Religion

Boycotts Are Hypocritical, Discriminatory, and Bad for Social Change

One can make a strong argument that boycotts merely get in the way of social change.

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Gay wedding
Dreamstime

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's decision to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—which prohibits state and local governments from placing substantial burdens on the religious beliefs of people and corporations, and could allow Christians to discriminate against gays in the workplace—has triggered a number of boycott threats from groups that oppose the law. GenCon, the largest gaming convention in the world, might pull out of Indiana in 2021, after its contract expires. And SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff declared on Twitter that his company would be "canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination."

The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway was quick to point out the rank hypocrisy of Benioff's threat. SalesForce operates a branch in Beijing, China—a place with a quantifiably worse track record on human rights than Indiana. As Human Rights Watch notes, China "places arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion; prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations; and maintains Party control over all judicial institutions." Dissidents are imprisoned and tortured. If Benioff wants to stand on moral principle, is he so sure that Indiana is a more dangerous place for his employees than China?

It's very easy to play this game. I note that Salesforce lists Accenture as a partner firm, and Accenture has an office in Singapore, where gay people face much worse discrimination than in Indiana.

All of this is even more hypocritical when one considers the fact that the law triggering SalesForce's boycott—Indiana's RFRA—is itself about boycotts: it allows Christians to refuse to do business with people they find morally objectionable (i.e. boycott them!). Logically understood, Benioff's position must be that SalesForce has the right to boycott Indianans, but Indianans do not have the right to boycott SalesForce.

But it's not just that this boycott is hypocritical. Most boycotts are hypocritical—because boycotters are incapable of refusing to interact with all entities that engage in morally regrettable activities. We live in a blessedly interconnected world that requires daily association with people and organizations that don't share our values. For an individual, or group of individuals, to practice a uniform and consistent policy of boycotting all morally undesirable elements would be nearly impossible.

And thank goodness for that. Boycotts, I would argue, do not generally make admirable contributions to social progress (one can find exceptions, of course). On the contrary, people who are passionate about achieving some moral outcome—less discrimination against gays, for example—should do business with anti-gay bigots (or at least not flatly refuse to do so), because that's how change actually happens.

To be clear, I'm not saying boycotts are, or should be, impermissible. From a libertarian perspective, obviously, people should have the maximum freedom to choose their friends, neighbors, and business partners. You can be a libertarian and think that all entities expressing views that clash with your own should be boycotted by all right-thinking people. Nevertheless, I would disagree with you (please don't boycott me!).

One can make a strong argument that boycotts merely get in the way of social change. Has a half-century of refusing to talk to, trade with, or permit travel to Cuba made Cuba a better place?

On the other hand, it's clear that the forces of tolerance and freedom advance most rapidly when the tolerant and the intolerant interact frequently. If we are confident than our progressive social values are objectively superior, we should welcome their spread, not wall ourselves off from those who oppose them.

As Reason's Brian Doherty once put it:

The advantages of classical liberal market cosmopolitanism—the idea that it's best to set aside peaceful differences of opinion and creed and worries about different races, nationalities, and genders when deciding how we interact with the world—has a great track record of making us all richer and happier.

The idea that that people should be punished with boycott or losing their jobs over having wrong beliefs hobbles the flowering of tolerant classical liberal market cosmopolitanism. …

When we start regularly restricting people's opportunities in commerce or association over differing beliefs, what could be peaceful ideological differences start to tip over into people fighting for what they can understandably see as their metaphorical life—their social or economic life. It's a dangerous game and if pursued vigorously and across the board by everyone who disagrees with everyone else on issues or practices they consider vital, will make everyone worse off.

I should note that just like SalesForce and GenCon, I'm not a particularly big fan of RFRA in any of its various incarnations, either. As a libertarian, I hold that everyone has a legal right to discriminate against, or organize a boycott of, an entity they don't like. Laws like RFRA act as if religious reasons for discriminating against someone are valid in ways other reasons are not. To put it one way, they wrongly discriminate in favor of religiously-motivated discrimination.

The intellectually-consistent position is that all people should be legally entitled to practice discrimination, but practicing discrimination is itself a tactically unsound way to achieve social progress. And that goes for Christians who refuse service to gays, and for organizations that refuse to do business in states where Christians have the right to refuse service to gays.

Make sense?

Related: Read Brendan O'Neill on the boycott of Dolce & Gabbana here.

