New Orleans Any “protest” that has too many names is bound to be questionable, and that seems the case with some of the efforts to direct consumer consumption along political paths. Among the assortment I saw recently in a piece by Anand Giridharadas in the Times: “boycotting,” ethical consumerism, moral economics, latte activism, critical consumption, and “charitainment.” [My daughter, Dine’, uses a great term along a parallel path when she talks about people signing Facebook petitions for various causes: slacktivism, i.e. slacker activism. Happy birthday to her today!]
My eye caught a story from Palermo, Italy about Comitato Addiopizzo, an anti-mafia civic effort, which had been described to me when I visited with local organizers in that city several months ago. The committee used a fair-trade certification type process to identify business to their customers who had refused to pay the “pizzo” or bribe. All good, right? I was surprised though to read Giridharadas report that “…even though products from law-abiding companies often cost more.” Your free marketers would normally argue that a business paying a bribe is almost an automatic trigger to raise prices and pass the rub off to the consumer. Here we would be lead to believe that no longer paying the bribe (and therefore lowering the cost?) somehow leads to an increase in price. Huh? I understand the Palermo politics, but I don’t understand the Palermo economics?