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Debunking the Wall Street Journal’s odd case against disclosure

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Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn is a well-known champion of free market capitalism. As somebody who supposedly understands all the benefits of markets, it is strange to see him attack disclosure and full transparency, as he did in a Wall Street Journal column this week entitled “The Chick-fil-A War is Back On: Welcome to the new intolerance.” McGurn starts off with some complains about how poor ol' Chick-fil-A is being treated. Apparently Mr. McGurn finds something intolerable about fast food consumers exercising their freedoms of choice and speech and using market forces to affect change. Would he feel the same way if they were complaining that the chicken tastes like rubber? Is not a boycott the most capitalist-friendly method of pushing change, with its pure reliance on market forces? McGurn also has bigger chickens to fry. He also doesn’t like the market-oriented (again) way that consumers have been sending signals to corporations that belong to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that writes model legislation in secret and has recently come under fire for pushing model “Stand Your Ground” legislation at the state level. And back in 2005, he didn’t like consumers pressuring Charles Schwab from supporting the libertarian Cato Institute. And though he does not discuss campaign finance disclosure directly, it is hard to ignore that for the last few months, there is been an ongoing debate as to whether so-called “dark money” 501(c) groups should be required to reveal their donors. In July, Senate Republicans filibustered the DISCLOSE ACT, which would have required these groups to disclose their donors. Our best guess is that just two dark money groups (Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity) have already spent $174 million on this election. And that the total dark money figure could approach $1 billion. McGurn apparently thinks all these contributions should happen behind the scenes, so that consumers and citizens can remain blissfully ignorant of the political agendas of the companies that they support in the marketplace. He writes that while transparency “may sound fine in theory, in practice these requirements can conflict with the right of people to come together in free association.”

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