I've been thinking about this since my post about Facebook, which is probably the most openly villainous American company. Here's my pitch: we shouldn't have a public standard for this type of consumer choice. Everyone just follows their heart, which means some people step away very quickly, and some people stay a long time. We probably shouldn't give that kind of thing too much publicity, either – that might lead to consolidation of these ill-effects. We want to represent a diverse array of outrage, and sharing it with others narrows the band, maybe even creating an orthodoxy that reduces public discretion down to a single moment.
If we can saturate all possible ways to be outraged, it actually might provide the best incentives. That way, every marginal misbehavior gets punished, roughly in proportion to how much people care about it. In an ideal world, for things you sort of care about, you would do a randomized boycott, where the chance of boycotting is proportional to how much you care about the issue. This is, obviously, a bit of a hassle, but if you have a scratch file on your phone and a random number generator it really isn't too bad.
I think this idea is generally self-recommending (and I'm not going to hard-sell you on the idea of randomized boycotts, except for noting that, if it takes ten minutes to read something convincing you a company is behaving badly, spending 20 seconds on record-keeping isn't really all that much overhead). And I think it also highlights the weird instability we've had on Twitter call-out culture, because you'd never follow this advice for the nonsense people pretend is outrageous lately.
People just don't seem super interested in plurality lately. Disagreements about public policy are pretty mild, too. By far the worst reaction I've ever had to something on this blog was caused by comments that would be considered exceptionally tame in many other circumstances. For example, I recall a Conversations With Tyler episode where the guest said the Italian military had quite a few honor duels, and that the best policy they found was, punish people who go to duels, but demote people who decline them. This makes a great deal of sense in any organization with martial virtues, or at least in the insane subset of that where soldiers in the same army are regularly attempting to ritualistically kill each other. Am I obligated to pretend I would have a better way to run the Italian military? Let's just admit, okay, that happened, that's something that's allowed to exist on the same planet as me, and is essentially none of my business except as interesting trivia. The guest on Tyler Cowen's program publicly endorsed the strategy for handling duels, and am I so wise as to gainsay him on this topic of his relative expertise? Why can't I just listen, and nod?
Most challenges to plurality today are so mild any normal person would find the distress itself somewhat exhausting, although that's been turning around for a while. I hope for a world where I boycott companies, not because some person there expressed some idea I don't like (that happens all the time and is not notable in any way), but because they're poisoning child laborers in Bangladesh or something. I want to vote with my dollar on issues that are important. And what those issues are should be varied and strange, just like everyone else's choices. Maybe I'll start with companies lobbying for handouts from the government.