Target Boycott – It Cuts Both Ways

“They were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said. Our democracy has taken a hit. … Our best protection is free and open debate.” – to be attributed shortly

A while back, Target corporation decided to give a $150,000 contribution to a political action committee that supports Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer is a conservative Republican, and is described by opponents as “virulently anti-gay.” In response to this contribution, liberals and gay-rights activits have formed a boycott of Target.

We’ve discussed these types of issues before. To recap, I think that our economy is better off if we don’t stratify along political lines. But, economy is not the only thing that matters. Also very important is freedom of action and freedom of association – and economic freedom. If these activists want to boycott Target, I fully support their right to do so.

How could you even hope to stop such a boycott? Make it illegal? How can you demand that people shop at this store or that? Don’t we have freedom to come and go from stores as we wish? (Along the same lines, don’t we have a right to buy or not buy insurance as we so wish?)

With regards to the lead quote, clearly the Target leadership has been made, by some, to feel “un-American.” Clearly they have risked and received “economic retaliation.” Whether our “democracy has taken a hit” is debatable – I say freedom is a good thing, making democracy stronger. And yes, we all want “free and open debate” – but that implies freedom of association as well; a freedom that has been exercised by the boycotters.

Having said that, the lead quote has nothing to do with Target, as I imagine you have already guessed by now. The purveyor of the quote? Al Gore. The subject? The economic backlash by country music fans against the Dixie Chicks after they criticized president Bush in 2003. It cuts both ways.

Back then I held that country music fans have a right to buy whatever music they want, and have a right to listen to whatever radio stations they want. If I own a radio station, and all of my listeners are demanding that I not play a certain artist (say, the Dixie Chicks, perhaps) I have a right to NOT play them. I can choose what music I want to play; I am free. This is not an affront to democracy. Quite the contrary, it is an expression of freedom.

So carry on boycotters, if you wish. I will not be joining you – I like Target. (I like Walmart too, but the Target here is much nicer.) But I support your right to freely associate for economic reasons. I support every American’s freedom to do the same.

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