When morality and economics collide (or not) in a Texas community

Dennis Chong, Anna Maria Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1993, citizens in conservative Williamson County, Texas, debated whether to grant tax breaks to attract Apple Computer Company, even though Apple maintained an unpopular policy of extending health care benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of employees. We visited Williamson County to speak with local citizens and the main participants about how they resolved their dilemma. The analysis in this paper rests on these interviews, county survey data, and correspondence sent to politicians during the controversy. We analyze why some people are more prepared than others to sacrifice material gain in order to preserve their social and moral values. And we explore whether actions aimed at preserving a community consensus around particular moral beliefs and lifestyles can be construed as rational and, if so, in what sense. We conclude from the Apple case that the development and maintenance of a value system is imbued with interests. Cultural values coordinate political coalitions and social activities, counsel people on how to live, and constitute a simple folk theory that lends conherence to their lives. People do the best they can within the biases and constraints of their value system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-121
Number of pages31
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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