Readers of Ethics Alarms know that I think boycotting is at best economic bullying, at worst a non-violent form of terrorism, and generally unethical except in cases so rare that they are difficult to imagine. The current BP boycott is close to the worst variety, blunt and destructive mob anger akin to the reaction of the excitable citizens of Homer Simpson’s Springfield, whose solution to every crisis seems to be a riot.
BP was outrageously and perhaps criminally negligent in creating the conditions that led to the Gulf oil spill, and it is right and just that the burden of accountability and responsibility has fallen on them. And it certainly has fallen on them: as much as every citizen of the United States may want to personally kick the company while it is prone, the fact is that the dire consequences of its misconduct are already overwhelming, both long and short-term. Right now, the Gulf states are still dependent on the diligence and expertise of the company to try to limit the damage it has caused, and the company is, if only for its own survival, doing the best it can to succeed. This fact alone would make a public boycott of BP at this time senseless and counter-productive.
The boycott is also unfair. Continue reading