Do you remember that dentist who went to Africa and shot Cecil the lion? I had a vegan friend who said that she would boycott him – had he been her dentist.
I can’t tell you how many questions I had. Why boycott him? In a competitive market, it would have no long-run impact on his economic profits. Was it important that his murder of Cecil was part of his consumption/leisure behavior rather than part of his provision of dental services? Does trading with people who have different preferences make one morally culpable for their consequently afforded activities?
A Trip Down Reasoning Lane
Let’s take some things as given.
- My friend is vegan and didn’t want Cecil to be on the receiving end of homicide (leon-icide?).
- Big-game hunting was a consumption activity for, who I’ll call, the dentist.
- Everyone has unique preferences – including moral tastes.
- Voluntary trade makes both parties better off.
- There are a variety of input combinations that a firm can adopt in order to create output.
- Humans are responsible for their own behavior to varying degrees.
My understanding of my friend’s would-be boycott is that lion-hunting was a direct result of the dentist’s inappropriate preferences and economic empowerment. Therefore, boycotting the dentist would reduce the dentist’s budget, and consequently reduce his spending on improper activities. Knowing that the dentist would spend his income in this manner makes each transaction with him a contribution to satisfying his illicit preferences.