04 Dec 2010

Some Concerns With the Amazon Boycott

Shameless Self-Promotion, War on Terror 18 Comments

Woo hoo, I already got 1 hate mail on this one. An excerpt (from the article, not the hate mail):

It’s ironic to think through exactly why Amazon ended up being the target of the boycott, when even the boycotters would all quickly admit that it was Lieberman who was more culpable than the Amazon executives. Consider: If a would-be boycotter wanted to cause economic pain because of the silencing of WikiLeaks, then the obvious move would be to stop sending more money to the very government that is waging wars and harassing Assange.

Yet the boycotters aren’t saying, “Hey everyone, let’s stop sending our money to D.C.” Why? Because they are afraid of what the government would do to them. In other words, they are behaving exactly like the Amazon executives.

Let us not forget that all of us, to the extent we pay taxes, are funding the very organization that is carrying out operations that WikiLeaks is trying to stop. In that light, it’s odd to become indignant over Amazon for merely withdrawing its support from WikiLeaks, when the boycotters themselves continue to send their money to the organization actively trying to shut down WikiLeaks.

18 Responses to “Some Concerns With the Amazon Boycott”

  1. Gene Callahan says:

    Excellent point, Bob. Living in a fallen world, we cannot help but sin: we can only place our faith in the fact that the Divine has entered into human life, and experienced our dilemma, and, by doing so, has opened the way out for all of us.

    • Silas Barta says:

      …not quite sure that’s what Bob was arguing, but yes, the points he did argue are indeed solid. Excellent essay, Bob.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Yeah, Silas, I didn’t SAY that was what Bob was arguing. What I wrote is called a COMMENT, not a SYNOPSIS.

    • RG says:

      I like that, Gene. It left the door open for non committal theists, like myself, to agree.

      But, if you meant that paying taxes is sinful, I have to disagree. It’s like saying the slaves that built the pyramids were sinning by hauling and placing the blocks.

  2. Jack says:

    I was never going to boycott Amazon. It’s too resourceful, but for some strange reason I initially believed the boycott was justified. After reading your article last night I realized I was completely wrong. As always, Bob, you were very respectful… and sadly, a lot of libertarians aren’t.

  3. Capt. A. says:

    As an aside to Dr. Murphy’s article…

    “We are the architects of our dilemmas.”

    Unlike the astute Mr. Callahan’s comment above and so many others using the word “faith” in adhering to the exigent circumstances of “our” condition, I take a different view and exercise the antithesis of the collectives’ strategy.

    I have no “faith” in faith … except faith that I will create the necessary “circumstance” to live life, as I see fit, not life as others see fit. First and foremost: The VALUE that an individual places on his or her freedom, liberty, privacy (both financial and personal), the sanctity of private property and freedom to/of contract rely not on the shoulders of the collective, the State or its governments that measure out the these conditions, but rest squarely on the shoulders of the individual with little to no regard for the collective. This is a unique person … a rara avis. H.L. Mencken was correct … “the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority….”

    You have only one life to live. The minute you trust and desire to exercise the attributes mentioned above, you will. You will create the ACTION necessary to remove yourself from the grasp of the State (renounce its citizenship) and remove its tentacles, an arduous task, yet achievable. The initial cost is high yet diminishing with time and experience—the point being … it can be done.

    The insidious inculcation by all government-controlled systems of schooling, tribal culture and religious bindings all exist, subjecting the individual to fall headlong into the collective’s abyss. The collective despises any individual that surmounts the fetters, breaking free, again, to live the only life one will ever have. Otherwise you shall (shall used in the imperative sense) submit to the master’s yoke (tax slave) and lash. (You shall do, as you are told—or else!) Day-old horse lunch!

    And finally, Mr. Murphy’s article is cogent and exercises ratiocination, both by design and substance. Par excellence! If only the masses (the collective) would listen! I think not! That’s why it’s called “the collective”—it is the architect of its’ dilemmas! C’est la guerre.


    Capt. A.
    Principauté de Monaco
    UTC +1:00 CET

  4. RG says:

    This is analogous to boycotting a restaurant that doubled as an underground railroad depot after finding they capitulated when threatened by state agents.

    I believe it makes more sense to increase purchases at Amazon rather than boycotting it, although both tacks are a bit juvenile.

    I think the good news is the media mass promoting Assange’s mission. The viewpoint seems to be less fringe than it has ever been.

    Had Wikileaks distributed similar information in the middle of the last decade, I think support for hunting Assange and destroying his website would be nearly universal.

