changed someone’s life for the better. Remember you’re not just buying warm and fuzzy feelings for yourself.
I like to use every time I make a donation (political or otherwise) to a group as a reminder to give to one of the groups reviewed and recommended by GiveWell. So, whichever advocacy group you gave to in the section above, would you consider donating the same amount to one of GiveWell’s charities?