Today was Buy Nothing Day, Ad Busters’ annual day of anti-consumerist outreach. Despite my liberal hippie leanings, I generally have a visceral reaction against campaigns such as these. That’s a post for another day…
In the spirit of Buy Nothing Day, I’d like to take a moment to ask for your input on a closely related anti-corporate concept, the idea of voting with your wallet. That is the general idea that every dollar you spend is a vote for one company and a vote against another (wikipedia).
The analogy is usually presented as a negative proposition, “don’t shop at Walmart, they murder rabbits.” I had a bit of a revelation this week when I realized that the voting analogy completely breaks down when you use it advocate for a personal boycott. Do the math, a huge multi-national like Walmart has orders of magnitude more customers than your local electoral district. Even a large national or regional chain likely has more customers then your federal riding. Your individual vote is so insignificant that the dollar voting analogy is laughable. Sure if you scream loud enough you may get some sort term media coverage, but our collective goldfish brain will forget about it the next week. Huge companies make choices based on huge market forces. McDonalds only “brings back” the McRib when pork prices are at their lowest, then pulls it once the increased demand created by their own sales of McRibs prices causes prices to rise too high (caveat: I don’t know if this is true).
The voting analogy only makes sense if you’re using it to advocate locally made goods. The potential customer base of a local small business is much more analogous to the constituent base of an actual election. Your dollars have much more impactful to the local shop owner.
Boycott mega marts if that makes you feel better about yourself.