Saturday, February 7, 2009

Will libertarians boycott Kellogg's?

I am slow.

I knew that I wanted to write about the whole Michael Phelps/marijuana/Kellogg's endorsement loss thingie, but before I could compose my thoughts, Dave Winer went ahead and wrote about it. His post is entitled "Don't Boycott Kellogg." Here's the humorous excerpt:

I think sometimes American industry worked at creating products just for people with munchies, like Krispy Kreme donuts. Kellogg's makes many such products.

Here's the more serious excerpt:

What a bunch of stinkers they are at Kellogg's. They could score so many points by saying something like this: "We don't encourage pot smoking, but we understand that some people do it. We have so many bigger problems to tackle in this country, and Michael Phelps is such an incredible young man and hero, we decided to be heroic ourselves, and cut him some slack, and keep him on the corn flakes box."

Winer then goes on to explain why we SHOULDN'T boycott Kellogg's, by saying...well, you have to go here to read his reasoning.

Meanwhile, others ARE urging a boycott, including Reddit user legalizetoday and Huffington Post writer Lee Stranahan. Stranahan again makes the point that Winer made:

[W]e believe that most people over the age of twelve would not eat Kellogg's products were they not wicked high.

He then goes on to call Kellogg's action "totally bogus."

While one would think that the standard libertarian argument would be to support Phelps and not support Kellogg's, Neofusionist has a different perspective:

[A] major problem with libertarianism is that its proponents often do things like support the guy who smokes weed over the company that cancels the guy who smokes weed as their spokesperson....There is no reason to condemn Kellogg here. They have the right to cancel on Phelps. Phelps knew this when he smoked on camera....

Barring the intervention of the authorities into this situation, this story has unfolded in a manner that is entirely consistent with libertarian ideals. Phelps was pictured smoking and now he must pay the consequences. Note that nothing stops him from smoking (he's not going to jail) - he's free to smoke, but not to avoid the consequences of his actions. A libertarian society would not be a society devoid of morals, it would just be one in which consequences for violating standards of morality were enforced privately instead of through state violence.

But the most interesting article comes from the National Review Online, with the title Arrest Michael Phelps Now!.

But if marijuana use is so horrid as to warrant criminalization, why are we wasting time discussing whether Phelps will be able to keep his endorsement deals? Shouldn’t he be prosecuted—just like millions of other Americans, whose lives have been ruined by criminal convictions for smoking pot?...

To ask the question is to answer it. While smoking pot may be a stupid thing to do for many reasons—risking adverse health effects, endangering endorsements, undermining Phelps’s status as a celebrity role model—he hurt no one but himself. He could have been photographed while drunk and stumbling out of a party, and it would have been no different. Bad press and angry sponsors would have forced an abject apology, and everyone would have moved on. Just like with his marijuana hit.

But back to the original question. Will libertarians boycott Kellogg's? Not necessarily, unless there is a valid alternative. Perhaps General Mills will step up to the plate and say that our government has too many silly laws. Then again, the Peanut Corporation of America may say that our government has too many silly laws, such as these dumb FDA laws...
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