The right to boycott is not a guarantee that every boycott is right!

In online discussions in which I have objected to some boycott, I have on several occasions seen someone respond "Well, your free market worship goes right out the window when it is a boycott you don't like, huh?"

Let us set aside the assumption that I "worship" the free market, something my libertarian readers are likely to find a little ironic. Is a laissez-faire libertarian committed to approving of every boycott?

The reasoning employed by my interlocutors seems to be, "Well, if you like free markets, you must approve of every single thing that goes on in a free market."

But why? If someone approves of free speech, do they have to approve of everything ever said? If someone is in favor of "big government," do they have to approve of the Gulag?

There is nothing hypocritical about approving of markets in general and disapproving of lots and lots of things that go on in the market. For instance, I could be strongly against smoking, and still believe adults have the right to buy and sell cigarettes if they want to. I can think The Big Bang Theory is an abomination and still not want to see it outlawed. (Although in this case, a little censorship might not be so bad...)

And so it is with boycotts. Does the KKK have the right to call for a boycott of all black-owned businesses? My knowledge of civil rights law is minimal, but I'd guess they do. Is it right for them to do so? Certainly not!

And a boycott is a weapon: rather than convince your opponent of your view, you threaten them with economic destruction if they don't submit to it. As such, if a society values political deliberation, it is a weapon that should be reserved for the most serious cases of malfeasance.


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