Massachusetts, Myanmar, Market Participation, and the Federal Shutdown of Selective Purchasing Laws: Is the Power to Purchase Really the Power to Regulate

Sommers, Scott | January 1, 2000

This article does not discuss whether intentionally giving companies an incentive to withdraw from Burma is economically or politically desirable for the people of Burma. The First Circuit did not concern itself with this subject either in rejecting the Massachusetts Burma Law. The question of interest to the court, and which should be of interest to any state citizen or global corporation interested in doing business with state agencies, was whether Massachusetts had the discretion to make a purchasing law directly concerning the business involvement of suppliers in foreign countries. While legitimate legal and practical arguments may be made that states should not be allowed to take the foreign involvements of companies into account when making purchasing decisions,4 the First Circuit strains credi-bility by arguing that Massachusetts’ action amounted to the “regulation” of companies disfavored by the purchasing law.