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National News Analysis and Opinion by Bill Collier- America is facing a new type of Balkanization. The term itself aptly refers to the divisions within the Balkans, a region in southeastern Europe centered on the former Yugoslavia, that have led to major conflicts. Indeed, World War One was sparked by a Balkan conflict. During Balkanization is single state or national people become divided into separate camps who won’t even talk to each other, thus leading to division and conflict within a nation.
Today’s Balkanization comes in a more subtle form and, while it is not widespread, it is taking root. It comes in the form of individuals, even business establishments, choosing whom they will buy from on the basis of their politics, religion, or lifestyle choice. In the past I myself have been told “I can’t advertise with your company, because of this or that politcal view.” (I have been accused of being too conservative and of not being conservative enough over the years.) I have heard people say “I won’t go in there because the owner is (gay, Muslim, conservative, liberal).”

There’s even an app for that: both liberals and conservatives have apps that tell them a business or an organization’s political donation history, so they can evidently stick with “their own kind.” When you make an economic decision, where to buy an ad (which our company sells), where to eat, where to buy groceries, who to fix your roof or plumbing, or anything else, on the basis of the politics, religion, or lifestyle choices of the owners, then you are participating in this slow but steadily growing Balkanization of America. And that can only lead to growing divisions, growing animosity, and, perhaps one day in the future, very real and tragic conflict.

People who provide services and products to the public should never feel that they have to hide their politics, their religion, or their lifestyle choice for fear that they will face the “silent boycott” of a buyer’s discrimination. If each “groups” only buys from and sells to its own, what are we left with?

Interestingly, often when a business walks this line of silent discrimination they hide it, and they still want the business of the very people they themselves would not buy from. But even this is becoming known, people share stories, social media might expose it, or eventually, if the trend continues, those discriminating businesses will face the same buyer’s silent discrimination. You can imagine a political partisan business owner who refuses to do business with businesses owned by people they disagree with suddenly finding that many of their customers begin to no longer buy from them, and for the same reason. People will even make foolish economic decisions, buying less quality or at a higher price to avoid buying from someone they disagree with regarding politics, religion, or lifestyle choice.

Myself I avoid boycotts, rarely do I participate, and then only for limited purposes and durations. I choose the best product and price. I also do not let someone’s political, religious, or lifestyle choices impact whether I will sell to them, buy from them, or even whether or not I will “give them coverage” for events they conduct. I do not buy or sell based on the beliefs of the owners of other businesses, and I see that trend on both sides as being terribly and nedlessly divisive.

What is more, such “partisan buying”, whether it is ads or bread or construction work, rarely works out for the buyer- they end up narrowing their market and usually end up not getting the best quality or price. And, finally, in the long run, such practices tend to narrow your available customers as people “figure out” this tendency, people do talk and share, and those you would not buy from choose also not to buy from you.

But ultimately, as this takes root nationally, this tendency will lead to the Balkanization of American society and the final stop on that railway is conflict and turmoil.