Bradley Smith and Jonathan Adler both recently raised the hue and cry that secondary consumer boycotts are leading to the demise of civil society. As with boycotts, the political and the economic regularly overlap in our current political climate. And in many cases, that interaction is lauded as a vindication of the First Amendment.
In that vein, there is already a highly regulated area of law dealing with the interaction of the political and the economic: campaign finance. In Citizens United, the Court rejected the idea that resources from the economic marketplace should not be deployed in the political marketplace—a position Smith evidently supports. This latest argument against the use of the political consumer boycott wants to have it both ways—it would allow the economic to affect the political when corporations or wealthy individuals do so but bemoans the loss of civil society when consumers take action. While there are differences in the way each set of resources is deployed, these are inevitable ones that stem from the different economic power possessed by corporations versus the average consumer.
If corporations can use their market clout to influence the political process, it's only fair that consumers can too. Boycotts allow those whose main economic resource is their participation in the market as consumers to join with other like-minded consumers to influence the political marketplace. Although Smith notes that people “have a right not to do business with companies or individuals,” he becomes concerned at exactly the point that such decisions may have an impact—when individuals aim to aggregate that right so their otherwise limited economic clout can impact the political marketplace.Read the rest at Balkinization
"Secondary" Consumer Boycotts: Breakdown of Civil Society or Pillar of First Amendment Values
by Guest Blogger Theresa J. Lee | Associate Research Scholar in Law, San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project Fellow, and Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School