WikiLeaks vs. Amazon.com

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The question of whether to boycott Amazon as a result of their response to Sen. Lieberman’s iron-fisted coercive threat should the company not participate in the state’s censorship efforts has left me with some unresolved questions. On the one hand, I am not comfortable with highly-organized boycotts: they too often carry the threat of force as an added inducement to their cause. I spent enough years representing businesses in labor law matters to witness the use of violence — including my getting shot at by one union goon — in picketing practices. On the other hand, my personal decision-making as to how — and with whom — I will spend my money will often incorporate my philosophic principles. My wife and I have, for years, made numerous purchases of books, DVDs, and other products from Amazon.com. When doing so, we conduct our transactions through the Amazon symbol on LRC, because it serves our philosophic principles to know that LRC will get a commission on the transaction.

I am troubled by comments made by Stephan and Skip in relation to this issue. In my view, they reflect the primary reason for the division between philosophically-principled and pragmatic thinking in our world, particularly within the business community. Skip made the point succinctly: “I think it’s best to separate one’s personal business from one’s politics.” Stephan added that “Amazon’s managers . . .have no right . . . to waste shareholder money for political grandstanding.” By contrast, I have long been of the view that one’s actions should be centered around — or integrated with — principles that run deeper than just the short-term consideration of money profits. Joseph Schumpeter addressed this concern in his discussion of the differences in outlook of “owners” as opposed to “managers” of businesses. In a word, I believe that adhering to and defending the principles we libertarians embrace has the most pragmatic of consequences.

That said, there are two very courageous men — Bradley Manning and Julian Assange — who are facing lengthy imprisonment or death (if a number of psychopathic Republicans have their way) for providing the rest of us with the concrete evidence of the thoroughly deceitful and morally corrupt nature of the state. I doubt that either of these men could be accused of “political grandstanding” or of separating their “personal business from [their] politics.” I agree with those who warn of the dangers of punishing business firms for getting caught in the middle of the state’s violent reaction to having its underside turned over to face the sun. But what can I do — consistent with my dispositions for peace, liberty, and respect for property — to have any beneficial effect on behalf of these two principled men? I have no key to free Bradley from his government cage, not have I sanctuary to offer Julian. Shall I be content to write my articles and blogs — and imagining that they, along with the rest of us, shall be freed from the viciousness that attends all of politics?

I am not content to simply build statues in my mind to such genuine heroes, but I do insist upon having my day-to-day actions reflect the principles in which I believe; values which are essential to the kind of world in which my children and grandchildren will live.

4:24 pm on December 2, 2010
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