Stand with State Farm as it Stands with ALEC

by John Berlau on June 1, 2012

in Coalitions & Outreach, Features, Politics as Usual, Sanctimony, Zeitgeist

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“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” For decades, that has been the famous slogan for the nation’s largest home and auto insurer, which serves more than 80 million customers.

But State Farm hasn’t just been a good neighbor to its policy holders. It has also been neighborly in supporting a robust public policy debate. While Walmart just became the latest company to cave to pressure from the leftist mob and drop its support from the center-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), State Farm has bravely stood firm in its funding for ALEC. So the large center-right majority  in this country who believe in much of ALEC’s message of federalism and limited government needs to stand with State Farm.

All things being equal, the political demographics of the U.S. should make it a bad business decision for firms to cave to radical left groups like Color of Change in their demands to stop funding center-right groups like ALEC. As National Center for Public Policy Research co-CEO Amy Ridenour notes: ”According to Gallup, 40 percent of the public considers itself “conservative,” and 21 percent, “liberal.” Those who say they are “very liberal” — which the groups pressuring corporations from the left are — represent only six percent. If it comes to a showdown, why would a corporation want to offend 94 million conservative adult consumers to please 14 million very liberal ones?”

Because the problem is that all things are not equal. The right doesn’t apply pressure to corporations that cave as the left does on the firms to cave in the first place. My Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Iain Murray laid out some good ideas on how the free-market majority can respond to Amazon, and my friend Phil Kerpen, who heads the new group American Commitment, has a petition calling on companies to “reject anti-ALEC bullying.”

But just as, if not more important, the right largely doesn’t reward firms that fund free-market groups with the dollars of center-right consumers. This needs to change, and State Farm is a great place to start. Starting today, let’s buycott State Farm.

A buycott is the opposite of a boycott. It’s where a consumer goes out of his or her way to purchase products or services from a company as appreciation for the certain action of a firm. And State Farm is deserving of such a buycott for its support of policy groups that address important questions of how government policies affect the risk management services provided by State Farm and other insurance firms.

State Farm’s philosophy has been to support a variety of policy groups that deal with the important questions how government policies affect the risk management that State Farm and other insurance firms attempt to practice. And in doing so, State Farm has recognized that value of center-right allies. And it hasn’t backed down in the face of attempts to silence these groups.

Several anti-ALEC activists report a similar response from State Farm, a very courageous one (which the lefties then proceed to slam). “The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is just one of many diverse groups with which we will continue to work [emphasis added],” a senior vice president of the company stated in a letter to ALEC haters. “We work hard to ensure that insurance markets remain affordable and accessible for all consumers.  To do this, we work with groups representing a full range of political perspectives to ensure government decisions on insurance matters always consider the complete impact on policyholders.”

This letter expresses just the type of stand CEI President Fred Smith advises business leaders to take. He recently wrote in The Washington Times: “[R]etreat simply reinforces the short-term approach that leads too many businesses to neglect the policy arena, allowing anti-business voices to rise unchallenged. America needs more CEOs willing to stand up for free enterprise itself. Support for groups like ALEC is a valuable way to make that stand.”

And it should go without saying that the majority of American consumers who are center-right should stand up for businesses willing to make this courageous stand. So if you want to thank State Farm for standing firm in supporting the free-market message, here are some ways you can do so.

  1. Let State Farm and its agents know your appreciation in a letter, email, and/or phone call. I’ve heard time and again from businesses supporting free-market causes that while the anti-capitalist haters may be crazy, these folks are the only ones the corporations are hearing from. It’s time for this to end. If you are a State Farm customer, tell your local agent and the company how much you appreciate its principled support of the free-market message. Let them know that there will be ten or more customers renewing policies in part due to this support of the American free-enterprise system for every disgruntled lefty who may drop his or her insurance (probably to go on the government dole!). Even if you are not a State Farm policy holder, be sure to communicate with the company that you appreciate its stand. And this gets to my second suggestion.
  2. If you are not currently an insurance  customer of State Farm, consider switching policies to send the firm your business. I emphasize the word “consider.” Everyone must choose the insurance that provides the most value for his or her family. But there is no reason why all of us can’t reach out and do a side-by-side comparison with our current policies, and make the decision to switch if we believe State Farm offers as good or a better deal. State Farm is structured to sell insurance through its independent agents. On the State Farm web site, go to the “Find an agent” page and make an appointment with an agent in your area. In your initial email to this agent (which you should copy to the State Farm corporation at this comment page and/or the firm’s Facebook page) and in conversation during the appointment, be sure to include something like, “I am considering switching to State Farm, because I have been impressed by its principled support of limited government in its funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

To go back to State Farm’s slogan, a “good neighbor” is all the free-market policy community can expect a business to be. We should not expect firms to adhere to the perfect free-market position on every issue or to devote their own time doing so. They are in business to make a profit, and unlike our opponents, we believe in profits.

But we can and should expect them stand with center-right groups in oppostion to what CEI President Smith refers to as the “attack by those seeking to drive all market voices from the marketplace of ideas.” It is here that State Farm has gone beyond the call of duty of a good neighbor. It’s time for us to return the favor and be good neighbors to this principled insurer.

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