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political boycott? - a guest post

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Thanks to guest blogger rocketc who normally writes on rocket finance for this contribution. He’s one of my favourite bloggers, and a regular commentator here, so I’d suggest that you subscribe to his feed and check out what else he has to say.

Hopefully this post is not too “Americentric” for plonkee’s readership –

The December 2007 issue of Money Magazine recently highlighted a question from a reader about patronage and politics in a column on ethics. It seems that this reader works out at a gym where the owner was a financial contributor to a presidential candidate that the reader strongly opposed. The reader’s question boiled down to whether or not he should support a business where a portion of his fees would end up in the coffers of a politician with whom he had a sharp disagreement. The reader’s alternatives were to discontinue working out or drive an hour away to another gym.

On one hand, the question seems silly – why would anyone take the time to write a national magazine about such and inconsequential matter? Who cares what a retailer does with our cash? Does anybody really take the time to figure out the politics of every business we visit? It is for this reason that I am not a big fan of boycotts – you can find something you don’t like about every single business out there – if you look hard enough. And with whom are we to agree – the CEO, the board of directors, the store manager, the register clerk? Any pressure to patronize businesses with whom we agree 100% seems to be artificial and needless.

I think plonkee’s boycott of chocolate is a slightly different issue because it is based on objective, concrete wrongdoing on the part of the manufacturers. The question I want to ask is, do you ever boycott a company based solely on the political views of the owner?

I tried to think of any businesses where I withhold my business based on the political views of the company and I came up with the following:

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream – The owners of this outfit are two of the most liberal guys around. I can’t stand the thought of giving them any money. But this isn’t a real boycott, I can’t afford B and J’s ice cream in the first place and all ice cream tastes the same to me anyway. I am just as happy with the $2, ½ gallon carton of ice milk from the supermarket as I am with any kind of premium brand.

Citgo Gasoline – Since it is owned by the Hugo Chavez’ leftist government in Venezuela. But then, I don’t think we have a Citgo in our city…

When it comes to boycotts – I guess I stand on principle – unless it’s inconvenient.

I sure hope my political viewpoints are compatible with Starbucks…

[plonkee’s note – not only do I think that ice cream should be made into a major food group, I’m a fan of the sort of liberal politics that the Ben and Jerry’s founders espouse and that rocketc dislikes so much. Rocketc assures me that he won’t boycott my blog based on my political views, and likewise, I won’t boycott his blog because we disagree about politics, and religion, and…]

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14 comments for “political boycott? - a guest post”

  1. well, I would never buy the Daily Mail - but then thats more because I think its a load of rubbish than any necessarily political views.

    That aside, I don’t think I have ever boycotted a specific organisation or group on political grounds. I am more of an ecological consumer, trying to make purchases that minimise my impact on the environment. An ideological favoritism if you will.

    Posted by Angell | December 4, 2007, 12:45 pm
  2. I recently read an article about George Soros and his efforts to (try) to influence the 2004 presidential elections. He is pretty vocal about his views about the president (can’t stand him) and used his money to finance some of the democratic opposition.

    Influence works both way. Negative (boycotting) and positive (contributions).

    Posted by Randall | December 4, 2007, 1:52 pm
  3. Love the post! Love Plonkee’s response!

    The problem with boycotts is that if you start boycotting one company due to an issue, pretty soon you find that there are a lot of other companies that you have to boycott for the same issue. And then, as you said, boycotting becomes terribly inconvenient.

    Posted by Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net | December 4, 2007, 2:01 pm
  4. As a general rule I don’t boycott something unless I’m really angry about it. And what candidate a local business owner chooses to support wouldn’t really bother me. If he were using it to enslave people or fund terrorists, then I would boycott!

    I think the chocolate issue is comparable to the enslaving people one.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | December 4, 2007, 2:22 pm
  5. Ben & Jerry’s was sold to Unilever in 2000. When you buy Ben & Jerry’s, you are really supporting Unilever.

    So if you boycott Ben & Jerry’s, you might also consider boycotting Lipton ice tea, Hellman’s mayo, Breyer’s ice cream, Ragu pasta sauce, Skippy peanut butter, Slim Fast, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter margarine.

    But that’s just some of the food they sell. You could also boycott Q-Tips, Dove soap, Snuggle fabric softener, Vaseline, etc etc etc.

    Unilever sells over $50 billion a year in food and various consumable products.

    I have boycotted businesses before, but not based on politics or religious beliefs. (If that were the case, I’d have to boycott friends as well, and I don’t want to do that.)

    I once boycotted Borders bookstores for three plus years because I was treated so badly on multiple occasions. I still avoid the store for the most part, opting instead for Barnes & Noble with the attached Starbucks. :-)

    Posted by Ryan Healy | December 4, 2007, 4:30 pm
  6. Thanks for giving me this opportunity, Plonkee. I think the bottom line here is that while I hold strong political views, I rarely let it affect my buying habits.

    When it comes to finance, I am capitalistic all the way - low cost or high quality win me as a customer every time.

    Posted by rocketc | December 4, 2007, 10:16 pm
  7. The problem with boycotts is that they generally aren’t effective and you often hurt yourself in the process.

    If someone is selling something you want or need at a good price, buying from them is almost always the best choice (unless they stole it from your neighbor, or something similarly nefarious). The same goes for trade on a large scale as well.

    Posted by Aaron Stroud | December 5, 2007, 5:33 am
  8. Great perspective and thought provoking. I boycotted the Dixie Chicks a few years back due to the whole President Bush/Iraq war thing.

    In hindsight that was a mistake, what I did in fact was boycott someone expressing their freedom of speech in a way I didn’t agree with. I love their music and don’t have to agree with their views of the world to enjoy it.

    I am again a listener, although personally I don’t care for Natalie Maines too much.

    At some level I would suspect everyone and every company would disagree with me about something. Boycotting just isn’t for me I don’t think.

    I mean heck, I am strong Christian and I don’t boycott plonkee for her religious views. Although RocketC and I are going to gang up on her :-)

    Posted by glblguy @ Gather Little by Little | December 5, 2007, 9:43 pm
  9. In reading some of the follow-up comments, I recalled that I have more or less boycotted Wal-Mart.

    I purchased four products from them that didn’t work right out of the box. I got so frustrated returning things that I just stopped shopping there.

    When I watched Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, that only reinforced my decision.

    Posted by Ryan Healy | December 5, 2007, 9:55 pm
  10. @glblguy:
    You can gang up on me all you like, I remain entirely unmoved. :)

    I definitely boycott stores that sell poor goods. Especially if they are not ethically sound.

    Posted by plonkee | December 5, 2007, 10:15 pm
  11. Several of my friends were traveling with another guy in our company during the 2004 elections here in the US when at a resturante he requested hunts katsup instead of heintz due to the connection to one of the canidates John Kerry. Somehow on the outbound flight an elect John Kerry bumpesticker ended up on his bag. (Go figure)

    Posted by jane | December 10, 2007, 5:37 pm

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