Kudos to tech companies—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others—for opposing president Trump’s 90-day ban on travelers to the United States from the seven Muslim-majority countries as well as the 120-day ban on all refugees. The kudos is due because the ban is irrational and unjust, and most companies have remained silent since president Trump issued his executive order at the end of January. See the Fortune.com article here. (Kudos is also due to the federal judge in Seattle who temporarily suspended the ban as unconstitutional last week, allowing the stranded travelers to move on).

Trump’s ban on Muslim travelers to the U.S. can be criticized on many counts, but the most fundamental criticism is that only a small fraction of the world’s more than 1.6 billion Muslims are violent terrorists. Therefore, it is completely irrational and unjust to taint the rest of group (or rather, the citizens of the seemingly arbitrarily chosen seven Muslim-majority countries) by the murderous actions by a small number of its members. It is akin to the United Kingdom banning travel by everybody from Northern Ireland since some of its citizens have committed terrorist acts in the U.K.

The vast majority of Muslims, like most members of any religion or ideological group, are not violent and pose no threat to Americans or anyone else. The probability of an American in the United States (or elsewhere) dying or getting injured in an Islamist terrorist attack is infinitesimally small. Therefore, preventing innocent people, such as visa-holders returning to work or study in the U.S., tourists, or other visitors, is unjust and unnecessary. It only creates undue hardship, by stranding people at airports or forcing them to change their travel plans and leaving them unable to plan their lives.

The travel ban also harms the American tech companies—and therefore, Americans in general—because it prevents them from bringing in employees from the affected countries and their immigrant employees from traveling to and from the U.S. These companies depend on foreign workers, including those from the banned countries, to provide the best talent available—as not enough of that talent is not available in America.  Without such talent, companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Uber, Google, Twitter, and others, could not develop the products and services and create the wealth they do. Without the temporary foreign workers and immigrants, all Americans would be worse off.

It is the government’s role—its only role—to protect its citizens against the initiation of physical force, whether by terrorists or anyone else. However, arbitrarily imposing a travel ban solely on the basis of the majority religion of a country is does not constitute such protection. There must be evidence of a legitimate threat by particular individuals or groups of individuals for the government to take protective action, such as travel restrictions, questioning, or detention. Penalizing all citizens of entire countries for the likely crimes of small minorities is arbitrary and will make no difference to the safety of those such action allegedly protects.

The tech companies protesting the travel ban and urging Trump to alter it (some are also joined the legal fight to have it canceled) deserve our praise and gratitude. Their CEOs are courageous to speak up against an irrational and unjust act by the government, particularly when so many other CEOs of large corporation have remained silent, declining to comment or “assessing the impact of the ban.” (Some of the exceptions are the CEOs of Ford, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Starbucks, who have joined the travel ban’s critics). We should also be grateful for these CEOs’ defense of free travel and immigration and of their companies’ right to liberty because they are defending our freedom—and prosperity—too.

 

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Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. She has lectured and conducted seminars on business ethics to undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students, and to various corporate audiences for over 20 years both in Canada and abroad. Before earning her Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, she helped turn around a small business in Finland and worked for a consulting firm in Canada. Jaana’s research on technological change and innovation, value creation by business, executive decision-making, and business ethics has been published in various academic and professional journals and books. “How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

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