Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Boulder, Boston, St. Paul, Austin, El Paso, Oakland and San Diego have all announced a boycott of Arizona, which stands condemned, in their view, of “violating basic American principles,” “Draconian law enforcement,” “promoting racism,” and “un-American measures.” All this, for announcing that the state is going to enforce a law long on the books that the Federal government stubbornly fails to enforce itself.
Almost all boycotts are unethical, and this one doesn’t come close to being fair or reasonable. Boycotts use economic power to bend others to the will of large groups that disagree with conduct or policy, bypassing such niceties as debate, argument, and rational persuasion. They can be effective, but they always depend on causing harm to third-parties, bystanders and others not directly involved in the decision that prompted the boycott, thus creating pressure on decision-makers to change direction based on considerations that have nothing whatsoever to do with the underlying controversy. It is a bullying tactic, and the only way it can pass ethical muster is if the reasons for it are clear, strong, virtuous, undeniable, and based on irrefutable logic that the boycott target is so wrong, and doing such harm, that this extreme measure is a utilitarian necessity. Continue reading