As I look at the controversy surrounding the new Indiana law that allows business owners to decide who they wish to serve based upon the religious beliefs of the business’s owners I can’t help but look at the issue from the perspective of a profit maximizing capitalist.
Two business groups that have to make important decisions about doing business in Indiana are event promoters and businesses that rely on knowledge workers. Businesses that make their money organizing conferences or tournaments (such as Gamecon or the NCAA) focus primarily on the event venue and expect attendees to make their own arrangements for ancillary services such as food and lodging. Any event organizer doing business in Indiana knows that even though their event may be open to the public those ancillary services that are critical to the success of their event may or may not be available to attendees depending on the religious beliefs of the owner of the ancillary service provider.
Similarly, businesses that rely on knowledge workers have to consider the implications of Indiana’s new law. As the Baby Boom generation ages out of the labor force there will be a shrinking pool of qualified workers to replace them. Any business that has a long term strategic plan needs to know that, if the operate in Indiana, the employees they are relying on for the on-going profitability of the business may or may not find Indiana a welcome environment. Potential employees of businesses with operations in Indiana have to consider that their career path may require them to choose between moving to a (potentially) hostile environment and leaving the company.
The biggest problem trying to assess the reliability of Indiana as a business environment is the fact that the new law allows business owners to decide who their business will serve based upon the owner’s religious beliefs. Businesses change ownership all the time and people are free to change their religious beliefs at any time. Businesses that rely on ancillary services from other local businesses need to consider that their customers and employees may or may not be welcome in Indiana and will act accordingly. This is very little about boycotts and very much about making good business decisions.