Ⅱ.Consumer Boycott Basics
A. What is a consumer boycott? And for what purposes do we boycott?
B. The criterion of success of a consumer boycott
A. Historical Problems
1. The good old times for boycotters and the first obstacle: Legality.
2.Post-World WarⅡ: CPAs and anti-CPAs Wars.
B. Inherent Problems.
1. Small-agent problem.
2. Marginal analysis problem
3. Potential Buyers problem
4. Free-rider problem.
5. Restoration and Immunity.
6. Counterproductive Effect.
7. Time-Inconsistency Problem.
The Weakening Power: Consumer Boycotts in Modern Times
Though the term “boycott” was not coined until 1880, consumer activism dates back to the very beginning of the history of America. We remember the generation that defiantly wore homespun dumped the king’s immoral tea into Boston Harbor; we remember the abolitionists engaged in a boycott of slave-made goods. Even in recent history, we saw supporters of the united farm workers enact what they called a “modern version” of the Tea Party in Boston, dropping grapes into the famous harbor. It looks like the boycotts have transferred the orbit of the nation. So even today, people regard consumer activism as an instrument to drive firms back onto moral tracks. But through researches, we surprisingly get to realize the weakening of the power of this type of consumer activism. The question is what happened to boycotts and what the problems hampering boycotters are. Ⅱ.Consumer Boycott Basics
A. What is a consumer boycott? And for what purposes do we boycott? To make it simpler, a consumer boycott, in plain words, is to show dissatisfaction by refusing to purchase something. Of course it is not that simple. There are motivations and causes behind every boycott, like political objectives, ethnic discriminations etc. But to define the term actually does not involve too much concern about the purposes. Almost all the related books applied some version of the following definition, namely “an attempt by one or more parties to achieve certain objectives by urging individual consumers to refrain from making selected purchases in the marketplace.”(Friedman Qtd. In Friedman 97) And one characteristic worth mentioning about this definition is that it did not clarify the objectives. To put it another way, the word “consumer” in this term does not suggest its goals, it suggests the method. Some people think that only being triggered by an economic purpose like high wages or low price, can a boycott be called as a consumer boycott. As a matter of fact, lots of people boycott for some non-economic reasons. “Included here are groups representing animal welfare and environmental protection, as well as the rights of women, gays, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, and various labor organizations” (Friedman Qtd. in Friedman 2) By calling it a consumer boycott, we emphasize the crucial power in marketplace of consumers, who can simply just quit buying anything and thus, hopefully, teach the firms a lesson. B. The criterion of success of a consumer boycott
According to Smith, “Effectiveness refers to the boycott actually working, and in many boycotts this means economic impact. Success, however, refers to the boycott achieving its objectives.”(Smith, 276) His two-type analyses looks straightforward and indeed gives us a general scale to measure to what extent the boycotts work. In comparison to him, Friedman tried to put the criterion in details and pointed out many problems of the criterion: long-term or short-term, micro-success or macro-success, execution or consequence. (Friedman, 17, 18, 19) (Friedman’s execution-and-consequence discussion corresponds to Smith’s distinction between effectiveness and success) He also mentioned that boycott leaders are reluctant to state the objectives clearly. (Friedman, 17) To...
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