A Los Angeles law banning city travel to Arizona and new contracts with firms in the state will go into effect later this summer. It passed the City Council on a 13 to 1 vote. "Los Angeles is the second-largest city in this country, an immigrant city, an international city," Councilman Ed Reyes, a sponsor of the resolution, told the Los Angeles Times. "It needs to have its voice heard." Said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, "We know bad things happened when good people don't stand up and say something."

As it happens, I agree with the city officials who deem Arizona's law to be an especially objectionable policy. It is nevertheless imprudent for City Council members in Los Angeles to protest the law using their official powers. It is inappropriate to spend time trying to influence a policy in a faraway jurisdiction when there is insufficient time and resources to address all matters of local concern. The boycott is going to hurt even Arizona businesses that oppose the new law, an unjust outcome. It is likely to adversely impact Los Angeles taxpayers, is unlikely to result in any changes to the Arizona law, and sets a bad precedent insofar as it will prove disadvantageous if American jurisdictions with different values begin fighting amongst themselves via financial shenanigans that make everyone worse off.

Finally, and most importantly, the boycott transforms municipal government into something that it shouldn't be. The voters who elected the current City Council did so after campaigns based on local issues, and cast votes having judged that their preferred candidates would make the best judgments within that purview. Implicit in the boycott is a judgment on a contentious matter beyond local concern -- one that is therefore beyond the mandate won by the city officials in question.

Going forward, it may be that voters begin to consider the positions of municipal candidates on national and global matters. If so, the quality of local governance will suffer as adeptness at carrying out local functions recedes in importance, while relatively inconsequential but emotionally charged actions on topics of national or global concern loom larger. The understandable desire to protest an ill-advised law in Arizona doesn't justify actions that push local politics in a direction so fraught.