Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 123–132 | Cite as

The Business of Boycotting: Having Your Chicken and Eating It Too

  • Alan TomhaveEmail author
  • Mark Vopat


We assume that there are certain causes that are morally wrong, worth speaking out against, and working to overcome, e.g., opposition to same sex marriage. This seems to suggest that we should also be boycotting certain businesses; particularly those whose owners advocate such views. Ideally, for the boycotter, this will end up silencing certain views (political or otherwise), but this seems to cause two basic problems. First, it appears initially to be coercive, because it threatens the existence of the business. Second, it runs counter to the intuition that we should not force unpopular opinions out of the marketplace of ideas. Boycotting is by its very nature a coercive act, and thus we have to carefully consider what types of actions may warrant this type of coercive action. In this paper, we will argue that an organized boycott is justified if and only if the actions taken by the company have negative consequences that outweigh the negative outcome of the boycott.


Boycott Business Coercion Expression Freedom Marketplace Protest 



We would like to thank the participants of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum annual meetings in 2013 and 2014, Deborah Mower, and annonymous reviewers for the Jounral for Business Ethics for helpful comments and suggestions.


  1. Asad, T. (2008). Reflections on blasphemy and secular criticism. In H. de Vries (Ed.), Religion: Beyond a concept (pp. 580–609). New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Cuomo, C. (2007). Dignity and the right to be lesbian or gay. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 132(1), 75–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Friedman, M. (1999). Consumer boycotts: Effecting change through the marketplace and media. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Mill, J. S. (1859). On liberty. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg:
  5. Mills, C. (1996). Should we boycott boycotts? Journal of Social Philosophy, 27(3), 136–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Rawls, J. (1990). The law of peoples. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Rothbard, M. N. (1998). The ethics of liberty. New York and London: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ryan, C. C. (1980). The normative concept of coercion. Mind, 89(356), 481–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Stoll, M. L. (2009). Boycott basics: moral guidelines for corporate decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 84, 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Youngstown State UniversityYoungstownUSA

Personalised recommendations