Apple’s Tim Cook and his slightly surprising support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act

“Tim Cook of Apple has called in the Wall Street Journal for Congress to just get on with it and pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act,” Tim Worstall writes for Forbes. “The language of the letter suggests (he uses ‘we’ but he is the only signatory) that this is Apple’s corporate view not just his alone as an individual. The slightly surprising thing about this support is that while the discrimination itself is wrong opposing it might not be in Apple’s direct best interests.”

“Typically economists like to split discrimination into parts, rational and taste. Rational discrimination is just that, rational. We’d probably not select a quadriplegic as a waiter, someone math ignorant as a quant in a hedge fund, an illiterate as a print journalist: these are all obvious and logical examples of where the natural endowments of an individual make them unsuitable for a specific job or task. It’s thus entirely rational for us to discriminate in this manner, even sensible for us to do so,” Worstall writes. “Taste discrimination is another matter and it is this that most people associate with the word discrimination unadorned. People making unreasonable distinctions on the basis of sex, gender, race or other such attributes.”

Worstall writes, “Clearly, Apple benefits from not discriminating. But equally clearly, Apple benefits from whatever discrimination happens elsewhere, as [American economist Gary Becker] has explained. Because, to whatever extent that discrimination does happen elsewhere, this increases the number of talented people that Apple can hire.”

Much more – including concern over unintended consequences – in the full article here.

Related article:
Tim Cook: Workplace equality is good for business; one reason why congress should support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act – November 4, 2013

66 Comments

  1. A fine academic exercise, but ultimately the goodwill generated from being in front on social issues outweighs potential savings reaped from a laissez-faire attitude toward it.

    And of course, having your business name associated with socially progressive people-first issues helps push you farther from the front of the line for criticism from opponents of “big business” about tax-dodging, government influence, labor force abuses, etc.

    1. Agreed. What a silly article. The author even states that “basic human values of decency and fairness trump marginal business benefits”

      Clearly, discrimination is a case where humanity takes a clearly priority over profitability… which should be the case anyway. Non-discrimination is different from advocating a particular lifestyle. Tim Cook should be human first, Apple CEO is tertiary.

      1. Re: ApplePi,

        Really? Always? Was SJobs such…human first, CEO tertiary?
        His mind was laser-like on the biz/products/technology and other thoughts were tertiary.

    2. The sickening thing about the “tax dodging” charges leveled at Apple is that they pay more in taxes than any other US company. And to further the insult those dollars help fund a tyrannical government full of unaccountable bureaucrats that spies on us.

  2. Tim can’t help but promote his own political agenda starting with submitting briefs to the Supreme Court in support of gay marriage in spite of pissing off half his customers in the process! Expect a lot more of his liberal BS!

      1. Wait, he is free to shop elsewhere, but an employer is not free to employ whomever he chooses?

        A man is free to wear a dress to work and the boss just has to accept it. Why? Because it’s a free country.

        Insanity at its best.

    1. … “in spite of pissing off half his customers” as if it were fact. Well over half of the people in well over half the states favor gay marriage. The Daily Show just did a bit to show that Arkansas and Georgia (?) were rabidly anti-gay and couldn’t rouse a single bigot to complain. I know … not actual “proof”. Thing of it is, if you are a bigot, you see many bigots agreeing with you while if you are NOT a bigot, you … also see many people agreeing with you. The polls, OTOH, (if honestly and competently done) provide facts. And the polls – though I can’t absolutely vouch for their honesty or quality) say “you are WRONG”. They say many fewer than half the population is against gay marriage.
      Though … fewer than a quarter of all US residents have any direct need for such an institution.

            1. “I’ve read the polls.” the condescending borismcguffin scowls at his readers. BINGO, Boris, you win a prize for exposing the limits of your logic! POLLS _ARE_ OPINIONS. They are not facts. Facts do not change, opinions do. Read some more polls and you will see changes and trends.

              Don’t bother going back to your obsolete 1900 year-old guidebook to tell other people what they’re doing wrong. Nobody cares about ancient social norms. Society is more sophisticated than ever, and is happy to establish new traditions that improve happiness and health while inflicting no harm to anyone. Crazy, i know. Almost like evolution, where effective practices are rewarded with survival and ineffective ones die. Hard to believe idiots of the world deny the obvious.

            2. @ mike

              ‘… he was starving in some deep mystery, like a man who is sure what is true.’

              you call this sophistication? i fail to discern this improvement in health and happiness to which you refer.

              i would suggest that aids is somewhat harmful as is the societal, psychological fallout from the attempt to legitimize and normalize perversion.

              i read the next great ‘sin’ in line for emancipation will be the acceptance of and decriminalization of pedophilia.

              i doubt your ability to be honest, but what do you actually know about said 1900 year old guidebook? have you spent any time reading it? or does the prevailing prejudice against it satisfy your intellectual curiosity, obviating your personal need to see for yourself? does the 1900 year figure automatically dismiss its integrity and relevance? besides it is way older than 1900 years.

              the only thing obvious about the THEORY of evolution is that it is a pseudo-science, which rejects the scientific method.

