Normally I try and get my inspiration for articles from interesting things happening in the economy. Topics like affordable housing or what communities are doing to grow their tech sectors are especially interesting, but it's hard for me to do that right now. Ten days ago, my family experienced a sudden, tragic, unexpected death in our family, and for nine of those days I checked out of the news cycle.

On the ninth day, I checked back in and started hearing and reading about "tender age" confinement camps in Texas.

This morning, when I went looking for interesting stories to cover, all I could think about were the words "tender age" and "camp," and suddenly what was happening for "X" startup in "Y" city didn't seem like it rose to a level where anyone should really care--at least in the face of "tender age" camps, here, in the United States, allegedly complete with murals of our political leaders.

However, since this publication is focused on business, and not politics, I don't want to become just another talking head.

Instead, what I want to write about is brand perception. Brand perception is what consumers believe about your company. Like companies, nations also have brand perception, and despite (like any nation) the fact that the United States hasn't always lived up to our aspirational brand, for the past 70-plus years we've enjoyed the world's best brand perception--and American companies and workers have benefited enormously from that.

If you're like me--and like almost everyone else--you did not get your degree from a globally known Ivy League school. If you have a college degree, you probably earned it from a relatively unknown public university. My graduate degree comes from Northern Arizona University. I'm proud of it, but I also know it doesn't leap off the résumé.

Try a thought experiment, as ethnocentric as it may be: What if my degree were from Northern Akmola University? Would it have any value on the global market? What about your education? What about your business? Would your company have the cachet it has if it had been founded in a country that didn't prioritize human rights?

(For the record, Akmola is a province in Kazakhstan.)

While the United States is a long, long way from becoming Kazakhstan, the reality is that every American employee and every American business benefits from America's brand. Every one of us--including the minority of Americans who support this approach to immigration--benefits from the fact that the United States has spent seven decades working toward becoming a more humane nation.

Things appear to have changed, and as a result that brand has started to slip.

Last year the Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index showed the United States dropping from No. 1 to No. 6.

And that was before we implemented "tender age" confinement camps--and even if those camps don't become a reality, the image of kids kept in chain-link corrals will have a lasting impact. When it comes to brand perception, simply moving on after a horrendous mistake doesn't undo the damage.

Of course, there are thousands of more-important reasons to be concerned about what's happening at the border than the impact it could have on your employment, on your job, on the economy, or on our nation's brand.

According to reports, some of those reasons are less than 12 months old.

Who you are and how you make money do not exist separately from the society you live in and the decisions you're willing to accept or condone. They are all woven together--just like companies cannot separate a good product or fine craftsmanship from unethical leadership.

Whether any of us like it or not, our national brand is woven into our personal and business brands.

If for some reason you don't find this approach to immigrant families unacceptable based on purely moral reasons, know that there will be an economic impact from falling from No. 1 in brand perception to whatever number we land on in the first survey taken after we confined those of a "tender age" in camps along the border.

Published on: Jun 21, 2018