Our generation tends to communicate social causes to others in the form of viral media and buzzwords. This can be a double edged sword; one the one hand, it is beneficial to take a complex idea and simplify it until it is both memorable and accessible to all people. On the other hand, the true meaning behind these slogans is often lost in translation, or the cause diluted until our peers recite it as canon, all the while having no idea what they are actually saying. With a focus lately on conscious consumerism, a phrase that has been brought to the forefront is “vote with your dollar.” In theory, this means that a consumer should monetarily support those companies that they hope to see succeed, thus giving them the means to compete with the mega-corporations that dominate their sector. At its core, this simple ideal is a staple of the free market economy that our country is based on. On the surface, this principle seems to make sense, but if we examine it slightly more deeply, we can see that this pillar of today’s economy is in fact quite flawed.
The first issue at hand is what “vote with your dollar” really implies, and where the power and influence truly lie. It is with this question that we are able to see the first flaw in this commonly used buzzword: that all of the ability to influence change is given to those who have the most dollars to vote with. Billionaire consumers are able to support their pet companies with limitless supplies of cash, which further serves to widen the gap between these enterprises and the mom and pop businesses that are trying to compete with them. In the long run, this phenomena will continue to cause the gulf between the upper class and everyone else to grow. Furthermore, pandering to rich patrons gives these large companies little to no incentive in terms of appealing to a wider audience. Companies are, by nature, risk averse entities, so what reason would they have for abandoning a veritable cash cow? Dissecting this phrase paints somewhat of a grim picture of what the future could hold for small businesses.
Now that we have a clearer view of what the situation is, logic would dictate that it falls upon us, as the consumer, to devise an alternate plan for ensuring that businesses we value continue to succeed. This presents a challenge, because it is difficult for even the middle class consumer to have any effect on the practices of large corporations. If we are unable to solve the problem monetarily, then it only makes sense that we support those companies, be they large or small, so long as they meet a certain set of ethics or ideals. Fair hiring practices, solid business ethics, impressive community work, and above all, a quality product, should be reason enough to give our business to any establishment. As it stands, voting with your dollar is more and more becoming a term that has no discernable meaning in today’s economy. Therefore, it is far more important to stay true to oneself and one’s personal ideals when choosing where to shop and what to buy. This must be the message that replaces the outdated and overused phrase that was once a cog in the framework of our economy, and is now little more than an internet hashtag.
This article was written by Lucas Woodward, a writer for dusk magazine.