NEXT: Where are the Section 215 cases?

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  1. I’ve given up on talking on this subject. I bring up these same points and the only responses I get are so objectively awful they make Shriek look human.

    1. I used to be a big believer in boycotting businesses and people I despised politically. I had a knock-down drag-out fight with John here on the subject and he ridiculed the hell out of me, along with some help from a few others including probably you. Talked about how it contributes to the polarization and eventual breakdown in society, etc.

      Anyway, I actually rethought my position and realized I had been wrong. Go buy the best value you can buy and not worry about where it comes from or the politics of the people providing it. You’ll be a lot happier that way, and the world will be a more tolerant and better place, I found.

      I hate being wrong, but when I am I usually end up happier for admitting it.

      1. Admirable, but sadly not the conclusion most people will come to.

      2. Big Boycott also contributes to the politicization of everyday life, which is mostly characteristic of totalitarian societies.

        I’m also deeply suspicious whenever businesses jump on these boycotts. It’s never about being willing to lose actual money. For example, GenCon…how the hell did that end up in Indiana, anyway? My cynical guess is that this is just an excuse for them to find a sexier location.

        1. Exactly. My parents stopped buying Heinz ketchup because of John Kerry, and they always get very indignant when I laugh at them for it.

          On the flip side, an old friend who I loved despite her far-left beliefs cut off all contact with me a few years ago because I refused to endorse her spittle-flecked diatribes about boycotting Chik-Fil-A. Apparently, they use the blood of gay teenage suicides to make teh Polynesian sauce….or so she typed to me in ALL CAPS on Facebook before de-friending me. This is someone whose house I crashed at for years, who I had been friends with for nearly two decades despite us holding diametrically opposed political views. All it took for her to blow that up was for me to say I was going to eat Chik-Fil-A as I pleased.

          On one level I just kind of shrugged, since if our friendship meant so little to her anyway then it was no big loss. On another level, though, it truly disturbs me that there are so many people who operate this way and submit every single action and decision in their daily life to a stringent political analysis.

          1. I’ve got friends, people I genuinely care about, who post nothing but leftist political crap on FB. I’ve gotten sucked into their comment threads a few times, and I always regret it. I just ignore it and accept that this is part of who they are.

            Would they grant me the same latitude if I posted libertarian rants 24/7 on FB? A few would, I suppose.

            1. It’s a mixed bag, the leftists that actually have friends and family with different opinions are generally more tolerant, but if they live in a completely insular political bubble, they will drop you pretty quick for making them feel “unsafe” for disagreeing with the.

              I’m generally very tolerant of others political beliefs and write them off as general groupthink, uneducated, brainwashed by the US education system, different upbringing, etc., but I do have a limit. The second they start sharing Salon’s “libertarians will literally eat your babies and kill your grandmother for sport” posts, I check out (Hide Feed…). If I don’t know them that well, unfriend. But I would never unfriend an otherwise close friend for their political beliefs.

              1. Same here. With me, it’s usually a function of my prog friends feeling the need to signal their quasi-religious beliefs on FB. When we’re together in person, the topics of discussion are beer, football and music, in some order.

          2. That is seriously demented. My only argument that seemed to make sense to the foaming-at-the-mouth boycotters was that their employees are generally very friendly and competent people who don’t discriminate and the boycott will end up hurting them far more than the owners at the top who donated a very small sum of money ($1M isn’t going to go far in the non-profit world) to a cause that many of their own employees probably disagree with.

            Chick-fil-a ended up doing the right thing any ways probably because they were tired of being in the news for negative publicity, regardless of how much it effected their bottom line (I doubt the boycott did much). Big businesses are generally very risk averse, especially if selling consumer goods.

            1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chick-fil-a ended up seeing a net increase in business. A lot of social conservatives made it a point to stop by one of their stores when this controversy was going on.

      3. I would simultaneously agree and disagree. I think that within the realm of ‘reasonable people may disagree’ or ‘harmless errors’, boycotting is stupid. By that I mean, boycotting over almost anything considered ‘political’, gay marriage, taxes, whatever.

        On the other hand, would you buy goods from a company owned by a neo-Nazi who donates to neo-Nazi organizations? It would appear that there is a threshold somewhere.

        Also, in some areas, consumer choice is a voluntary alternative to state regulation. If, say, people factored the social costs of pollution into their economic decision-making, then it would be a substitute for state regulation of pollution, as the more a company pollutes, the more its sales would suffer. So that’s one angle.

