Consumer Democracy: The hidden votes you cast each day

Every morning, John wakes up, takes some time to cast a vote and heads to work. On his way, he briefly stops to cast another vote. Around noon, he goes out to cast another vote before returning to the office. Later in traffic, John’s wife calls and asks him to stop and cast a vote.

What are these “votes” John keeps casting?

When John woke up, he watched TV for a while before heading to work. On his way, he grabbed a coffee and later went out for lunch. At his wife’s request, he stopped and picked up groceries.

Every time you spend a dollar, you are effectively casting a vote for the company that provides that good or service. Just as when you cast an actual vote for a political candidate, this means that out of all the alternatives, you should agree most with its particular actions and views. But most people don’t even think about it.

We have millions of uneducated voters: consumers unaware of what exactly they are supporting. Average people would not likely vote for a political candidate they were unaware of. Yet these “corporate candidates” receive numerous votes each day, allowing them to continue whatever it is they may be doing.

This “consumer democracy,” if you will, should in theory lead to corporate views mirroring the common social views of society. “Voters,” or consumers, will choose to spend their money on corporations with which they agree. Vice versa, if the general public began to disagree with corporations, they would show it by spending their dollars elsewhere.

However, there are obvious barriers that prevent this from working.

First, a majority of consumers are simply unaware of most corporations’ actions. Because of the highly globalized world we live in today, it is hard for the average consumer to know every action of a corporation spanning multiple continents. Most people seek the lowest prices, without considering how those low prices were achieved. If child labor were used to make a pair of shoes similar in quality to a higher-priced pair of shoes, would you still consider purchasing the less expensive pair?

There is a great need for a product education campaign, where consumers can more easily trace where and how products arrived in their final state.

In addition to simply being uninformed, a large portion of consumers are also misinformed or misled. For an example of how this occurs, one need look no further than any major corporation’s advertising campaigns. A majority of them contain little to no information about the actual product or the corporation itself, and instead attempt to create an emotional response from consumers.

When consumers know nothing about a product but can easily recognize and remember its brand, they are much more likely to blindly vote with their dollars for that company.

I urge you all to consider this the next time you spend money on something. What are the most common purchases you make in your day-to-day life? Who made your clothes? Where did your food come from? Odds are, you do not know as much about those corporations as you’d like, considering the support you give them. It’s important we all learn to vote wisely and responsibly with our dollars, especially with the increasing influence corporations have on politics.

You may vote for a president every four years and other politicians every two, but each day you have the opportunity to cast multiple votes for something equally important.

Read the Ka Leo version here.

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