            3. Which type of evolution? Micro or Macro? Micro is easy to demonstrate and is already proven to exist with many examples that are plain as day. Macro evolution would take a few hundred thousand years to conclusively demonstrate because it happens much slower, but there are a few examples that have been observed of that too.

      1. It’s true. He is gay and sees his power and position as a way to further his bias, if anyone sees opposition of his being gay as evil or worthy of name calling then your not capable of handling any opposing views. The daily news is on the comedy channel and is heavily biased by the people that put this program together and make programming not to challenge but to feel their viewers with what they believe, this is called news? And then the so called anchor teaches people to respond with any opposition with rude and demeaning quips,… How brilliant and open minded is that? A open mind can easily be filled with manure.

        People should have the right not to agree with Gay marriage or accepting it as normal behaviors when it’s not agreeable to that individual. We all have the same rights why should gays be favored above the rest for some false pretenses? But my point is business should not be involved with social matters, politics etc. Apple stores are big havens for gays and as an ex employee I can safley say it’s 65% gay workforce in my store was not coincidence nor was their militant environment they made there restricted by Apples store management. It was uncomfortable being straight there and politely stating the fact I was straight and didn’t want to have that lifestyle and others thrust upon me was met with huge hostility. So much so a few gays spread rumors to the contrary and much anger. There is no place for this foolishness in work, workers should be looked at as workers not classified by what they are outside of work.
        Comedy Central. Produces shows that their viewers expect, don’t ever think you’ll be challenged by their programming, they know who their viewers are and they make money shoveling that type of bent perspective to the unthinking pseudo intellectuals,… Like,the readers of this blog!

        1. Every person tends to further his/her biases. That is part of being human. The key issue in this particular case is that you clearly disagree with Tim Cook’s biases – or, at least, one of them.

          Your message is clear…your biases are fine and Tim Cook’s are not. But your message is highly flawed and your bias prevents you from comprehending that fact.

        2. … what are you talking about when you say “why should gays be favored above the rest for some false pretenses”? The three most recent discussions have been “in the military”, “marriage”, and “in the workplace”. These ALL say/said “you are not allowed to discriminate against gays Just Because They Are Gay”. No EXTRA rights, just expressed protections making them legally equal to straights. Did you have something else in mind?
          My wife objects to this law (employment) because it could ALL be solved by be a non-specific “Equal Rights” law. But the Republicans have insisted THAT won’t happen.

          1. It’s a biased law sold as rights, you are a bit mislead and as far as,..the rest of my thoughts I don’t think having the general public having to constantly deal with the gay agendas forced down everyone’s throat from kindergarten on forward they have been inundated with this forced at them, who wants anyone’s beliefs forced upon them? , no one should force their beliefs on another, I’m tired of gay this gay that you have to not only agree but love every libels gay thought,.. Crazy,.. Land of the free? It is if you have a liberal agenda. But if a person doesn’t agree it’s hate and name calling. I have a lot of gay associates so what they are good enough to not force their beliefs on me and I don’t mine on them, we enjoy mutual respect. Unlike the readers on here that resort to acute critical insults and name calling to settle any disagreement,… companies such as apple should do the same.

  3. I don’t see it as anything other than common sense. Ultimately the argument between conservatives and liberals is the argument of what is more important, freedom or equality respectively.

    I come down heavily on the freedom side. People should be free to marry whomever they wish, but you cannot legislate equality generally speaking. We are not all equal.

    The one thing you can do is try to achieve the highest level of *equal opportunity* as possible and sometimes you have to reiterate the obvious. Yes, it’s already illegal to discriminate, but just to be clear, here’s another law that says that applies to the LGBT community as well because some people might not get that.

    Seems redundant, but opportunity must be protected. It is the only way freedom can be maintained.

      1. It seems to me that you understood Thelonius Mac to be arguing against the non-discrimination legislation.

        My understanding is that he is in favour of it (protection of “equal opportunity”, i.e. same opportunities for straights and LGBTs). Yes, the anti-discriminatory laws are already there, but some people don’t get it, so, even though it may seem redundant, another law will make it clear.

    1. You are right freedom and liberty are the key ingredients that have enabled the US and its economy to prosper.

      France confused the issue when they founded their country on liberty and equality. Equal opportunity is part of a free society but equal outcome is not.