    2. Yeah, I’ve learned to keep my opinions on this quiet to Facebook friends.

      There are the “UGH I’M BOYCOTTING INDIANA” reactions from morons who were never going to Indiana in the first place and then there are the small handful who actually plan to try and boycott Indiana headquartered businesses, because that’ll teach them! It’s very small and very petty.

      I’ve seen some thoughtful remarks that “you don’t really make yourself look good when you call the entire state of Indiana a bunch of backwater inbred hicks” but that came from a friend who like me, is from Indiana, who like me, has friends and family in Indiana who are pro-gay marriage and against discrimination in general.

      1. Political posts on FB (which seem to be heavily skewed towards progs) are merely a form of signaling. I simply ignore them and scroll on.

        1. I concut

          1. Concur

  2. You’d think if they wanted to get their point across that private businesses should be required to cater to them they’d actually visit Indiana and stage sit-ins at stores that think they can associate with whomever they please.

    But since 99% of the people making #BoycottIN trend on Twitter have zero desire to ever set foot in that state, I think we can just dismiss this as sound and fury signifying nothing. Moral grandstanding nonsense.

  3. Freedom of association is one freedom that most people do not want others to have. Pretty ironic when some of those same folks who don’t believe in that freedom express a strong desire to practice their own freedom to associate – or not – with others.

    1. That is a more basic description of a comment I made in the AM links… that we discriminate/have freedom of association all the time when *we* are the consumer but we don’t believe that producers should have the same freedom. I really only discriminate on product/service/price but I still know people who to this day will not eat at Chick-fil-a (you can pry my spicy chicken sandwich from my cold dead queer fingers).

      1. mmmmmmm I had one of those spicy chicken sandwiches for lunch today.

        Yeah … “freedom to discriminate for me but not for thee” is the belief of far too many folks.

      2. Well, legally speaking, if they oppose freedom of association for producers, why not for consumers too? That is, why shouldn’t it be illegal for someone to refuse to buy baked goods from a gay baker? (in their mindset, that is). Legally, it’s a similar situation. As the argument goes, if the discrimination is widespread enough, it could kill gay or minority owned businesses or whatever, thereby depriving those groups of their economic freedom. Ergo, in so far as it’s possible, why shouldn’t the state require people to purchase a certain proportion of their goods from each of the ‘protected groups’ to safeguard against such an eventuality?

        By their logic, if the exercise of any right in some ‘bad’ way on a large enough scale can be harmful to a ‘protected’ class of people, then that right must be revoked. So, what rights would be left?

    2. You lost your freedom of association when you applied for a business license. It’s right there in the social contract.

      1. This comment reminds me of something I saw in my FB feed the other day: “Licensing is the way that the government takes away your rights and sells them back to you.” I would add, “after taking a little off the top.”

      2. “You lost your freedom of association when you applied for a business license. It’s right there in the social contract.”

        Not in any social contract I’ve seen, such as the Constitution which leads with giving individuals freedom, including the freedom to not associate. But I agree with the author, breaking down these bigot barriers, is best accomplished by bigots interacting with those they don’t like and vice versa.

  4. Nothing wrong with boycotting. Sham(e)ing*, stigmatizing and other social pressures are also much better than pointing a gun at someone and forcing them to change. So I don’t see how this is hypocritical or bad for social change. And discriminatory is the whole point of a boycott, yes?

    *no idea how to spell this.

    1. Nothing wrong with boycotting. Sham(e)ing*, stigmatizing and other social pressures are also much better than pointing a gun at someone and forcing them to change. So I don’t see how this is hypocritical or bad for social change. And discriminatory is the whole point of a boycott, yes?

      Pretty much how I saw it too. This article is stupid.

      1. I have to agree, most people that are actual bigots will stay that way regardless of whether or not they have interactions with the group of people they hate. Boycotting can hit them where it hurts – money – but that’s what funny about this situation, the bill allowing discrimination allows businesses to hit themselves in the wallet by not serving certain customers.

        The boycotts wont work to change bigots and neither will increased social interaction.

        All in all though, this whole BoycottIN is probably a net negative anyway since it has more potential to harm Indiana citizens that have nothing to do with the bill/oppose it.

        1. What changes bigots then? There sure seem to be a lot less of certain types around today than a few decades ago…

          1. Not much. Time reduces their numbers, that’s all, as what was once socially acceptable becomes taboo.

          2. Larger cultural shifts. These boycotts and public displays of self-righteousness are usually most prominent when the shift has already mostly happened. That was even true of much of the protest theater surrounding the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s.

            1. I don’t know, I would think if they don’t start the change then things like public outcry and boycotting would at least accelerate it.

              1. All that protest theater does is provide a certain amount of publicity, especially nowadays. This can have an effect on legislative agendas by getting controversies into the news media. It does little or nothing to actually changes minds, though.

                Busing thousands of smartass Yankees down to the Dixie did nothing to change the locals’ minds on Jim Crow; it was probably counterproductive. And the fact that the freedom rides happened at all was basically because northern opinion had already turned decisively away from segregation.

              2. I’m sure someone has done psychological studies on this kind of thing but I would bet that a lot of the public shaming and boycotting actually causes some people to dig in their heals instead of quietly changing their opinion.

          3. Nothing. There are less of some types, but more of other types that barely existed back then.

            In truth, we’re all bigots of some kind. But which forms of bigotry are socially acceptable change from one era to another. All a ‘bigot’ is is a person who dislikes some group that it isn’t ok to to like today, but was ok and some point and may be again at a later point. As Nietzsche said, “evil is merely the ativism of an old ideal; the untimely occurrence of what was once considered good.”

            Part of why I generally don’t flip my shit over people’s social/cultural attitudes the way progs usually do it that I am actually aware that it is inevitable that some of the things that you and I and nearly everyone else believes as a matter of course will, in fifty or sixty years, be viewed as barbaric, savage, and bigoted; and many of the things our grandchildren and great grandchildren believe are things that would strike horror in our hearts.

          4. “What changes bigots then?”

            Seems many look to government force to change bigots, but they forget, bigoted government force is an evil. When US state/local government enforced slavery/segregation/Jim Crow laws, that was evil, as it infringed on the freedoms of blacks. When it engages in affirmative action or forcing people to associate with those they don’t want, they are again infringing on our freedoms.

            I agree with the author, it’s when bigots interact with those they don’t approve, they learn those they don’t approve of, aren’t all bad. Bigoted business owners often also lose business when they choose to not associate with segments of society. But then, they also can avoid business losses by choosing to not serve those who offend their other customers and drive them away.

            Let people be free to decide, and keep government out of it. Allowing one to discriminate on “religious beliefs” is a step in the right direction (not that people should, but that government shouldn’t be using force here) but expect government to claim whatever religious beliefs you have, aren’t religious beliefs. People should be free to discriminate for any reason, good or bad, and also responsible for the consequences.

  5. Boycott.

    Drink?!

    1. PERSONCOTT, you cispig

      1. Why does he get to be a cispig?

        1. Gendercotting is Otherkinphobic

  6. Laws like RFRA take back a bit from the insane ‘public accomodation’ regulations that we’ve had to deal with since the CRA–regulations that violate our freedom of speech and association, as well as our property rights and, apparently, our right to freely express our religious beliefs.

    It is, quite probably, only the fact that, as John incessantly notes, religion is singled out in the first amendment, that even this meager relief is possible.

  7. Fuck ‘Social Change

    I don’t understand what was wrong with ‘we reserve the right to refuse service for any reason’? I didn’t complain when the manager at the lesbian bar told me and my friends to split.

    (*and I was in the midst of saying, “it must be ladies night! yowsa”)

    1. Rights are for ‘oppressed’ people only. Your loss of rights will surely be duly compensated by your ‘privilege.’

  8. “Logically understood, Benioff’s position must be that SalesForce has the right to boycott Indianans, but Indianans do not have the right to boycott SalesForce.”

    I believe the term you are looking for is “Hoosier”. Nobody says “Indianans” and im fairly sure ‘Hoosier’ is actually the official name for someone from Indiana.

    1. This is true (Indiana person = Hoosier). No one really knows the exact origin, but it is absolutely used by people in Indiana.

      I think Benioff is fucking over his own employees here in order to make a political statement.

      1. It came from hoosier daddy which everyone there ask all the time

        1. I thought Canadians referred to them as “Hosers” and wanted to make it sound more fancy

          1. AFAIK, “hoosier” as a word has been around a long time. I’d be very surprised to learn that it and the Canadian slang, “hoser” (I first heard it as “hosehead”) are related at all, except for having the same first and last letters.

