Act now, pay later: here come the offsets

Here’s a fascinating response to the recent culture skirmish that has erupted around Chick-fil-a. Just like you can purchase carbon offsets, spending money on something “good” to essentially atone for doing something “bad”, now there are chicken offsets.

I love the chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A. But I also like my gay-married friends and don’t like the guilt of indirectly supporting Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay rights. And I know there are lots of other people in the same boat. So I’ve started Every time you buy a chicken-sandwich meal at Chick-fil-A, you can buy an “offset” here. You can print out the receipt and demonstrate to your friends that the money you gave for LGBT youth more than compensates for the profits you put in Chick-fil-A’s coffers. $1 gets you 1 chicken-meal offset; $6 for ten offsets. We promise to send at least 90% of the proceeds (and will almost certainly send more than that) after our minimal expenses to It Gets Better and the Williams Institute. We promise your offsets will provide far more money to non-profits that support gays than buying a sandwich at Chick-fil-A ends up putting in the pockets of anti-gay-rights organizations.

If we are compelled to conflate politics and consumption then we should be able to extend this idea, and offset a lot more than carbon and chicken. What other offsets could there be for behaviors we want to pursue but wish to atone or adjust? Note that these aren’t penalties we use to punish what we don’t want, they are opt-in ways that we counteract our own choices.

I’ll start us off:

  • Bad driver offsets – cut someone off or tailgate, your offset contributes $5 to the state fund for uninsured drivers
  • Loud talker offsets – talk as loud as you want on your cellphone, wherever and whenever, and your offset will fund earplug distribution
  • Homeless avoidance offsets – if you ignore a homeless person begging on the street, your offset will help provide them with clean socks
  • Shark fin offsets – enjoy the delicious traditional soup and your offset helps pay for prosthetic fins and ocean-going rehabilitation
  • Date rape offsets – no means yes when your voluntary contribution provides counseling services and funds the distribution of the morning-after pill

Offensive, perhaps. Feel free to take on the logical and ethical fallacies in my argument here. Chicken offsets may be a good idea or it may be a bad idea. What do you think about it? And do you think this opens up a precedent that we are going to eventually regret? I’m conflicted, myself, and would be curious to hear other opinions.


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