    2. I totally agree with your position, but..

      “Yes, it’s already illegal to discriminate”

      No, it’s not. As far as federal law, you’re perfectly allowed to not hire someone, not promote someone, or fire someone based on whatever bias you’d like to discriminate against as long as it’s not targeted against a protected class… race, color, religion, national origin, disability etc…

      Missing from the list of protected classes is sexual orientation. On the federal level, anti-discrimination law doesn’t protect someone from being discriminated against for being gay or straight.

      So it’s not redundant at all.

    3. How can you possibly frame freedom and equality is an either/or question? That makes no sense, whatsoever.

      If you face systemic discrimination, you don’t have freedom. If you live in a society where some people are oppressed and others are not, you don’t live in a free society.

      What’s going on in your mind that can allow you to separate freedom and equality, to think you can have one but not the other? It seems like you don’t have the slightest clue what freedom actually means.

  4. What I don’t get is that the word “surprisingly” is in the headline of this story. Tim Cook is gay, Tim supports equal rights for gay people, that anyone, anywhere is in any way surprised by that is just insane.

    1. So you’re outing Tim on MDN? I’m curious, do you know this in the biblical sense? Do you have film of Tim engaged in homosexual conduct? I’m not saying Tim isn’t gay, I have no idea. I don’t believe he’s actually come out and said so on the record, that’s all I’m saying. So your premise for being surprised that someone else might be surprised surprises me.

  5. This legislation is not need because under current law you can’t do what is suggested anyway. One’s sexual orientation does not enter into one’s work. If it does, either gay or straight, you’ve just made a different mistake. Sad but true. Be careful of unintended consequences of any new (or old) law.

    While I don’t care about Cook’s personal life one bit, I think it is slightly disingenuous not to state his point of view when advocating a political position. For the record: I’m straight, if anyone cares. In my view: stick to making “great products” and let the politicians discuss politics. Run your company as you see fit for the benefit of your customers, your employees, your contractors, and your stockholders. If your board or stockholders (or customers or employees) think it is inappropriate, you’ll be out soon enough.

    1. Wrong choice of words in the last sentence, it should be:
      If your board or stockholders (or customers or employees) think it is inappropriate, you’ll be replaced soon enough.

      1. Nope you missed my point:

        “One’s sexual orientation does not enter into one’s work. If it does, either gay or straight, you’ve just made a different mistake. Sad but true. Be careful of unintended consequences of any new (or old) law.”

        Those who support a law like this will tie themselves in a knot and regret it in the future. Bad law is bad law. Good intentions do not erase bad law. Sad but true.

        1. I don’t think I missed your point, I think you miss the point of the proposed legislation. I’m guessing you’re suggesting that since one’s sexual orientation isn’t physically apparent, there’s no reason your employer should know yours. This is akin to US armed services’ “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” policy, whose validity is for another day to debate.

          But that simply isn’t true. Employee benefits (e.g., health insurance) or even the ubiquitous company picnic or holiday party are common cases where one’s sexual orientation would be evident to an employer, even if not explicitly discussed.

          And gender identity is a whole other can of worms, with manifestations ranging from “cross-dressing” to sex-change surgery, which are as plain-to-see as race or sex.

          Until very recently, most individuals outside the mainstream hid these facts about their lives, often deceiving their employers, to avoid repercussions, which were common.

          I won’t argue that all legislation has unintended consequences, and should be carefully considered and constructed in order to maximize it’s intended effect, but *if* we support the need to protect other classes (race, sex, etc.), then LGBT is very likely a class under similar threat.

          1. OK lets agree to disagree. In the future I’ll keep my posts in this forum solely on the doings of Apple, Inc as I have requested to Mr Cook to do.

            How about we agree to consider “handsomesmitty’s” point of view in detail and the reaction to it. as an exercise in looking at something from a point o view that you might expect? Again, a post about his thoughts is not required in this forum.

    1. How many wrongful termination suits or discrimination suits based on age have been filed against Apple?

      Age (above 40) is currently a protected class. No legislation is needed. Enforcement may be needed, but again where’s your data?

  6. While I may be a rabid homophobe, when it comes to giving people the ability to share their benefits with any partner I’m 100% in agreement. If a married partner can share their benefits with their (opposite-sex) spouse, I see no reason why an unmarried couple (still heterosexual) shouldn’t be able to do this. And if the unmarried couple can do this, why shouldn’t someone be able to share those benefits with *anyone* they choose? This has nothing to do with marriage, morals, sexual orientation, or anything else. It’s strictly a matter of fairness. Despite Government’s goal to ensure strong families (and it’s debatable if they should be doing that), not allowing partners to share benefits is just another form of inequality, much like affirmative action; it should be done away with.

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