A boycott is a time-honored way for consumers to express displeasure with a business practice. Supporters of markets hold up the ideal of a boycott when they talk about consumers voting with their feet, and the self-regulating force of profit-seeking to conform business practices with what consumers find acceptable.
But that only works when a business is run for a profit.
The Sultan of Brunei owns the eponymous Beverly Hills Hotel for many reasons, one of which is likely the status of owning an icon of American film history. The Sultan also runs his oil-rich developed country under martial law, and has recently been pushing punishments of stoning or death for violations of Shariah law such as homosexuality.
Hollywood stars have come out to push a boycott of the venerable hotel. But will that have any impact? According to an interview in the New York Times, one observer noted astutely that:
“In this particular case it looks as though some consumers may change their behavior at the hotel out in Beverly Hills, but the odds the sultan of Brunei will be put off by a slight change of business are not very large. You don’t have much leverage when a guy has zillions and zillions of dollars.”
To be more precise, the Sultan is worth about $20 billion, according to Forbes.