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.

Landmark critical film of McDonalds

Landmark critical film of McDonalds

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.

just one of the many Walmart costs

just one of the many Walmart costs

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.

Ken Saro Wiwa was murdered by by the Nigerian government as a proxy for Shell

Ken Saro Wiwa was murdered by the Nigerian government as a proxy for Shell

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).

anti Amazon propaganda - a bit too simplistic

anti Amazon propaganda – a bit too simplistic

My Boycotts part two will include:  Starbucks, others.

who do you boycott for what?

who do you boycott for what?

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

16 responses to “My Boycotts – Part 1”

  1. Andrew says :

    Great Post! McDonalds/Walmart/Mitsubishi
    I had no idea about Amazon. Thanks for the insight, I’ll do some more research.
    Mitsubishi owns 40% of the worlds share in Blue finned tuna, and is actively fishing them to extinction so they can name their price for the tuna they have frozen.

  2. Loran says :

    “predatory pricing” = lower prices for you and me.
    Invariably when I hear people criticize Wal-Mart, they’re white, upper-class liberals who can shop wherever they want, and who speak with a tinge of snobbism. When I look and see who is actually shopping at Wal-Mart, it’s often working class, black, white and Latino residents, who often go out of their way to ride busses far from the neighborhoods where they live to the nearest Wal-Mart. Why do they do this? Probably because they like having a big selection, a clean store, and low prices, all under one roof. It would be more convenient for these folks to shop in their own, inner city neighborhoods, where big unions keep Wal-Mart out. But no one is too interested in shopping at dingy, small stores with poor selection and high prices.

    In short I don’t buy the criticism that anything “big” is invariably “bad”. Wal Mart got big by providing a whole lot of people exact what they want. If that put a few lesser chains with higher prices out of business, good riddance.

    Wal Mart has helped a lot of rural and working people keep more money in their pockets. Boycott it if you like, but don’t expect many to follow you.

  3. paxus says :

    @Loran – predatory prices does not equal lower prices for you and me. What it means is prices designed to destroy competition which then go up after the competition is destroyed so that they can enjoy more monopolistic prices in their area – which means higher prices for you and me.

    The people who often shop at Walmart are poor and working class, because there other option for cheaper local products (if they existed) have been destroyed.

    • Loran says :

      Pax, Wal Mart has been around for about 50 years. So have they destroyed all competition and now begun to price-gouge using their ‘monopolistic’ power? Of course not. So why repeat such drivel?

      Poor and working class people (among others) shop at Wal Mart when it’s available because they have a common sense. Low prices, clean stores, big selections are important to folks who don’t have a lot of time or money. We are the ones CHOOSING to shop at Wal-Mart. No one forces anyone to go there; indeed, people often go out of their way to shop at a Wal Mart. That’s their choice.

      I don’t intend this to be a criticism of wherever you choose to shop; however, I wish you would stop leveling false criticism on where the rest of us shop.

      • paxus says :

        @Loran – there are all manner of studies and lawsuits about Walmarts destructive pricing policies. i hear that you like you (oft illusory) low prices there and think unfettered capitalism is the way to go. And we have lots of experience as to what happens when we let capitalism run as it would like,
        it is pretty ugly. i guess you have not noticed.

      • Loran says :

        Pax, care to link to any of these studies you mention below? Would be really interesting to read a justification of why we should all be paying higher prices. Almost sounds like something that would be funded by Wal-Mart’s competition…

      • paxus says :

        Dearest Loran: i am sure you can operate google also. But here is the first one i found with a trivial search.

  4. pnc says :

    People have been exercising consumerism at the lowest possible price going back to long before the Indo-Iranians found out there was a market for dried dung. WalMart provides more jobs than any corporation in the world (2.1 million). American’s consumption of goods produced in China has done more to raise the standard of living of the Chinese than any other factor (90% of Chinese feel that they are living better than their parents did). I dislike shopping at WalMart because of the time that the sheer size demands, but shopping at smaller stores almost always means paying more.

    • Loran says :

      Good point. People heap all kinds of criticism at Wal-Mart, but none of the critics have done anything close to what Wal Mart does.

