Boycotting Does Not Equal Activism

by Jared Schwartz ‘18

Almost everything you buy is a product of exploitation. The clothes you wear and your iPhone are probably made by child laborers under horrible, repressive conditions. Even supposedly “good” corporations exploit their workers taking the profit of their labor for their owners instead of giving it to the workers. No matter what, odds are that whatever you buy supports some amoral cause.

The fact of the matter is that corporations are amoral entities that seek nothing but profit. Any corporation that chooses to produce its goods ethically will have higher prices and find it harder to compete in a competitive economy. In our society, it is nearly impossible to avoid buying goods that were produced free from exploitation. It does not make sense to boycott a corporation on moral issues because corporations do not have morals.

Still, some corporations have worse politics than others and corporations do have the power to influence government policy. For companies which support backwards policies on social issues, boycotting is unnecessary. In such a polarized country as the United States, people are so set in their beliefs with regards to social issues, so corporations are unlikely to change public opinion or the opinions of legislatures in any meaningful name. Thus, buying products from such companies would do little to further their political agenda.

Corporations have more influence with regards to economic policies than with social issues. For example, the pharmaceutical and oil industries actively influence governmental policy to serve their own economic interests by making campaign contributions and lobbying members of the government. The problem in this situation is not the corporations, as corporations will nearly always promote their interests at the expense of the common good. Instead, the problem is with the role of money in our political process. Reducing the role of money in politics is the only effective way to stop corporations from promoting their own interests through the government.

Ultimately, boycotting is an ineffective tactic in today’s society. Any company large enough to wield a significant amount of political power is probably unlikely to be affected by a boycott anyway. Even if one was to launch a successful boycott against a corporation, the cut in profits that a corporation would suffer from such a boycott would be mitigated by the backlash that the corporation would suffer from changing their stance.

While there is nothing wrong with choosing not to buy products from corporations with terrible politics, one should not feel guilty for doing so.