Oakes

Perplexing Ad in TIA

9 posts in this topic

The last page of the Jan 2005 issues of TIA (just arrived) has an ad for a book called America's Trading Partners. The book is supposed to rate each country on economic, social, and military policy to "help you make better buying decisions." The ad's slogan says it all: "Could your buying habits use an ethics lesson?"

I've only skimmed through their website for a minute, but my interest has already been piqued. The front page prominently displays a quote from Ayn Rand, and on the "links" page, ARI, TIA, and CapMag are listed (among others).

A couple things are making me skeptical. Firstly, they link not only to ARI, but to TOC as well. That tells me that the writers of this book are trying to market to Objectivists, yet have an understanding of Objectivism superficial enough to think that TOC represents Objectivism in any way.

Secondly, the entire notion of individual consumers boycotting in the hopes of starting political change strikes me as bizarre. As Richard Salsman said on this very forum, disinvesting in bad countries is "useless, especially while the U.S. government officially "deals with" (i.e., sanctions) such criminal regimes." International threats to America, in my opinion, can only be eliminated by a ruthless military offensive by our government, not by the individual actions of a few.

What do you think about the ethical status of boycotting bad countries, and judging by the website, what do you think of the book that proports to help you do so?

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A couple things are making me skeptical. Firstly, they link not only to ARI, but to TOC as well.

I too find that rather disturbing.

What do you think about the ethical status of boycotting bad countries ...

I boycotted the Russian Ballet during the Cold War, but boycotting Red China today is virtually pointless. It is almost impossible to find products without the "Made in China" mark. The best thing we should have done is destroy them, then we would not have to worry about any relationship involving "ethical status."

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I boycotted the Russian Ballet during the Cold War, but boycotting Red China today is virtually pointless. It is almost impossible to find products without the "Made in China" mark. The best thing we should have done is destroy them, then we would not have to worry about any relationship involving "ethical status."

Although boycotting a country is certainly impractical, I would sure like a book that listed all the companies who agitated for antitrust cases. After listening to Dr. Hull's lecture again, I noticed he mentioned American Express as one such company. I definitely won't be doing business with them in the future.

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Antitrust lobbying against competitors is a confession of impotence. It's not just immoral, it's pathetic.

That's mostly why I would tend to avoid products by Oracle, American Express, etc. - they have all but admitted they cannot compete based on merits.

As a proponent of the morality of self-interest, your guide in making a purchase should be the effect of the purchase on your life (including the possible reprecussions of financially supporting a hostile regime or hostile legistlation). Not some desire to punish the evil.

While that desire is proper, following it when it is considerably detrimental to your life (like avoiding products from China in this day and age), is irrational.

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As a proponent of the morality of self-interest, your guide in making a purchase should be the effect of the purchase on your life (including the possible reprecussions of financially supporting a hostile regime or hostile legistlation). Not some desire to punish the evil.

My problem here is that you appear to be suggesting I do a cost-benefit analysis. This is what I did with regards to Consumer Reports (read here). I've even tried to employ the cost-benefit analysis when it comes to sanctioning libertarianism, yet as Diana Hsieh pointed out to me (in the comments of this post), this is the same mistake David Kelley made (although he reached a different conclusion): pragmatism.

I'm still struggling with this philosophically, because as my second post here indicates, I think boycotting a country is impractical. This is purely the result of a cost-benefit analysis - it would hurt me far more than it would hurt China.

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As a proponent of the morality of self-interest, your guide in making a purchase should be the effect of the purchase on your life (including the possible reprecussions of financially supporting a hostile regime or hostile legistlation). Not some desire to punish the evil.

My problem here is that you appear to be suggesting I do a cost-benefit analysis. This is what I did with regards to Consumer Reports (read here). I've even tried to employ the cost-benefit analysis when it comes to sanctioning libertarianism, yet as Diana Hsieh pointed out to me (in the comments of this post), this is the same mistake David Kelley made (although he reached a different conclusion): pragmatism.

I'm still struggling with this philosophically, because as my second post here indicates, I think boycotting a country is impractical. This is purely the result of a cost-benefit analysis - it would hurt me far more than it would hurt China.

Oaks,

Using the cost-benefit analysis rationally and honestly is the proper method. David Kelley claimed to use this method in making the decision to speak at the Laissez Faire Supper Club, but his decision was not rational and honest: he did not address the fact that Laissez Faire Supper Club endorsed and promoted Barbara Branden's The Passion of Ayn Rand. After the book was published in 1986, LFSC had Ms. Branden as a speaker, recorded her talk and sold it via the Laissez Faire Books catalog. Kelley spoke to LFSC in 1989, and had to take into account their promotion of the book. A rational, honest cost-benefit analysis would lead to the conclusion that speaknig at LFSC is more harmful than beneficial for an Objectivist who values Ayn Rand.

As to Consumer Report, a single subscription will not affect this organization one way or the other. If one wishes to fight CR, the way to do it is to organize a mass boycott. But CR is not a philosophical organization - they only reflect ideas that are dominant in the current culture. If CR closes down, the ideas will still be out there, and picked up by other organizations.

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As a proponent of the morality of self-interest, your guide in making a purchase should be the effect of the purchase on your life (including the possible reprecussions of financially supporting a hostile regime or hostile legistlation). Not some desire to punish the evil.

While that desire is proper, following it when it is considerably detrimental to your life (like avoiding products from China in this day and age), is irrational.

Irrational?

Believing that a personal boycott will have beneficial long-term benefits that justify short-term costs could be the result of an error of knowledge.

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Irrational?

Believing that a personal boycott will have beneficial long-term benefits that justify short-term costs could be the result of an error of knowledge.

Well, that's why I stated that one must take into consideration ALL the factors involved, including long term hazards and benefits. But once you've reached the conclusion that your PERSONAL interests are better served (short term and long term) by not boycotting - following your desire to punish the evil instead is irrational.

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Well, that's why I stated that one must take into consideration ALL the factors involved, including long term hazards and benefits. But once you've reached the conclusion that your PERSONAL interests are better served (short term and long term) by not boycotting - following your desire to punish the evil instead is irrational.

I would like to add that acting against evil is not restricted to boycotting. In fact, in some cases protesting the evil is more rational. For example, according to a recent New York Times report, Yahoo.com collaborated with the Communist government of China, providing information that helped the Chinese authorities convict a Chinese journalist for leaking state secrets to a foreign Web site. The organization "Reporters without Borders" is protesting against Yahoo's conduct. It will be more rational to support this organization's protest then to simply stop using Yahoo and harm oneself.

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