Originally posted on Wednesday, September 8, 2004
If I remember correctly, I mentioned my father’s reasoning for owning General Motors stock in this space a couple of weeks back. That information came back to me Sunday evening as I watched Sixty Minutes and a report about pornography. As the reporter shook his head in disbelief and disgust, he traced the ownership of a company that creates “adult” movies. This company, let’s call it XYZ Films, is owned by BCD Entertainment group, a subsidiary of EFG Media, which is a division of none other than General Motors. Where you might have thought that GM simply made money by selling cars and auto parts and loans and such, it turns out that they’re into all manner of other things including pornography. So if my family still owned that GM common stock, a small portion of the earnings on that investment would be coming from making and selling smutty movies. It gives a whole new meaning to “blue chip stocks,” doesn’t it?
Lest you think I’m just picking on General Motors here, it turns out that a large array of major corporations are making similar profits on similar products. Just about every hotel chain rakes in big bucks by offering pay-per-view porn on their TVs. The big telecommunications companies are making a big chunk of their profits from this off-color market as well. Most of the entertainment giants have diversified into “mature” offerings as well.
This sort of business and various other troubling trends have led to a surge in “socially conscious” investing. Significant slices of the investing public have decided to avoid investing in any company that supports animal testing or apartheid or alcohol or tobacco or whatever else the investor might find troubling. The problem is that you just can’t get completely away from this sort of stuff. Let’s say that you wanted to avoid any association with or profiting from pornography. Could you do it? You could avoid buying that GM stock, but can you also avoid all mutual funds that own GM? Can you make sure that your retirement plan doesn’t invest in GM? Can you avoid buying all products that GM produces? You couldn’t do that unless you’re ready to take up an existence that looks more like the Unabomber than a normal human being. Happily, I don’t think we have to go that far.
While we probably don’t have to investigate the origin of every box of Post Toasties that we buy at Price Chopper in order to live with a clear conscience, we can’t ignore the injustices and oppressions that do come to our attention. I don’t think that Amos’ warning about those in fortresses and their oppression is reserved just for those who live in castles.
Don’t take these words as a call to socialism or a rejection of private property. But it is hard to imagine that our Lord, who so often criticized the rich and powerful, wouldn’t want us to be very careful not to “hoard plunder and loot” in our fortresses. In a complex, modern economy, you can’t avoid all entanglements with those who do evil, but you can invest some effort to avoid giving comfort to them. This is one investment that will undoubtedly pay eternal dividends.