My Boycotts – Part 1
“If you want to stop multinational corporations, stop giving them your money.” Jello Biafra
It seems a simple enough proposition, but we live in an industrial capitalist society and often there is no available substitute for gasoline or a huge price difference between nasty and good vendors.
I realized the other day that i have an increasingly long list of companies which i boycott, typically one in a field – the one i think is worst. Here is the list from the top of my head a bit about why.
McDonalds: I have not been in a McDonalds (except to use their bathroom) in many years. There are lots of reasons. McDonalds gets low scores in their effort to address climate change. But where McDonalds is importantly problematic is the deforestation of the Amazon. Most people incorrectly assume what is happening is that Amazonian rain forest if being cut for pasture land for cows. This is true, but this is not McDonald’s fault since they dont by beef from Brazil. What is really happening is that there is significant deforestation from clearing fields for growing soy beans which are in term feed to McDonalds chickens (not beef). Oh and the food there is designed to addict you and then it kills you.
Walmart: i studied economics and i have a special place in my heart for super-predators. Companies which not only furiously compete with their rivals, but actively seek to destroy them by manipulating their prices until they break them. Walmart has a long history of predatory pricing. A Loyola University study found that 18 months after an urban Walmart opened in Chicago, 82 of the 306 retail businesses in the surrounding neighborhood had closed. This is typical of Walmarts negative effect on local businesses. The only time i ever bought anything in a Walmart was when i was running Blad Blantons failed congressional campaign and they had sent him a credit card which he was burning. He wanted me to have better clothes to represent him. This was a kind of white collar shoplifting.
Just as i was finishing this post, there appears to be an unconfirmed rumor that Walmart is going to stop selling Ammo.
Shell: Choosing the worst oil company to boycott is a difficult race to the bottom. I have to say i choose Shell when i was working in the Czech Republic in 1995 and the oil company had just successful intimidated the Nigeria government into hanging 9 of its own citizens, their only crime was being critical of the oil giant.
If you wanted to boycott BP (which i also avoid) there is certainly a brilliant case for it.
Amazon: One of the most clever and most dangerous companies out there is Amazon. The trivial complaint is the Amazon is monopolizing the book market with over 2 million titles and the capacity to extract very deep discounts from publishers. Classical monopolies are bad in that they jack up prices and they constrict supply – internet monopolies are bad less for these reasons and more because they centralize power and destroys independent vendors (including giants like Borders). The Nation did a poor piece on the 10 reasons to Avoid Amazon, poor because it missed the 2 most important pieces:
1) Amazon is taking over the cloud computing market.
2) Amazon has a nearly unique positive cash flow model.
Cloud computing is important because Amazon will chase the Google model and use all the data and transaction which come thru to suggest other things for both internet companies and end customers to buy. It is also the case where Amazon monitors the behavior of tens of thousands of online stores, almost all of whom they are competing with somewhere else on the internet.
Positive Cash Flow results from Amazon’s brilliant inventory management system, in which you pay them for an item and they get your money today. But because they manage their inventory so tightly they are having access to your money why they are paying the real manufacturer net 60 or better (for Amazon). This trick was worth $2.5 billion last year in “free cash flow”, which Bezo’s says is what Amazon is trying to maximize rather than margins, which almost every other company in the world is trying to optimize. Big getting bigger and poisoning the economic ecosystem is enuf for me to seek other vendors, while there still are choices.
But my ethical problem with Amazon is that they are just being smart with their power and scale, they are not doing anything illegal or especially unethical (labor abuses aside).
My Boycotts part two will include: Starbucks, others.