Equal Opportunity Yielding Unequal Outcomes

October 12, 2011

Political Theory

Picture yourself at the top of the chain in Ford Automotive.  You just produced a commercial featuring a very satisfied customer who bought an F150.  The reason he bought the car, he said in the commercial, had to do with the fact that your company did not participate in the government bailout and that made him a proud owner.  Now imagine this, you get a call from the Obama Administration regarding the content in said commercial and they’re not pleased.  Would this put any pressure on you to pull the ad?

This simulation that you just experienced is a controversial issue that hit the press only a few months ago this year.  Although the White House denies having any involvement in the disappearance of this commercial, many reports have noted that an inquiry was made which put the pressure on Ford to cut their ad.  Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes, who was featured on the Frank Beckmann Show, stated that Ford did receive factory retooling loans as well as other forms of credit from the government.  However, these do not match up to what was invested in the other automotive companies.

Chris McDaniel was the satisfied customer featured in this infamous Ford commercial.  McDaniel told Beckmann that this commercial was created around his answers to a few questions regarding his satisfaction with his new F150 truck.

“I wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government.  I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: Win, lose, or draw.”

-Chris McDainel

This feedback that Ford received from Chris is very valuable.  I can understand why they would want to advertise this type of information to future customers.  But why wouldn’t the Obama Administration want this to be advertised to the rest of america?  Howes believes that with the presidential election steadily approaching McDaniel’s comments do not benefit Obama’s “stimulus spending and associated bailouts”.

Yes, Ford freely pulled their commercial.  But would they have taken it off air if the pressure to do so was not put on them by such a powerful machine?  Probably not.  Beckmann notes that Ford received a lot of positive feedback from this advertisement and they are now “paying the price for their success”.  What would have happened to Ford if they didn’t pull their commercial?  They obviously didn’t want to take the chance of finding out.

Beckman reckons that, “Our government offered us equal opportunity, they didn’t offer us equal outcome”.  Does this unequal outcome interfere with our right to freedom of speech?  I believe it does if our government limits this right due to their own personal gain.


About Madeline Cecilia

I currently live to ski.

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8 Comments on “Equal Opportunity Yielding Unequal Outcomes”

  1. namin91 Says:

    I think this really ties into what Professor Lavaque-Manty was talking about on Tuesday in terms of freedom (I’m thinking of the “your money or your life” example, in particular). While Ford was free, in the technical sense of the word, to make a choice regarding pulling the ad or keeping it on the air, it doesn’t seem as though they were presented with a meaningful set of options. Who would say no to the government?

    While I understand why Ford pulled the ad, it may have done them more harm than good. As a user (ZNYATC) on the actual article posted, “Ford was criticized for telling the truth and then backed down form a statement they should be proud of. Ford was the only American car I would consider buying until now. What a cowardly thing to do.” Unfortunately, I’m sure many other consumers feel the same way. Ford is not just a car, but an iconic, American symbol. By “backing down”, many people are bound to be disappointed and turned off by those actions.

    On the other hand, I don’t think you can really blame Ford for pulling the ad. As any large company knows, you need to have a good, or at least amicable, relationship with the government. Companies do business with the government and they have to appease the government or risk losing their business. It’s as simple as that.

    So, was what the government did fair or ethical? No, not at all. But how can you really go up against them? Or, would it even be smart to do so? I don’t think it would be.

  2. ianbaker2041 Says:

    Although I agree with Ford’s decision to pull the ad when faced with government pressure, it is not within the government’s scope of power to place such pressure on Ford in the first place.

    If I ran a car company, interfering with the most powerful government in the world would look like a really bad idea, so I completely understand why Ford backed down. If they had chosen to air the commercial, it’s possible that the Obama Administration would have simply gone silent, but faced with a tough election coming in 2012, it seems plausible to suspect that the Administration would have pressed the issue harder to protect its own image. Given the potential problems at stake, Ford’s decision was probably wise and reflects some of what kept Ford in the business through the tough economic times.

    What is really important (at least to me) is how the Obama Administration acted. If anyone here has read some of my previous comments, you will notice that I’m fiscally conservative and believe in the government staying out of economic affairs. With this in mind, I cannot understand how the Obama Administration would see it as within their jurisdiction to urge Ford to remove the advertisement. Doing so seems to even go AGAINST successful business skills by saying “hey, Ford, you made money when your competitors didn’t, but we stepped in and removed the capitalist competition to save them. Take down the ads about how well you did because it makes your opponents, who we supported, look bad, so we look bad, too. Thanks.” Although it sounds colloquial and superficial, the government’s decision ultimately comes down to that. In a country built on the free market, why would the Obama Administration silence Ford’s mention of its own success? Political gain, plain and simple. Just because the Administration wants to portray its economic decisions favorably to an uneasy public going into the midterm elections does not give the government a right to interfere unnecessarily with simple business transactions.

    Both parties have been guilty of it lately, but enough is enough. Please, stop playing politics and start moving America in a positive direction that fosters the free market competition that made us great in the first place. What this comes down to is how much government is too much, and this is WAY too much.

  3. emmaschneider11 Says:

    First of all, I would like to say that I think this is a good example of the freedom that professor was talking about in class. While Ford had the choice to continue to run their ad, it was not truly a free choice because the choices they had were not all meaningful. Continuing to air the commercial would have pleased consumers, but would have upset the government and could have possibly led to negative consequences for the Ford Company, which obviously they did not want. This discussion on free choices reminds me of my philosophy class in which we discussed when a person has responsibility for an action/choice. One position was that an action is free if the agent does not experience compulsion or coercion. I feel that this is a case of coercion; if Ford continued to do so there could have been negative consequences. So, while there was no direct force there was a coercive force to pull the commercial and the action was not a free one.
    I would also like to agree with ianbaker2041 that the government went too far in expressing their thoughts on the ad. It makes sense that they did so, not wanting negative feelings about the stimulus bill floating around before the election, and there may also be some truth to their statements if Ford did receive some funds. However, in my opinion they knew that their complaints would result in Ford’s pulling of the commercial (or that they would have pushed harder had it not), and it was not right to provoke Ford in this way. While I can see the reasoning behind the Obama Administration’s actions, I feel it was unjust to coerce Ford into pulling the commercial

  4. adamskt Says:

    As Professor LaVaque-Manty discussed in lecture on Tuesday, John Locke believed that anything that we strongly disagree upon should be privatized. He specifically discusses religion in his Letter Concerning Toleration, but his ideas can be extended to conclude that he would most likely believe that all aspects of the self should be private. He would include socioeconomic status, religion, family, career, and recreational activities in the private sphere, because all of these can be something over which we strongly disagree.

    Based on this, I think that Locke would agree that the government has no place in determining if a commercial like the Ford commercial can be taken off the air. Although he probably would not consider it private since it was aired on public television stations, his ideas can still be applied. The commercial is something that is disagreed about (at least between the government and Ford), and should therefore not be something the government has so much power in.

    Power was defined in lecture as “the ability to bring about one’s goal even against resistance.” The government inherently has more power than a company, no matter how large or successful that company may be. Because of this, they should be careful to exercise it in a way that benefits citizens other than the government itself. I agree with what ianbaker2041 concludes with, that the situation basically comes down to how much power the government should be exerting. Although some Ford customers are turned off by the compliance of Ford, I don’t believe they fully had a choice in the matter. Since the government has power, direct denial of its requests could be bad for the company in the long term.

  5. brianfrankel Says:

    If this is true, I think this is a perfect display of our government’s ineptitude. The government thinks it can dictate both consumer and corporate behavior through its policies and actions; however, the more the government attempts to dictate pubic perception about companies, the more out of touch they become. As Mill said, when any entity attempts to dictate the entire discussion by preventing opinions from being heard, they lose all credibility. In my opinion, this applies directly to our government. With the bailouts of the banks, auto manufacturers, and the likes, the government has essentially drowned out the public’s disapproval for those entities from the public discussion.

