Nike and the Patriotic Shoe Flap

Patriotic Shoe

There’s a ridiculous news story flapping in the wind that gives me a chance to wax poetic about patriotic behavior, moral relativism, and general Libertarian ideology. It centers on the Nike company pulling a shoe with an old American flag on it. So-called patriotic politicians and others are slamming Nike for doing so, Nike’s reasoning being that a Nazi group has used that same symbol for their own rallies.

It’s an interesting situation because for the greater part of the history of the United States it was considered quite unpatriotic and disrespectful to wear the American flag on clothing. When the hippies in the 1960’s starting doing so it was the very same “patriotic” politicians, who today criticize Nike, then lambasting the counter-culture individuals for their horrible behavior. This displays, in no uncertain terms, moral relativism.

Basically, the idea of putting the American flag on clothing has gone from being unpatriotic to patriotic over the course of about fifty years. It’s interesting that those who most vehemently claimed it was disrespectful and unpatriotic now equally disparage Nike for not marketing the shoe. This is moral relativism. What was once immoral, or unpatriotic in this case, is now quite moral and patriotic. Wearing the American flag on your clothing is a symbol of being a patriot.

Another issue this particular flap bring to the forefront is the ideology of small government. For many years it was the mantra of the Republican party that government should not be involved in business decisions, or at least that involvement should be kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, Democrats insisted that government was necessary to curb the excesses of business leaders. Obviously, it is now Republicans threatening Nike with repercussions for their business decisions and Democrats insisting Nike should be allowed to do as they want.

For a Libertarian the answer is simple. Nike can make whatever decision they want and the governor of Arizona and the leader of the U.S. Senate are clearly big government Liberals in sheep’s clothing. Don’t like it? Reality hurts. The root problem stems from all the incentives businesses take from government in the first place which then gives said officials the feeling they have the right to tell companies how they should go about running their business. It seems simple to me, get out of it altogether. No tax breaks, no incentives, sink or swim on your business decisions.

Finally, as to the groups using the thirteen-star flag symbol to promote hatred and violence. Last I checked, this is a free country although perhaps I need to check again. They can use whatever symbol they want. Nike can market whatever shoe they want. People can wear whatever clothes they want. It’s not my business and it most certainly is not the government’s business.

Tom Liberman

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