TJ Roberts | United States
Since Nike released their new ad in support of Colin Kaepernick, the mainstream American Right has been losing their minds, showing images of them burning their Nike shoes or cutting the logos off of their gym clothes. The same can be said about the American Left’s revulsion towards In-N-Out and Chic-fil-A after they announced their support for conservative causes. The calls for boycotts, however, fall on deaf ears. This is simply because Americans have forgotten how to boycott, whereas they have come to rely on State intervention to achieve their social goals.
The Failure of the Boycott
When Chic-fil-A came out in support of traditional marriage, the American Left slammed them in the public sphere, but they never truly boycotted the franchise. Rather, they gave them free advertisement. They are now doing the same thing for In-N-Out due to their donation to the California GOP. American culture has become so materialist that people can’t even fathom doing without a product in order to enact the change that they desire.
This is largely due to the rise of the modern State. Whereas economic interventionism has become the immediate means by which society changes, the public does not realize their power in the market. This comes from two primary reasons. First, if a well-connected business goes under, the US federal government is likely to bail it out of its economic struggle. Second and most importantly, it is far easier for the government to change something than the private sector.
Government is a monopoly on violence. All state action is backed by either the barrel of a gun or the edge of a blade. Why would the people boycott if they could simply use government force to enact their social preferences? In the private sector, one must compete with the status quo in order to bring about change. With government, all it takes is for a bureaucrat to enact a new arbitrary legislation or law forcing businesses to stop whatever they are doing that is hurting the sensitivities of the thoughtless masses.
Refusing to Buy Goods is Not Enough
Conservatives tend to be able to actually refuse to buy/use products that they find despicable. Their belief in a relatively free market lets them at least realize that they have some power over corporations. But businesses don’t go under simply because they lose a small chunk of their consumer base (they will also gain customers due to controversial moves). While they may lose growth due to traditional boycotts, a boycott can only be effective if consumers are actively competing with businesses.
Instead of throwing an online fit and burning Nike products, it would behoove conservatives to sell their lightly used Nike products at unreasonably low prices in the secondary market as Dr. Robert Murphy, author of Contra Krugman, so brilliantly pointed out. Doing this would not only rid you of the products of a company that would dare to refuse to worship a cloth, but it would also push the price of their products down. This would hurt future sales.
While the Left and the Right are dramatizing minor issues, there is an economics lesson we can all learn from this. A boycott can and will work, but only if the public not only refuses to purchase a business’s goods/services but also compete with the business in order to hurt future sales. If the Left wants to push progressive “values” and the Right wants to push idol worship upon the people, then they may want to learn how an actual boycott works. Or they could focus on real issues such as the fact that the US is committing genocide in Yemen as you read this.
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