    Instead of lashing out against Ford for this type of advertisement, I think the government would have created a much better effect by backing the Ford promotion because it would have created more trust with the public and other corporations. The government is supposed to hold companies accountable for their actions, both negative and positive ones. In this outcome, it fails at this role.

  6. Brian Robinson Says:

    If the Obama administration called and strongly “requested” that the ad be taken off the air, then it is a violation of freedom of speech and an abuse of their power. In my communications class I have learned that by stating Ford does not receive benefits like the other car companies do is simply an advertising technique called pseudo-individualism. In addition, this is not a lie because Ford received minimal benefits from the government and not a full buyout. This difference is true and should be used in their commercials.

    If one watched TV for simply a 30 minute period, they will see more outlandish and false claims from advertisements than this one. We discussed in lecture the different meanings and application of power and the government clearly has the most power in our country yet the does not mean they should use it wherever they see fit. Ford should not have pulled the ad if they feel it is useful and can help their business. The government should regulate things that can be harmful to our society and culture yet not things that can simply be harmful to the governments reputation. That is simply our freedom of speech.

  7. sgbraid Says:

    Like many of the comments before me, i too agree that the White House shouldn’t have been involved with the pulling of the commercial. The White House set a bad precedent and also did a horrific job of concealing it from the public. Although this kind of stuff happens all the time, its just not seen by the public.

    Ford possesses every right to inform the public in its commercials that it didnt participate in the government’s bailout. It should be able to use that information to sell more cars. Selling cars is a business and ford should use that information to its advantage to outsell other automotive companies. They need to win the public over, and this is how they tried to do it. How is that any different than a presidential election? Presidents need to win over the public and so they pull out as many “big guns” as possible to try to outsell their opponents. They will use information that boosts their ratings and they will use information that will make their opponents looks bad. Is this not what ford did in their commercial?

    Freedom of speech is what makes this country so special (well, as long as you’re not endangering anyone). For the government to curtail that right is absurd and oversteps boundaries — they used their power to intimidate ford. The Obama administration should be encouraging companies to sell themselves as independent because it sends a good message to America. Although companies shouldn’t be ashamed of being bailed out — it happens to the best of us — that shouldn’t be their goal and that goes for the citizens of the United States. We want to be independent and make it on our own, and thats how we should advertise ourselves.

    If the government is silencing auto commericals, then whats next?

  8. thelenj1 Says:

    I agree with the former posts that the government was over stepping its power by asking Ford to not broadcast, but Ford pulling their advertisement was definitely the smart decision off their end. By the government asking the company to not broadcast the commercial their freedom of speech was being compromised and Mills would argue this should not be allowed, but in choosing to oblige by the government’s demands Ford was also acting in their own best interest. Even though the idea of the commercial was true and Ford did not take as much money as did other automotive countries, one day Ford might be in a position where they need the government’s help. It is never a bad decision to try and keep the government on your side. The goal of Ford is to make a profit and this deal reveals the sad truth about businesses in America these days; they will do whatever it takes to make money. It is disappointing to acknowledge the fact that the government acted in a way contradictory to the fundamental ideas of our country and covered their demand to make it look like Ford had a free choice. But in today’s society this is how business works. Take the example of Lehman Brothers going under. The government was bailing out many investment companies. Bad relations between Henry Paulson, the treasury secretary, and Richard Fuld the CEO of Lehman were speculated as to be the reason why Lehman was not bailed out. The consequences can be huge if the government is not on your side.

    Nevertheless, the government by taking this action was misusing the power it has. Just because the government has more power than a business does not mean it should use it falsely to make them look better. As Professor said the United States has the greatest freedom of speech in the world. This freedom of speech is what makes the United States so unique and the government should not compromise that. I do not blame Ford for their decision because I do not think a decision was there to begin with.

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