  5. Mike says:

    While I wasn’t calling for the boycott of Amazon, I was certainly disgusted with them. I hear the argument, that they don’t stand up to the government for the same reasons we don’t, but I don’t know how much I buy that, given the reason I don’t stand up is because I cannot afford legal representation to properly stand and fight should it come back on me, Amazon can. I don’t stand up to the government because if I lose, I could personally lose my liberties by going to jail, no one at Amazon would go to jail. Finally, Amazon took up the “free speech” argument about a month prior protecting their right (and the rights of authors) to publish books about pedophilia. They stood down after their customer base (the market) demanded they get rid of it, but they fought the fight. Why didn’t they fight the fight against Lieberman?

  6. Aristos says:

    I must be in the minority, for I am not outraged with Wikileaks. I’m rather glad that they are exposing government secrets. Governments keep too many secrets.

  7. Jeremy says:

    I disagree with almost all of what you said in that LRC piece. You said it better than I can when you declared “…I am being incredibly obtuse…”

    All of your points about the boycott completely miss the point with one single exception:

    “The boycotters seem quite sure that this episode will send a signal to major corporations that they shouldn’t leave critics of the government high and dry. But this might actually backfire, and be akin to raising the minimum wage, thinking it helps unskilled workers. Specifically, the lesson to major corporations might be: “Whoa, let’s not get ourselves involved with any dubious groups or individuals, in case the government cracks down and makes us look like the bad guys.””

    Here you finally touch on the WHY of the boycott, and your counter point is interesting and does hold some validity, but not enough in my opinion.

  8. Bardhyl Salihu says:

    Wonderfully put Professor Murphy. My sentiments exactly.

  9. JimS says:

    I tend to agree with Bob on the boycott issue. In my opinion, the only thing that should drive the market is whether or not the business provides and adequate good or service. If one is to boycott over politics, where does it end? Do I quiz the local mechanic on his politics? The paperboy? Even within a large business, there may be employees doing things with their paychecks of which I do not approve. Do I not do business with with that business because of them? There is no logical limit. However, if the best good and service is honored with business, then we experience a great equalizer, no matter one’s religion, race, faith, gender, etc..

    That being said, I think Assange is a bum, to put it politely. He is a former hacker which is the same as being a vandal and a thief. Even if you steal from a liar and a thief, you are still a thief. I think there has not been much back lash against him because of the fear of Trojans, that is the releasing of even more harmful material if he is prosecuted, detained, or killed. It is also interesting to note that he is not that forthright about his own life or the potential charges against him, whether political or sexual. Sure, there is a difference between private life, business, and politics, but I feel his with holdings make him a hypocrite.

    I agree with Theodore Dalrymple’s article that Assange’s attitude toward secrets is puritanical and childish and is most likely to have the opposite affect. Dalrymple article link:



    • Jeremy says:

      So is there or is there not a “difference between private life, business, and politics”?

      You make a good point about where should one draw the line, etc.

      I think the answer is pretty obvious. When a congressman calls Amazon in order to help silence a political enemy, that is clearly on the “do not patronize” side of the line. Clearly.

      No, you should not quiz your mechanic on his political affiliations. Leave the obtuseness to Bob Murphy.

      It amazes me that so many self proclaimed Libertarians are reprimanding Assange.They may not be saying that truth is treason like the neocons are, but when Bob Murphy advocates turning a blind eye AS A CONSUMER I really don’t know what to think.

      • bobmurphy says:

        Jeremy, I have to cry foul here. I am in no way “reprimanding Assange.” There’s nothing I said in the same ZIP code as such a view.

        • JimS says:

          I think he was referring to me, JimS. He would be accurate in his assessment, except for one thing; I am NOT a libertarian. I guess you could say I am libertarian sympathetic? I certainly lean further that way than any other. Some of the libertarian rhetoric interests me, but I feel many libertarians go too far.

          I’m here, I guess, because I am a Doc Bob Murphy fan, though he goes a bit too far for me sometimes as well, but at least he always does it with a certain amount of respect and a good sense of humor.

          Thanks again for having the site and for your work.


        • Jeremy says:

          Yeah sorry I did not mean to direct that at you, Bob.

          And after reading your piece a second time, I am coming around to your arguments, especially under “The Real Enemy.” That really hits home.

          I still think that overall it’s a good display of democracy in the marketplace for us to put our collective foot down and not patronize state stooges.

    • Roger Ritthaler says:

      When they want our blessing, politicians say that we are the government and that they work for us. When their documents are made public and their secrets exposed, then we’re stealing. How can we steal from ourselves?

      The world would be a much better place if there were a lot fewer secrets and people dealt with each other much more candidly.