In a truly free market, all individuals would have the right to sell anything, to anyone, anywhere and inversely, people would have the right to refuse a sale or transaction with no questions asked. Of course, no such system has ever been fully realised in the modern world and often times, this is for good reasons. If a free narcotics market (think heroin, meth etc) would turn a society into a chaotic jungle, the sale of certain narcotics should be regulated. Likewise, a developing country must take care that its national assets aren’t plundered by a small oligarchy who siphons nationally created wealth outside of the place it is produced, to the detriment of the people’s welfare.
At certain times in history tariffs have been necessary, but in a totally interconnected economic world, they make increasingly little sense, especially for a country like the United States whose domestic producers and small businessmen rely on imports for their own economic well being. Other examples of healthy regulation includes the passing of civil rights laws saying that an establishment open to the public (as opposed to a residence or a club), cannot refuse service to a well behaved paying customer on the basis of race or other personal characteristics. In any case, when it comes to regulations of this nature, the least restrictive option is usually the best.
The United States has traditionally championed free enterprise and has publicly prided itself on doing so. The myth was always several steps ahead of the reality, but for the purposes of the argument, let us assume that the rhetoric was well intentioned.
Today, one sees Donald Trump putting up tariff walls in a matter that is purely ideological. The fact that Trump has stated that tariff exemptions might be made for allies, is a clear sign that the move to place a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium, was motivated by Trump’s desire to use economic leverage against foreign nations for ill thought out geostrategic purposes, against the economic welfare of American businesses and consumers, for whom most purchases are a matter of dollars and cents rather than a decision of conscience.
Decisions of conscience in the marketplace are rare but they do exist at a voluntary level. If someone goes to a slightly over priced restaurant because it is owned by their brother’s friend, this can be an example of emotions playing a harmless, if not healthy role in one’s economic decision.
At a macro level, individuals participating in the voluntary Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, made a conscious decision not to use their money to pay into the coffers of a foreign regime, in this case “Israel” which they feel is a colossal violator of human rights. In a truly free market, BSD would just be another version of an altruistic use of one’s capital. For example, if an “Israeli” jar of olives was cheaper than a Lebanese one, but the consumer purchased the Lebanese jar because he believes in BDS, this would be an example of one man’s idea of economic altruism. Likewise, another man could set up an organisation called “Buy Israel” and promote “Israeli” products. In a truly free market, both would be allowed.
Sadly, the United States of today is less and less of anything resembling a free market. The United States has quietly passed many laws at a state level which attempt to use government sanctioned economic blackmail to censor the present and control peaceful discourse for the foreseeable future.
Several US states, beginning with South Carolina where current US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was Governor, have passed laws saying that any individual or business that supports the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which encourages the boycotting of the “Israeli” economy, will not be allowed to sign contracts for work with governmental bodies.
In reality, this would manifest in the following way: Jim owns a paving company. Jim also is a supporter of BDS. Jim’s contract to pave highways for the state of South Carolina has been terminated based on his support of BDS. If that doesn’t sound bizarre enough, questions of enforcement are also dubious. If someone who has never heard of BDS but has never bought an “Israeli” product because he doesn’t find them useful – is he subject to sanctions under these laws? What about an artist who was invited to perform in Tel Aviv, but decided not to do so because it was not economically viable to his musical tour – is he too guilty? What about someone who openly supports BDS, but accidentally buys a product with “Israel” made components? Is he in violation of the law, or has he been redeemed? Finally, what about someone who likes a BDS Facebook page not knowing what it is but has no opinion whatsoever about Israel and Palestine – what is his position under the new Draconian law? The madness of this legislation’s inability to be accurately enforced is as blatantly offensive as the very concept behind the laws.
Far from being an isolated pet-law for Nikki Haley, 24 of 50 US states have passed similar legislation. At the same time, Federal legislators in the US are attempting to pass anti-BDS laws that would cover interstate commerce.
The very notion that local, state and possibly federal government in the US should instigate its own boycott of American citizens and American businesses, in order to please and effectively serve the “Israeli” regime is unconscionable. There is nothing violent, racist or discriminatory about BDS as it targets a regime rather than any self-identifying group of individuals in the US or elsewhere. The anti-BDS laws of US politicians like Zionist fanatic Nikki Haley, are a disgrace to both the US tradition of free enterprise and to the First Amendment of the US, guaranteeing free speech of all individuals in the US. Anti-BDS laws could also violate various federal and state civil rights acts which prohibit the discrimination of Americans based not only on their race, ethnicity, religion and gender, but also on the bases of their peaceful political beliefs or membership in a labour union.
It beggars belief that these draconian laws which effect people’s ability to speak out and peacefully boycott based on events in the present are ignored by the mainstream media, while European laws concerning speech on the past continue to make headlines. While I personally find it absurd to deny any past atrocity, I find it equally absurd that people think censorship of heterodox views on the past will somehow change the past. No offensive remark about the past will kill someone in the past, anymore than a positive remark could revive someone who has already been killed. A child could understand these concepts which many politicians pretend to be oblivious to. Furthermore, there has never been any scientific evidence that holding heterodox views of the past automatically makes a society ‘repeat history’. In any case, there is no push for a new Holocaust or a new Armenian Genocide, even in countries where one can legally deny the existence of both atrocities.
But the American anti-BDS laws are not only absurd, they are in fact dangerous. The anti-BDS laws are harmful to those living in the present day. First of all, the law is harmful to Palestinians who themselves founded and created BDS in 2005. It is furthermore, harmful to the apolitical Palestinian children whose lives could be saved if the BDS movement grows, thus shinning a light on the reprehensible behaviour of the “Israeli” regime, just as boycotts of the Apartheid South African regime helped shine a light on the racist attitude of the former regime in Pretoria. Finally, these laws are harmful to the small businessman, the freelancer and the worker who wants to get an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, but without compromising his or her integrity.
There has been some good news however. An American judge recently ruled that an anti-BDS law in the US state of Kansas is unconstitutional. As legal expert Glenn Greenwald reports,
“A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that a Kansas law designed to punish people who boycott Israel is an unconstitutional denial of free speech. The ruling is a significant victory for free speech rights because the global campaign to criminalize, or otherwise legally outlaw, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has been spreading rapidly in numerous political and academic centers in the U.S. This judicial decision definitively declares those efforts — when they manifest in the U.S. — to be a direct infringement of basic First Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution”.
Because this was a federal ruling, it gives hope that a precedent will be set that will eventually strike down similar BDS laws in other states, while forcing US Congressmen and Senators to think twice about putting “Israel” first and America last.
It beggars belief that in 2018, the President of the United States, has used a legal loophole to bypass Congress in order to make life for American businessmen and consumers less free (in the sense of liberty) and more expensive (in the sense of dollars and cents), while a voluntary organisation, BSD has its supporters threatened with punitive economic actions for doing something that would be none of the US government’s or any state or local government’s business in a truly free society.
Whether Trump singling out certain countries for tariffs while favouring others for ideological reasons or local and state (and possibly federal) governments in the US economically harassing private citizens for their peaceful decision not to buy products from “Israel”, the US has sunk deeper and deeper into an oligarchy kleptocracy which undermines the freedom of its own citizens. Is this America the free? No, it’s America the expensive and ethically bankrupt.
Disclaimer: The author is not formally associated with BDS or any political organisation and does not claim to speak for BDS. His statements are a reflection of personal observations.