Friends at MIT have been asking for comments on Brandon Eich resigning from Mozilla (story) following publicity regarding a donation that he made in support of a 2008 proposition banning gay marriage in California and news articles describing him as “anti-gay”. I replied “How do we know that he is anti-gay? Has he been quoted as saying anything against gay people? Can we reliably infer from a donation made in 2008 what his opinions might be in 2014, six years later? Do we know anything about why he made the donation six years ago? Did he have a friend who was passionate about the proposition and asked him to contribute? [I have made a lot of donations to organizations selected by friends running marathons or doing bicycle rides, for example, despite the fact that I either (a) knew very little about these organizations, and (b) in some cases would have actively opposed the idea of giving the selected organization money.] Was he against civil marriage in general, on the grounds that civil marriages can be dissolved only via litigation, which generates a lot of acrimony that is harmful to children and can cost $1 million or more in legal fees (money that would otherwise be available for childrens’ college education and inheritance)? [See my Divorce Corp. movie review for more about divorce in Eich’s home state of California.] Was he against the idea of gay marriage in 2008 but now accepts it as part of the landscape in 2014?”
Even if one were to accept the idea that an employee should be fired for not holding the same political beliefs as the majority of Americans, in this particular case it does not seem that anyone, other than Mr. Eich, knows anything about Mr. Eich’s current political beliefs or that anyone has real information about Mr. Eich’s past political beliefs.
[Separately, does this show that all American jobs are converging on how my friend described his job as a tenured physics professor: “I can be fired for any reason, except incompetence.” Bob Nardelli and his golfing buddies on the Board of Home Depot managed to loot from shareholders for six years before the tens of billions in lost value became impossible to ignore. If any of the folks on this list don’t seem to be worth $100 million per year anymore, maybe shareholders can dig up evidence of past support for a currently disfavored political position and stop the bleeding (see my economic recovery article for how public company shareholders are disempowered by federal regulations).]