The current disillusionment with politicians which may be Clintons true legacy will be positive only if it becomes disillusionment with the political means itself. Otherwise, people will continue to look primarily to the state for solutions instead of to society.
The goal of libertarianism is to persuade people to look to the economic means, first and foremost, to achieve their goals. When this is achieved, society will be both peaceful and voluntary. Thus, it is necessary to demonstrate effective nonviolent strategies that can provide for social change and redress wrongs. Fortunately, libertarianism has used nonviolence for centuries and its history is a textbook rich in such strategies. One of them is the boycott.
The campaign against Captain Boycott was the Leagues most notable early victory. The captain was a much-hated overseer for Lord Erne, an absentee landlord in County Mayo. In 1880, when he refused to lower rents for the tenants, an audacious scheme was hatched. Servants no longer worked in his house, stores sold him nothing, no mail was delivered, and laborers refused to bring in the harvest. Boycott imported politically friendly labor from the county of Ulster but the expense of doing so proved disastrous. A humiliated Boycott was forced to leave Ireland. The rebel success galvanized Ireland and boycotts erupted across the island. Landlords who evicted tenants suddenly found that no other family would move into the vacated house.
A basic difference between ostracism and boycott becomes clear through this example. Ostracism is often no more than the punishment of an individual while boycott aims at achieving social change. Since boycott is pursued to achieve a separate goal, it has a better claim to the word strategy. And ostracism with a such a goal is best referred to as social boycott. In a more general sense, boycott can be defined as a refusal to associate with someone or to purchase or participate in something as an act of protest aimed at changing a policy or practice.
Tucker was fascinated with the Irish no-rent movement, the main organ of which was Patrick Fords Irish World. Liberty is not always satisfied with it [Irish World], Tucker wrote, but, all things considered, deems it the most potent agency for good now at work on this planet. Of the Irish Land League, he wrote, Irelands true order: the wonderful Land League, the nearest approach, on a large scale, to perfect Anarchistic organization....
Tucker was not alone in his admiration. Two of Libertys most frequent contributors Henry Appleton and Sidney H. Morse also wrote columns for Irish World under the pseudonyms of Honorius and Phillip, respectively. Tucker eventually became disillusioned with the Land League, however. He believed that movement had been sold out for political advantage by its leaders, especially by Parnell. In Instead of a Book, Tucker lamented that the Irish Land League failed because the peasants were acting, not intelligently in obedience to their wisdom, but blindly in obedience to leaders who betrayed them at the critical moment.
But the Land League had vindicated the strategy of boycott in the minds of 19th-century American libertarians. Tucker later commented on what he called Irelands shortest road to success: no payment of rent now or hereafter; no payment of compulsory taxes now or hereafter; utter disregard of the British parliament and its so-called laws; entire abstention from the polls henceforth; rigorous but non-invasive boycotting of deserters, cowards, traitors, and oppressors.... Boycott was an integral part of the passive but stubborn resistance that Tucker considered to be the only strategic alternative to open revolution and terror, both of which he rejected. He favored passive resistance, which he called the most potent weapon ever wielded by man against oppression and prominent features of every great national movement.
Not all of Tuckers circle was as enthusiastic about boycott, however. Indeed, some contributors considered the tactic to be invasive because it interfered with anothers ability to make a living. Again and again, Tucker staunchly insisted that everyone had the right to ignore others and that such treatment could not constitute invasion or interference.
A century later, free-market economist Murray Rothbard would echo Tucker. In The Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard wrote,
Furthermore, secondary boycotts are also legitimate.... In a secondary boycott, labor unions try to persuade consumers not to buy from firms who deal with non-union (primary boycotted) firms.... [It] should be their right to try such persuasion, just as it is the right of their opponents to counter with an opposing boycott.Regarding what is arguably the most hated and vilified type of boycott, Rothbard observed, The blacklist a form of boycott would be legal in a free society.
The only problem Rothbard perceived with boycott lay in practices that were closely associated with but entirely separable from the strategy. For example, the common practice of picketing might be invasive if it blocked access to private property or constituted a threat to so-called scabs who crossed the line. But these associated practices did not reflect badly upon boycott itself. Rothbard concluded, The important thing about the boycott is that it is purely voluntary, an act of attempted persuasion, and therefore that it is a perfectly legal and licit instrument of action.
continue to Part 2
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