Introduction

The name “Boycott” is taken from Captain Charles C. Boycott (1832-97), who was a despised land agent and a key figure in the Irish Land War in the 1880s.

Boycotting the products and/or services of a company can be a good way to fight it legally by refusing to contribute to its earnings.

There are many multinationals that support globalisation as a means of easing access to markets, influencing regulations and removing competition. We may presume that corrupt politicians have their part to play too. The tactic of operating using subsidiary companies with names not readily associated with the multinational is common and their activities may cover many different markets.

Some such companies might have cronies in or able to influence government; others without such beneficial contacts might choose to lobby governments or employ specialist lobbying companies.

The Lobbyists

Of course it would not be reasonable to expect UKIP Daily to publish a list of the guilty but most may be found through a few internet searches. For a start a list of multinationals may be found here.

Many such companies employ lobbyists; that fact alone might be sufficient reason to boycott them. There are said to be 30,000 lobbyists based around the EU Parliament building in Brussels. Lobbying has become a key tactic in gaining market advantage for those corporations who can afford to participate. Many do not participate directly but employ lobbying companies to do the dirty work. The largest ones in terms of spend are listed at ‘LobbyFacts’.

Since much of the lobbying activity is subcontracted to such companies it is difficult to find out exactly who the main culprits are. However, it is very probable that every multinational is involved; why would they not seek such an advantage?

On Sunday (Feb 12th), three of them (Shell, Unilever and Phillips) are reported on Breitbart as having joined forces to mount a campaign against “populism” (whatever that means), the report suggesting that their effort is aimed at influencing the elections in the Netherlands, especially Geert Wilders. We can be sure that this initiative is not for our benefit; indeed the wording suggests sinister intent when they talk about

“enhancing farm yields and water management, coping with demographic ageing, the demands of urbanisation and the switch to renewable energy”.

That is another reason to boycott them.

The Cronies

A similar, if more direct, approach involves contracts being awarded to cronies. The illusion of fair competition may be provided through competitive tendering but it is very easy to select the tender list on some qualification designed to suit a crony (especially if one involves him in writing the contract). We seem to see this all too often in government, the same providers cropping up time and again despite previous failures to deliver on time, cost or functionality.

I was told of an incident by a software developer friend from the US regarding the Presidential campaign a few years ago which illustrates what might happen. The candidate in question had his campaign funded by a particular (crony, I assume) software provider among others. The guy was elected and implemented some healthcare changes which required software for people to access the new system. Of course the crony was given the job but failed miserably to produce a working system, despite a cost running into many millions of dollars. Without going into technical details the methodology proposed was certain to fail and it did, on an elementary mistake which was fundamental to the design. That company obviously did not have the experience to do the job.

We hear of too many such “mistakes”, the common factor being that the taxpayer is left to foot the bill.

Why should we oppose such arrangements?

The whole purpose of lobbying is to distort the market in favour of the lobbyist’s client, who will attempt to:

  • influence specifications to favour his product and manufacturing methods
  • influence on taxes pertaining to his products
  • influence on import duties to favour the countries of his manufacturing plants
  • promotion of his services to government and consumers
  • removal of regulations forcing competition in procurement
  • negative effect of the above on his competitors

It is not unknown for companies to actually write specifications for their customers who might not have the expertise in house to write their own.

The benefits of effective lobbying can bring substantial and sustained benefits to a company. It is hard to believe that such intensive lobbying goes on without some level of corruption. The rewards for corruption can take many forms as well as the traditional “brown envelope”.

What we should be opposed to is it costing us money and imposing more unnecessary legislation.

Cronyism too often has a similar effect which might affect both cost and the form of legislation.

Conclusion

Lobbying costs us money in direct product prices, inadequate functionality and/or safety of products, and through excessive taxation when the market for government services is distorted in favour of the supplier. It restricts the ability of smaller or newer companies to enter that market so limiting our choices.

Cronyism can have the same effects but is more difficult to oppose as we are not involved directly in the purchase of defence equipment or NHS supplies.

Boycotting need not cost us money, only a little time to seek out alternative suppliers, and might save us money in the longer term. Pressurising our MPs to object to the same list of government suppliers being used time and again can reduce project costs so reducing pressure to increase taxes and root out corruption.

What boycotting does need to succeed is participation by a large number of consumers. Such a campaign should not be party political; lobbying affects us all.

The UK Bribery and Corruption Act was revised a few years ago. It applies to any UK citizen doing business anywhere in the world (I won’t say how I know of this except to say that I wasn’t involved!). In principle lobbying, cronyism and corruption are similar; both seek to gain advantage through “favours”.

That might make the opposition to lobbying or cronyism with the backing of an updated Bribery and Corruption Act a useful policy for UKIP to implement.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email