  5. Angie Tupelo says :

    Pax- Here are some studies for you and your readers about (some of) the destructive impact of Wal-mart and other big box stores. I mostly focused on financial negative impacts as opposed to environmental impact, poor working conditions, or union stuff.

    1. Due to seriously low wages (below living wage), each Wal-mart employee costs taxpayers approximately $2,000/year in healthcare, food stamps, subsidized housing, and other assistance.

    2. “Looking at the period between 1992 and 2000, we find that the opening of a single Wal-Mart store in a county lowered average retail wages in that county by between 0.5 and 0.9 percent. In the general merchandise sector, wages fell by 1 percent for each new Wal-Mart. And for grocery store employees, the effect of a single new Wal-Mart was a 1.5 percent reduction in earnings.”

    3. “We find, after controlling for other factors determining changes in the poverty rate over time, that both counties with more initial (1987) Wal-Mart stores and with more additions of stores between 1987 and 1998 experienced greater increases (or smaller decreases) in family poverty rates during the 1990s economic boom period.”

    4. Megapost- Briefs and links to dozens of studies on effects of big-box retail stores.

    5. Megapost- Details on how shopping locally owned businesses helps communities, largely because more of each dollar spent remains in the local economy. Includes links to a number of case studies.

    • paxus says :

      @Angie – thanks for tagging in. And i would ask you to blog about how big box stores destroyed your families livelihood.

      Looking forward to Friday dinner and Loud Love mtg

      Paxus at Acorn
      22 Acorn Viz 2013 | Eros

    • Loran says :

      #1 – A lot of Wal Mart employees are part timers who don’t want a full time job (students, retirees, etc). Or, are you making the point that there are too many government handout programs?

      #2 post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because two things are correlated doesn’t mean one causes the other.

      #3 post hoc propter hoc fallacy again.

      Wal Mart provides more jobs than any other civilian employer, and provides low priced merchandise to consumers. Their position as a major buyer has enabled them to insist that manufacturers reduce packaging and eliminate other wasteful practices.

      Still, I’d love to hear your explanation of how Wal-Mart ruined your life 🙂

      • paxus says :

        @Loran – i find it laughable that you are dismissive of the negative economic affects of Walmart – this is not two studies, this is dozens and they are out of places which understand post hoc ergo fallacy – i am sure
        the authors can enlighten you if like to learn their methods.

        Hopefully, Angie will get around to telling her story of Walmarts destructive
        effect on her families life (it is not my story).

        But it seems a bit of a waste of time to be chatting about this, since you seem unwilling to see any of WalMarts negative influences and are just
        parroting the corporate line on how wonderful they are.

      • Loran says :

        Hey pax,
        We’re still talking, so perhaps this is not a waste of our time. If you’re going to read and post anti Wal-Mart studies might as well read some that came to rather different (and in some cases, unexpected) conclusions:

        I’ll also say that, perhaps, the studies Angie linked to above are correct. Perhaps Wal-Mart really does result in less employment at other stores and/or drive down wages.

        I’d argue that is a good thing. More efficient retailers drive out less efficient ones. Just like delivery trucks pushed out horse carriages from downtown areas, just like advanced communication technologies mean less need for Morse Code operators.

        People whose employment was displaced by Wal Mart aren’t just sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They usually get better jobs, eventually.

        You won’t find Wal-Mart making this argument. This is a hard-core capitalist argument. I get that you don’t like Wal-Mart. But you clearly don’t get why millions of us do. Wal Mart is very, very good at what they do, which is selling us stuff we want cheaper and in a more convenient environment than anyone else.

  6. pnc says :

    Recent economic data from China. This is a good thing:

    “In 2012, rural incomes rose faster than urban incomes — for the third consecutive year. Rural income from benefits payments rose 21.9%, twice the rate in urban areas, as the government increased its spending on health care subsidies by 36%. And because poor families tend to consume a higher portion of their income than the wealthy, the growth in rural incomes should help with the goal of rebalancing the Chinese economy toward consumption”

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