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Fruitless protests

Bucky Schafer | Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Over the last couple weeks I have heard several arguments from fellow students as to why we should boycott Taco Bell. All reasons have stemmed from the inability of Taco Bell’s tomato workers to earn a living wage. While I believe it is our duty, as people, to assist the unfortunate and ensure equality to all, I am not sure boycotting Taco Bell is the way to do it.When asked what they were trying to accomplish, one boycotter responded that if Taco Bell raised the price of each taco just two cents the extra money would more than raise the pickers salary to above a living wage.Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. If the price-setters at Taco Bell are doing their jobs correctly, the prices are already set to a profit-maximizing equilibrium, and a two-cent increase could stand to cost the company millions in lost sales and unrealized profits. Such an event would force Taco Bell to cut jobs and close restaurants, thus exacerbating the problem we set out to solve.Another solution would entail forcing CEOs and executives to take a pay cut and pass portions of their salaries to the tomato pickers. This is nothing but a salary redistribution program – a la socialism – that questions the very cornerstones of the economy that our country is built upon and by which our average standard of living is afforded. While one cannot equate happiness with a dollar sign – standard of living – it is difficult to find a more unbiased and universal indicator of utility with which to judge a country. When a government begins mandating an ever increasing redistribution of wealth it finds itself trotting on a slippery slope, pitting poverty level against economic drag, which in turn hurts everyone, including those on the bottom. Many have made this point more eloquently than myself, most notably Nobel Laureate and renowned economist Milton Friedman.From the onset, a boycott is meant to decrease the demand for a product, in this case business for Taco Bell, which in turn directly decreases Taco Bell’s demand for tomatoes. By boycotting, we have just unemployed the people we set out to protect, sending them to find even lower paying jobs. Hopefully you will agree with me when I say a boycott of Taco Bell does not make economic sense for anyone.

Bucky Schafersenioroff-campusApril 20