Last summer — at least, I think it was last summer; time has become a flat circle — I wrote a piece for Deadline about how the then-flagging vaccination effort was being helped along by business. (Of all entities.) You might not be able to convince your uncle to get vaccinated, but maybe paying extra for health insurance might change his mind. Delta Airlines was charging employees who refused the vaccine an extra $200 a month for their health insurance. I wrote:
In one way, it’s amusing. Many of the conservatives who have spent the last 40 years preaching the gospel of American capitalism are now reduced to staring at their shoelaces as these undeniably capitalistic organizations lead the country in a direction they don’t like. And when governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott push for laws that tell the private sector what it can or can’t do with work rules for its own employees, you can snicker at the rank hypocrisy.
But at the same time, it’s unsettling. The fact-based policy-making process in the public sphere – i.e. self-government – is so messed up that we are relying on American corporations, not known for their expansive concern for the common good, to do it for us.
The point of the column was this: Never trust businesses to do the right thing because it’s the right thing. They only operate in their financial self-interest.
Even so, I was amazed to read this Axios story about the world’s companies pulling out of, or otherwise abandoning, Russia:
Since the invasion began:
Boeing suspended major operations in Moscow, as well as maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines.
Airbus is halting supply of parts and services to Russian airlines.
Shell will sever ties with Russian gas giant Gazprom and end its roughly $1 billion financing of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
BP is exiting its nearly 20% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, and faces a potential financial hit of as much as $25 billion.
Exxon Mobil says it will exit Russia oil and gas operations valued at more than $4 billion and cease new investment.
GM, which sells only about 3,000 cars a year in Russia, says it will suspend exporting vehicles.
Ford suspended operations.
BMW stopped shipments and will stop production in Russia.
Daimler Truck Holdings said it would no longer send supply components to its Russian joint-venture partner.
Volvo Cars, owned by Chinese conglomerate Zhejiang Geely, halted sales and shipments.
Renault ceased operations and production at two assembly plants because it can’t get parts.
VW paused delivery of Audis already in Russia so it can adjust car prices to reflect the decline in value of the ruble.
Harley-Davidson suspended shipments to Russia.
Adidas suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union.
Nike ceased online sales because it can’t guarantee delivery.
FedEx and UPS suspended shipments.
Yoox Net-A-Porter Group and Farfetch, luxury e-commerce platforms, are suspending deliveries in Russia.
Apple has paused product sales and limited services (including Apple Pay), on top of ceasing exports to Russia and restricting features in Apple Maps in Ukraine to safeguard civilian safety.
Dell stopped selling products.
Ericsson is suspending deliveries to Russia.
Walt Disney is pausing film debuts in Russia. Warner Bros., Sony, Paramount and Universal say they won’t release films in the country.
Ikea is closing its Russian stores and pausing all exports and imports in the country and ally Belarus.
Suspending my three-paragraph rule to include the whole list; sorry, Axios, but man, look at that. The world’s capitalists are turning Russia into North Korea. Or will, if this drags on too much longer.
If you delve into it, these companies aren’t risking much. Three thousand cars a year? GM probably sells that many in the five Grosse Pointes, pop. 45,000-ish. Still, even small things like this add up.
I don’t want to live in a business-ocracy. But as long as government is self-strangling, we need some entity to do the right thing.
The risk, of course, is that Vladimir Putin will respond in some insane, out-of-proportion manner that will blow Europe to kingdom come. If you want someone to retreat and surrender, you can generally get a better result by giving them a way to save face. Cornered, frightened dogs will bite.
OK, then. It’s the end of the week, I have a podcast to prepare for. It has a video element, so maybe I’ll wear this:
I found that yesterday when I was cleaning out an armoire I would dearly love to get rid of. It’s a reject from Alan’s Theater Bizarre costume, and apparently has been sitting in a box in that armoire for a decade.
“Has kind of a fetish-y look to it, eh?” I remarked when I showed him. Where would people get their freak on if not for Etsy? Anyway, a new Batman movie opens this weekend, so this is my tribute.
Good weekend all.