Sunday, January 3, 2010

Please Give Up The @#$%^ Corporate Boycotts!

A couple of months ago, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote a wildly über-libertarian op-ed in the WSJ mocking people who wanted genuine healthcare reform and suggesting that each of us has the opportunity to improve our health by simply... you guessed it... shopping at his stores. Don't expect the feral gummint to solve everything for you, the ruggedly good-looking, probably disgustingly healthy and well-insured Austin resident told us.

That did it for a lot of us. People announced they would not shop at Whole Paycheck Foods for a period of time varying with the individual. I said I would boycott until Congress passed healthcare legislation, for good or ill. They passed it for ill, and Obama will doubtless sign a truly oppressive version of it this year, but I was looking forward to a few flavors I can get only through Whole Paycheck, and had made a list for a trip there tomorrow.

Then Blue Texan of Firedoglake informed us all today that Mackey is a global warming denier. Writing in a post on Firedoglake, Blue Texan strongly implies we should continue the boycott.

BT, did I mention that Whole Paycheck is geographically the single closest grocery store to my home?

BT, I probably also forgot to mention that I am mobility-impaired. Driving six blocks is difficult for me. Driving six miles... well, I can expect to be laid up for a few days if I have to do that.

BT observes, correctly IMHO, that John Mackey hasn't yet realized that he gains no advantage as a grocer by preaching to his customer base. When will you, BT, realize the same thing about your preaching to your "customer base," your fellow activists?

In the era of globalization and corporate consolidation, boycotts seldom work. Let's see. For possibly 10 years now, I've boycotted Wal-Mart, a store whose bad corporate behavior exceeds all normal humanitarian bounds. The result of my boycott and everyone else's? The bad corporate behavior continues, and Mall-Wart, not five years ago, built a new store about a mile from me.

I boycotted Target stores a few years back over their alleged bad relations with charities that had connections with Planned Parenthood. I obtained my info from a usually reliable source. She was wrong, just completely wrong. The result of all the Target boycotts (I wasn't the only one who did so)? A new SuperTarget opened about 15 blocks from me approximately four years ago.

Gosh, those boycotts really were effective, weren't they? Oh, yeah. They were effective at making a low-income person have to stretch his low income even further, effective at making it even more difficult for a vegetarian in the city to obtain the food he needs, effecting at hammering on a cripple. Oh, yes, that was effective.

Given that organized boycotts are, on the whole, ineffective at obtaining the desired result... can't we citizens, especially activists, just shit-can the damned things, and spend our money and efforts on something that works, like buying a couple of members of Congress? [/snark]


  1. You can surely criticize what some call "consumer democracy" for achieving little in most cases, and I think you're on solid ground when you fault the boycotts for their ineffective application of the principle; however, the principle can and should also be criticized as such. In other words, it needs to be pointed out that it is based on the paradoxical idea, which most of the boycott supporters and others who put to rest their conscience by making "consumer choices" are not even aware of, that the rich deserve more votes than the poor. That's what such 'democracy' amounts to: plutocracy in the garb of the activist.

    So-called ethical shopping is not something to be jettisoned in all cases; but let's stop pretending that it is a serious solution to any serious problem.

  2. I am kind of the same mind when it comes to 'boycotts'. I did and have restricted my shopping at Whole Foods but like you I can only find certain things there. Locally raised grass fed beef and pasture raised chicken for example. I don't buy much but I am still a carnivore occasionally. I still won't shop at Wal-Mart even though I could probably save money on food. The good thing is that they don't have any food I would buy anyway though paper and soap and stuff is probably cheaper I'll still pay a few cents more for my toilet paper just to avoid going to Wally World.
    Terrette is correct that we can still be ethical shoppers regardless of the politics of a particular vendor. We can still speak with our dollars.

  3. Fallenmonk, thanks for responding. To clarify, I meant to say that these boycotts and so-called consumer democracy in general leave rich people with disproportionately loud voices. The speaking that the rest of us can do with our dollars is negligible and easily ignored.

    It is as citizens and not only as consumers that we should resist bad people and bad ideas.



• Click here to view existing comments.
• Or enter your new rhyme or reason
in the new comment box here.
• Or click the first Reply link below an existing
comment or reply and type in the
new reply box provided.
• Scrolling manually up and down the page
is also OK.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes