Boycotts; Exercises in Futility

In the mid-1960s Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers struck the grape growers of California and called for a national boycott of table grapes. While I’ve never been a big consumer of table grapes I was in sympathy with the migrant laborers and for some time refused to buy grapes and raisins from California. Over the decades I’ve participated in other boycotts, some called by others, and some called by myself.

For at least 20 years my wife and I have boycotted British Petroleum (BP). Not because of the gulf spill, which didn’t help their cause any, but because of a disagreement over an erroneous bill. I’ve tried to avoid doing business with Lowe’s following their withdrawing support for the cable TV show, All-American Muslim.

Notice that I said I tried to avoid doing business with Lowe’s. I phrased it that way because it is very difficult to fully support a boycott. Companies today are so large and diversified it can be very difficult to avoid purchasing their products. Perfect examples of this can be found with Mitt Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, and the holdings of the infamous Koch Brothers. If you want to boycott either you have to stop eating at Burger King, having a donut at Dunkin’ Donuts, quit drinking your coffee out of Dixie Cups, or cleansing your tush with Northern Tissue. You also need to make sure you don’t burn any gasoline made from Alaskan oil in your car, cover your floors with Stainmaster Carpet, use any products made by Georgia-Pacific in your home improvement projects, buy a winter coat at Burlington Coat Factory, eat a Domino’s Pizza, or listen to WLW radio. These and many more well-known brand names are owned by one of these two corporations.

The reality is that boycotting major corporations if an exercise in futility. There are just too many toos; too big, too wealthy, too politically powerful, and too et cetera. But, in spite of all these toos, I’m going to continue not satisfying my hunger at Burger King or fueling up my car at BP just because it makes me feel like I’m doing the correct thing. I’m exercising democratic capitalism by voting with my dollars.

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