Shopping is the new voting

The Occupy Wall Street movement had helped to create ideal conditions for re evaluating what role corporations should play in today’s/tomorrow’s communities.

Two days is a long time to talk about anything in America…that this has gone on for two months means it’s not going away–and that’s good. As part of the 99%, I share the frustrations of many who are tired of seeing our representatives bought by big dollars. I wish some bored engineer-design team would illustrate Congress a la Nascar to show what companies have bought which members.

The growing gap between the rich and the poor is more than troubling…it’s epidemic. Obama sums up the current situation in his latest speech:

For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy.  But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed.  We all know the story by now:  Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them.  Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off.  Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line.  Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

It was wrong.  It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system.  And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover.  It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions – innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.

Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness.  Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements – from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities.  It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock.  And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president

But this isn’t just another political debate.  This is the defining issue of our time.  This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.  At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.

Similarly to how Cultivating Capital feels in their recent post in Big B v B Corporations, I too feel that some of the anger has been misdirected at business in general. I’ll extend that thought with: consumers have a citizenship responsibility here too. Simply put, in my opinion, if shopping is what keeps the pistons pumping, than how we shop should be a nationalistic activity. How we shop should matter as much as voting. Shopping is voting.  

From Cultivating Capital: Not All Businesses Are Created Equal

The truth is that not all businesses are created equal. Consider the following characteristics of Big Corporations:

  • Legally required to focus first and foremost on maximizing profit
  • Can operate largely without regard to how their business affects society and the environment
  • Drive local, independent businesses out of business
  • Take money out of the local economy and send it to shareholders and executives outside of the community

By contrast, consider the following characteristics of B Corporations:

  • Legally required to make decisions that are good for society, not just shareholders
  • Use the power of business to address social and environmental problems
  • Often local, independent businesses that operate within and give back to their local community
  • Help keep money in the local economy where it continues to circulate within the community

Their complete post is  here.

Cultivating Capital suggests the problem is not business in general, or even Big Corporations alone, but instead it is the way in which large corporations have prioritized profit above all else. I agree with this and would extend that notion to add that there is also some accountability on the consumer. Each transaction is a vote, in essence, that supports such prioritization. The citizen-shopper has an ever-increasingly important role in how the relationship between business and shopper evolve. Both B Corporations and more thoughtful spending are part of the solution.

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About Christine Haskell

Consultant and Doctoral Candidate writing on cultures of innovation and citizenship engagement topics. Opinions my own.
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One Response to Shopping is the new voting

  1. Pingback: The Citizen-Shopper « The Citizen Shopper

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