Thursday, May 3, 2012

Anti-Boycott Boycott?

Michelle Malkin, the most prolific tweeter whom I follow, has been a leading proponent of boycotting businesses who succumb to lefty boycott threats and abandon support for conservative causes like ALEC or Rush Limbaugh. Bradley Smith, in today's WSJ, argues that we are all the worse for the secondary boycott, because it frays civil society.
All these examples are what are called "secondary boycotts"—attempts to influence the actions of the target by exerting pressure on a third party. Secondary boycotts should not be confused with primary boycotts. A decision not to patronize a business that discriminates on the basis of race is an example of a primary boycott. Primary boycotts—used to great effect during the Civil Rights Movement—have a long and often laudatory history.

But secondary boycotts have long been recognized as harmful to civil society. They rend the social fabric by making it difficult for people to simply live their lives.
. . .
People have a right not to do business with companies or individuals. But blacklists—never a healthy part of political debate—endanger the very commerce that enriches us all.
I admit that I participated by pulling the renewal of my Carbonite subscription. Smith's reasoning has me wondering if direct retaliation is the best way to fight back. Consider the climate. Businesses are often cautious, having the broadest possible base to sell your wares is just good business. If boycotts become routine, then potential advertisers might conclude its best to avoid all politically charged broadcasting. The nation is the poorer for having fewer points of view on display, left or right. Secondary boycotts in retaliation by conservatives only increases the wariness of advertisers, because they get in a lose-lose situation.

What's the other option? I think a buycott and similar action improves the climate. A buycott would be buying extra from the business that is being targeted by the left. This would help them weather the temporary storm of lost sales. And the storm is almost always temporary. Look at Rush Limbaugh, he doesn't appear to be suffering, and isn't allowing some of his fickle advertisers back on his show. Buycotting maintains civil society, because it encourages businesses to have fewer worries about the potential boycott. When Whole Foods CEO John Mackey proposed free market alternatives to Obmacare in 2009, there were sporadic attempts to boycott Whole Foods that went nowhere. Tea party types organized a buycott and we had great fun. Given our generally more cheerful nature than the left, buycotts are more appropriate to conservatives and libertarians.

B-Daddy in 2009 at the Whole Foods Buycott, having fun buying good food.


  1. I like the buycott idea much better. It's positive, fun and uplifting for all.

  2. Positive is better than negative and unorganized is probably better than organized. I.e. if everyone just payed attention to the ethical, political, and economic views of those they do business with and consciously preferred those with similar values and avoided those with antithetical values, there wouldn't have to be official boycotts or buycotts.

  3. B-Daddy, great post. Will link in a "Quickies" edition hopefully over the weekend.

    This is so spot-on. I do believe that conserva-libertarians are naturally happier and more postive so their activities should be positive and pro-active rather than negative and reactionary.