This is another one of those posts in which the header is longer than the actual post. Nonetheless, it's important. A few thoughts:
1) As Walter Olson points out, President Obama's assertion that he is going to make BP pay for all of the costs of its negligence is ludicrous. President Obama is lying to people in the gulf region, most of whom are injured because they've lost their jobs.
1a) The tort system won't allow those people to recover from BP. A business owner, or a corporation, which goes under as a result of another's negligence may recover its present net worth, an amortization of income after deduction for costs over a reasonable period of time.
1b) Many of the people hurt most, the employees of fishermen, shrimpers, hotels, restaurants, and the like, who will lose their livelihoods, have no cause of action against BP. They are merely costs, their salaries or commissions to be deducted from their employers' revenue forecasts. That's right. The more they made before the spill, the less their employers recover. They get bupkis.
1c) As if I haven't made it plain, the employees, as opposed to the owners, have to get another job, move to a part of the country that isn't wrecked, or go on welfare. You will pay for the welfare, not the government, and not BP. You will also pay for the crime and natural blight (how does one value the extinction of loggerhead sea turtles, which may well occur as a result of this spill? The courts won't) created by this displacement.
2) Everyone who promises compensation is lying. Unfortunately, most of the people (the employees) who are told that "BP will pay" hear that they'll recover the income lost as a result of their lost jobs, unless they're cynics (probably most of the people in the gulf region are cynics now). The people propagating this lie know that's what the suckers hear. They also know that that isn't what they're, technically, saying.
3) To make BP pay for these "non-consequential" damages, the government would have to upend tort law, federalizing it across all 50 states and also passing an "ex post facto" law which would require a constitutional amendment. This would, unfortunately, wreak more economic havoc than the oil spill. Far more. So it isn't happening. Obama, a constitutional law professor as he pointed out endlessly during his campaign, knows this.
4) All human morality is founded on punishment for crimes, and compensation for wrongdoing. Therefore, as an American, as a human, it is your duty to boycott BP in perpetuity. Otherwise, the company will not be punished. BP will not go to jail, nor will its executives. BP will not pay full compensation for the damage its negligence caused, far from it. It is your moral duty to supply the punishment. The government won't do it. BP won't commit seppuku. You have to do it.
5) But what, as NPR pointed out during a disturbing story aired this morning, of BP's employees and franshisees? You do know that BP doesn't own a gas station in the US? It's all franchisees, like independent contractors aboard the Death Star.
There's the poser. You have to hurt innocent people, in order to carry out your moral duty to hurt BP. Should that stop you? No.
The law, though it doesn't provide you with an adequate remedy against BP, does provide a way out. The concept of "mitigation of damages." Now ordinarily, the duty to mitigate damages applies to claimants. A claimant who refuses to go to the doctor, to get medical treatment which will end his pain, deserves not our sympathy. He deserves nothing.
In this case, you're a claimant. But there's no reason we can't reverse that idea, as moral actors. We can minimize the pain of BP's franchisees and their employees. We can buy cigarettes, coffee, soft drinks, and junk food from them. In fact, if you see a BP franchisee, you should go out of your way to stop in and buy a small bag of potato chips. And you you should tell the guy at the register that you're doing it to help him. And that you're never buying another gallon of gas from his station, as long as it's affiliated with BP.
You should do this for the rest of your life. Because you'll be paying for the consequences of BP's negligence for the rest of your life.