        2. In case you aren’t joking, I believe that theory is apocryphal… there are other theories out there.

  9. Next you’ll be telling us that sending people with guns to force other people to provide you a service doesn’t lead to group hugs and Kum-ba-yah.

  10. Boycotts Are Hypocritical, Discriminatory, and Bad for Social Change

    I think libertarians don’t like Boycotts because it disrupts commerce.

    Boycotts seem to work for the Montgomery Bus Company for some reason.

    It is a form of protest. Does it hurt the little guy that works at the place being boycotted, absolutely. However, I find that the Boycott (along with the protest) is an important tool in democracy and capitalism.

    1. I wouldn’t say libertarians are generally against boycotts or that we’re dedicated to ‘not disrupting commerce’ as some rule. We’re not for using force to disrupt commerce.

      1. apologies. Thanks for the clarity and I agree.

    2. There was a state law that made it illegal for the bus company to let blacks and whites sit together. It wasn’t the bus company’s idea, or it’s fault.

  11. So, what’s the line between being a good steward of your money (as you understand it) and punishment of another in not giving them your business?

    Is it when you try to get others to follow along with you? Merely discussing it with others?

    Also, why not point out that a law that might let discrimination happen is only necessary because people refuse to revisit sections of the CRA that rob people of their right of free association?

  12. When we disagree with someone’s speech we respond with speech of our own, so why shouldn’t we respond to boycotters with boycotts?

    1. There are (at least) two potential problems that I can see with boycotts of this type: (1) individual personal boycotts (an individual deciding to shop elsewhere) are unlikely to get the message across; and (2) large organized boycotts tend to reflect only a single viewpoint, namely that of the SJW crowd, since neither conservatives nor libertarians are likely to engage that way. The problem is that you get a warped view of what the public as a whole thinks based on who yells the loudest.

      I’m also a bit concerned of the incentives it creates. These boycotts (and capitulating to them) encourages people to be offended and loudly proclaim this offense. This is far from the market at work, as people often argue that boycotts serve as proxy for.

  13. It does sound much more childish when you render it down to “How dare you not want to associate with me! I’m going to not associate with you first!”

    1. I’ll take my business where it’s wanted is childish?

      1. That’s a bit different from the boycotts discussed here.

      2. It’s childish if its intention is do induce a state government to prohibit businesses from discriminating.

        Boycotting, per se, is not hypocritical, but here, it definitely is: boycotting is a form of discrimination, especially this one, as they’re not even discriminating against people who disagree with them; they’re discriminating against the whole state of Indiana, whether they agree or not, and they are doing so in order to induce the state to ban a form of discrimination.

        Again, they are discriminating against a group of people in an attempt to get their government to banish another form of discrimination. The boycotters here are no different from someone delivering a speech demanding that the government abolish free speech.

  14. Anyone boycotting Indiana is welcome in my home state of Michigan, which doesn’t yet have a RFRA. It also doesn’t a statewide law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. It actually seems more politically prudent in this climate to not have an anti-discrimination law at all. That way, there are no high-profile fights over who gets an exemption.

    1. Michigan, which doesn’t…
      It also doesn’t…

      have a football team that can beat The Ohio State University Buckeyes.

      O-H…

  15. I choose not to patronize the Venetian, the Las Vegas casino owned by Sheldon Adelson who is bankrolling a big lobbying effort to make all internet gambling illegal.

    I am not part of a boycott in the sense that I am actively conveying my choice to others and hoping to put pressure on Adelson; rather, I am just more comfortable abstaining from contributing to his coffers, no matter how insignificant the amount is to him.

    1. “I am not part of a boycott in the sense that I am actively conveying my choice to others and hoping to put pressure on Adelson; rather, I am just more comfortable abstaining from contributing to his coffers, no matter how insignificant the amount is to him.”

      That’s a good way of putting it.

      I don’t really care about the issue so long as everyone has complete free choice to do business with whomever they want.

      I’m also just generally leery of people who engage in ostentatiously ‘moral’ consumption – or *non consumption*, as the case may be. Many of the most vociferous non-consumers are actually non-market-participants in the first place. See = the billion+ people who will froth endlessly about “Monsanto”, and insist that 3rd world farmers not have access to biotech….

  16. I’ve been boycotting Energizer batteries for years…because I hate that damn bunny.

  17. Wife making you sleep on the couch again?

    1. Sounds about right. Robby’s just concern trolling the commenters…it’s sad when you have nothing better to do on a Friday evening.

  18. So if I’m at restaurant with friends and the owner tells one of them, “you’ll have to leave, we don’t serve your kind here. It’s hypocritical for the rest of the party to get up and leave along with our friend rather than abandoning them and continuing our meal?

    1. That’s perfectly reasonable and understandable, but it’s not really a good example of a boycott. You choose to associate with your friend, and your friend is a member of your party. If the restauranteur won’t serve your friend, then he is refusing your party’s business: your party and the restauranteur cannot come to mutually agreeable terms for a transaction. You can regroup your party to exclude your (soon to be ex-) friend, of course, but as long as the friend is a member of your party, you need to find another place to eat, where you and the proprietor there can make a mutually acceptable deal for service. A better example would be if you and a different friend elected not to go to the first restaurant because they had refused to serve your other friend the week before. In this case, your reason for not doing business with that restaurant would have nothing to do with your actual business needs at the time.

    2. I think the issue here is that the boycotters are discriminating against Indianans in order to get Indiana’s government to ban discrimination against gay people. That is clearly hypocritical, to employ one’s right to discriminate to try to get the state to end someone else’s right to discriminate.

  19. Reductio ad absurdum (because extremes test your principles): I choose to boycott products produced in North Korea with slave labor, decreasing the demand for their products and refusing to participate in the chain of events that deprives people of their liberty. (The same argument can be made against voting.)

    I fail to see how purchasing these products (or not) would do much to upend the practice of slavery, such that I am a hypocrite, but I feel that knowingly participating in this particular stream of commerce is not free from blame.

    1. What “north korean” export-products are you referring to, again?…given the longstanding trade embargo. or is the fantasy-example intentional?

      Besides = how would you know the difference?

      the few “north korean” products you might yourself ever have the opportunity to buy would be labeled “Made in South Korea” anyway

      “We never see “Made in North Korea” on anything we buy ? largely because the U.S. has a strict trade embargo against North Korea. Under almost all circumstances, it’s illegal to import products made inside the dictatorship.

      But the fruits of North Korea’s exploited and abused labor force may be closer at hand than you think.

      Kaesong factories churn out components and parts that are used in South Korean-made products ? which, in turn, may be exported to the U.S..”

      1. It was the first country to come to mind that uses slave labor, that part of the example doesn’t really matter. I also added knowingly in the last sentence to attempt to cover the good faith ignorance scenario.

    2. I think a big distinction should be drawn between boycotting a state/country verses boycotting a company/individual. Libertarians would be hypocrites to boycott some individuals that have no control over the things that “their” government does.

      Public choice shows that democracy does not effectively aggregate preferences, but a corporation is free to (and does) change its policies to maximize shareholder value

  20. People forget that non-discrimination law (including the occasional reverse-discrimination policy) was originally justified by the fact that law and government force had, for generations, been used to INSTITUTE harmful discrimination against minorities in this country. The object of “bending over backward” in this area was to make reparations to those who were harmed by the prior use of government force, and to achieve a “level playing field.” Once the latter was re-established, there would be no more need for the over-correction inherent in the anti-discrimination law. That was the story, anyway.

    (concluded in reply post below)

    1. (continued from main-level post above)

      Private people should absolutely be able to discriminate in their personal and business affairs, on whatever basis they choose. The remedy for objectionable discrimination is to avoid practicing it yourself, and to make a conscious effort to associate and do business with those who agree with you — even to go into competition with the bigots and outdo them in business or social endeavors. So what if the bakery on the corner doesn’t make wedding cakes for gays? The one on the other corner caters to gays and does great business! So what if the Jewish deli around the block won’t serve Muslims? Bob’s Deli across the street has no problem with it (not to mention that they have the best falafel in town!). The delivery company won’t hire women, much less promote them into management? Start a local delivery service that hires ONLY women! And so on! The market will sort things out, and reasons for discrimination that don’t help a business will give advantages to competitors.

      You don’t make many friends by saying that discrimination is the heart of the right to associate, but it’s true.

    2. “…to achieve a “level playing field.” Once the latter was re-established, there would be no more need for the over-correction inherent in the anti-discrimination law.”
      Of course as with all such laws, including affirmative action ones, they only start out temporary, but curiously never seem to go away.

