Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Customer boycotts vs. punitive government power

Grass-roots boycotts can be a healthy sign of a vibrant marketplace of moral claims and identities.  Government attempts to show the same moral outrage that animates such boycotts tends to shut down the very marketplace that boycotts can nurture.  Thanks, Glenn Greenwald, for reminding Salon readers that threats against Chick-fil-A by the mayors of Boston and Chicago should be noxious to political progressives and conservatives alike.


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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This I agree with completely. My advice to all the politicians (including Huckabee) is to drop it.

Posted by: David Nickol | Jul 26, 2012 4:09:06 PM

Same here, David. It's one thing to disagree and quite another to deny folks licenses based on their views of issues such as these.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Jul 26, 2012 4:15:59 PM

Boston is just continuing in the grand tradition of the Puritans, which is as Chesterton remarked:

"A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things."

Posted by: CK | Jul 27, 2012 9:11:30 AM


As to Huckabee I doubt he is going to return to Arkansas or in fact doing anything on the national stage again that involves elected office

He is now in the Entertainment" business and wants ratings. Now that is not a bad thing in itself but I doubt he is going to drop it.

Posted by: jh | Jul 27, 2012 10:42:12 AM

From today's New York Times: "Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon.com, and his wife, MacKenzie, have agreed to donate $2.5 million to help pass a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington State, instantly becoming among the largest financial backers of gay marriage rights in the country."

Posted by: David Nickol | Jul 27, 2012 12:04:27 PM

DN thinks if you have ever worked for the government, you are still the government even if you are only a private citizen engaging in speech. Or else he doesn't really agree with Greenwald and Rob.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Jul 27, 2012 1:51:26 PM

Matt Bowman,

You draw a lot of inferences from only two sentences of mine. There are really two issues here. One is the issue of government officials using their offices to deny business opportunities to law-abiding companies because the government officials disagree with the political and/or religious views of the companies' owners. There seems to be universal agreement that that is wrong in the forums I have checked (MOJ, dotCommonweal, First Things). Huckabee, not holding public office, is obviously not in a position to misuse his office.

I don't accept as the definition of a politician someone who works, or once worked, for the government. One might or might not consider Huckabee a politician. He held office previously, and he certainly could run for office again. In any case, my criticism of Huckabee is that he seems to me to be working at cross purposes with Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A. Cathy clearly made an effort to defuse the conflict with gay-rights activists, and it seems to me Huckabee stepped in and tried to fan the flames. Whether he is considered a politician or not, I think it was a bad move.

While people certainly have a right to object to, and boycott, a business that contributes to a cause they oppose, it seems to me it is something to be done in exceptional cases, and this doesn't strike me as one of them.

I am flattered that someone who serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom finds it a productive use of his time to try to discredit me.

Posted by: David Nickol | Jul 27, 2012 2:33:44 PM

Rob's point was a simple one: citizen speech is healthy, government crackdowns on one side of the debate is not. "Politicians" not holding office or even running for imminent office are not the government. So Rob and Glenn are quite simply not saying that "politicians (including Huckabee)" should drop it. They are saying the opposite.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Jul 27, 2012 2:58:03 PM

Batt Bowman,

You say: "Rob's point was a simple one: citizen speech is healthy, government crackdowns on one side of the debate is not."

No, Rob's point was that citizen speech CAN be healthy, but that government crackdowns on one side of the debate are not. It was "citizen speech" that started the whole controversy, by reporting rather innocuous comments made by Dan Cathy in an obscure newspaper as being anti-gay-gay marriage. (In my opinion, they actually were, but they did not deserve to be the focus of a media frenzy.)

You say: "So Rob and Glenn are quite simply not saying that 'politicians (including Huckabee)' should drop it. They are saying the opposite."

I don't see that either of them are calling for ever increasing "citizen speech," no matter what the cost. My point, which you seem to be missing, is that Huckabee, for whatever reason, appears to be working at cross purposes with Chick-fil-A, which is trying to downplay conflict. I think everyone is agreed that government action against Chick-fil-A would simply be wrong. But that doesn't mean that the more citizens speak up, the better. And it doesn't mean that any particular person, even with a First Amendment right to speak, is necessarily helping things by weighing in.

Posted by: David Nickol | Jul 27, 2012 3:53:51 PM

Looks like the speech of people intolerant of Chik fil A has backfired, and Huckabee's speech had the exactly, healthy, intended result you hoped it would not have: making America a more safe place to be publicly in favor of the true definition of marriage. No wonder you wanted Huckabee to keep quiet.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Aug 1, 2012 10:44:55 PM