Boycotts and Jerks

A reader named Ert Dredge writes in with the following set of trenchant observations and questions:

Hiya, Dubner ‘n Levitt.

I was just listening to podcast #84 “Legacy of a Jerk,” and it brought to mind a long-standing cocktail party question of mine:  Is it reasonable to boycott what someone does for a living, if you think they’re good at it, because they’re privately a jerk?

Is it reasonable to never watch Braveheart again because of Mel Gibson‘s anti-Semitism or other issues?
…or never watch another Roman Polanski film?
…or to have not listened to Cat Stevens during the whole Salman Rushdie fatwa issue (misunderstanding?)

And, if so, does that mean that boycotting my local shoe repair guy’s business because he doesn’t clean up after his dog is reasonable.

“Reasonable” here ranges from whether a boycott is likely to have my intended effect of stopping the antisocial behavior, whether all the other people that work with my target deserve to get their professional lives caught up in their coworker’s private failings, and how one goes about attaching a financial value to someone being annoying.

One more category of person to add to this list: athletes. It is always interesting to me how, say, a Yankees fan is willing to rationalize Alex Rodriguez‘s past PED drug while decrying the same by Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz.

TAGS: ,

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 18

View All Comments »
  1. Bill McGonigle says:

    A boycott of one is a weak boycott because it sends a weak signal to the business owner as to why the boycott is happening, if he even notices that it is. The more jerky the business owner, the less likely he’s going to recognize the signal.

    It’s the ethics vs. morals thing again. Do what you need to do to satisfy your moral compass, but don’t expect it to do too much unless you’re coordinating action with a significant portion of the market (or are at least attempting to do so).

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0