  21. Actually I’m okay with this law. Yanno it’s not always about teh Gheys. So some gays might not be able to force a baker to make them a cake. It may or may not help with an actual discrimination problem Indiana–one perpetrated by the government and not private citizens. I have a friend who ran a bookstore called Bell, Book, and Candle. Her business was zoned out of four different locations because OMG Witchcraft! She’d open shop with all permits in place and the local Xians would mob the city council to change the zoning so that her new location was verboten. Our pagan group tried to rent a park for the weekend (it had previously been rented by many Christian groups for retreats), we were rebuffed because OMG Witchcraft! It would please me no end, if in their zeal to protect the Xians from the Gay Agenda, they accidentally protected the pagans from the Xian agenda.

    1. Local and state zoning laws have long been used as a legal means of discriminating against minorities and other desirables, and yet ironically the people who love zoning laws the most are all of the progressives. They are just hoping to use them now against their enemies- businesses and developers (extra irony here is that this still ends up adversely harming minorities).

  22. This whole thing sounds like mental masturbation to prove how intellectual the author/commenters are.
    So, I have or should have freedom of association, but I shouldn’t use it the way I want because that doesn’t achieve social progress. F*ck social progress. Where is it written that I am responsible for social progress. I am becoming convinced Reason has gone ’round the bend and lost their way.
    If I want to boycott Starbucks because they don’t want me to come in with my gun and they want to engage me in racial conversations, then I will damn well not go back there. By with holding my dollars, I am in my own way refusing to support policies I find objectionable.

  23. This blog entry is not at all persuasive.

    * Mr. Soave alleges boycotts are hypocritical, because you can’t enact a “uniform and consistent policy of boycotting”. So what? If you have reason to believe a boycott will work in situation A but not in situation B, why not boycott in situation A but not B even if you know B is worse? Anyone convinced by Mr. Soave’s argument would have to concede he/she would have no moral grounds to protest any injustice except the worse ones occurring in the world.

    * Mr. Soave conflates two arguments: boycotts are ineffective, and boycotts obstruct progress. He cites Cuba, but it is difficult to know what lessons Cuba has for us, since the US sanctioned Cuba but for a while other countries have not. Mr. Soave’s logic does imply that boycotts can be effective: if we live in a “blessedly interconnected world”, and if an entity wants those interconnections, and a boycott campaign is successful in cutting off those interconnections, why won’t a boycott be effective?

    * Without evidence, Mr. Soave asserts that “it’s clear that the forces of tolerance and freedom advance most rapidly when the tolerant and the intolerant interact frequently.” Actually, that is not at all clear. I am having a hard time thinking of situations where tolerance has won where there has hasn’t been at least serious symbolic, social, and material costs for being intolerant.

  24. I think there are situations where boycotting is ok, or even obligatory, and situations where boycotting is not ok. It depends on why you are doing the boycott.

    Boycotting people for their opinions is not ok. Boycotting people for their actions IS.

  25. I think Mr Soave is going to have to eat some crow, as the threat of boycott is forcing Indiana Governor Mike Pence to propose legislation “clarifying” Indiana’s RFRA legislation. Chances are he is trying to pull one over us, but still, the boycott prompted a quick response from Indiana. Seems doubtful that if people just relied on “frequent interaction” it would have had the same response.

  26. I think one can distinguish between a boycott of a company because of something its owner says or believes, and boycotting a state because you think the law discriminates against your members, customers, etc.

    It’s a little hard for me to see where Mr. Soave has a problem here. Is it:

    1. Private entities should not choose where to locate an event based on the local laws?

    2. People should not encourage other entities to not locate in a particular state based on the local laws?

    3. Private entities cannot pick and choose which fights to have, and must fight everything?

    (This last part is a problem with the China hypocrisy argument — also the fact that one can easily locate in one of many other states that have not enacted laws that one finds offensive.)

  27. There are 29 states with similar laws in place enacted legislatively or judicially. There is a very similar federal law. Screaming “I’m going to boycott Indiana” while doing business anywhere else in the country is so stupidly hypocritical it’s beyond belief.

  28. Is it really hypocritical to expect higher standards of Americans than others?
    I believe we call that standard the Constitution. No, private companies aren’t limited by the Constitution, but why should we applaud those who totally ignore it as a moral standard?
    Why did he compare private companies with governments anyhow?

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