In the days of big-money politics, it seems easy to believe that one’s vote hardly matters anymore. Races are fought and won in early-primary and battleground states, and around 40% the country doesn’t partake anyway, so why bother? However, Richard Manning closes his article “The Oil We Eat” stating that he voted twice in 2002 elections, once the conventional way, and another way by hunting for wild elk to supply his family with meat for the year.
The choice to use wild elk meat counts as a vote in my mind, too. After watching the documentary film King Corn, and reading Manning’s article, I believe that by hunting for his own meat, the author is decreasing the demand for beef, chicken, and pork, and by extension, his desire for corn (the industrial meat complex relies on corn to feed their animals). Briefly, the American government has subsidized the production of meat and especially corn so much, ostensibly to meet the booming demand of the American people. This is an enormous industrial machine, and it is widely recognized that this policy of relative monoculture is a disaster. As a result, withdrawing your dollar, and thereby decreasing the demand from these products seems like a vote against bad agricultural policy. No one asked the layman about whether you’d like corn to be supported by massive government subsidies, right? On one hand, that’s the beauty of a representative democracy- we elect people who have expertise in various areas to be our leaders, and they think and make decisions for us. However, on the other, there seems to be minimal meaningful ways to make one’s dissenting voice meaningfully heard in relation to these policy choices.
This idea of “voting with your wallet” is not new to me, there’s a great guide out there called the Better World Shoppers Guide, which rates prominent products and companies on an A-F scale based on their environmental and social responsibilities. It’s graphic, easy to read, just like a school report card, and the size allows it to be tossed into your reusable bag with a wallet and keys.There’s a similar guide revealing corporation’s political contribution, where one can discern which companies support what in our government.
From the outside, I think it might seem like kind of a menial task to be a single person making a choice about where to buy things and when to abstain, but I believe the true power of voting with the dollar is found in the ripple effect. Chances are, at least some of one’s friends and family have the same political or moral values as yourself. When the action steps that one is taking are shared, it grows the power of the idea. Even just one friend taking up the same action, whether it be buying coffee from a fair trade company or skipping their weekly banana purchase, doubles the impact of the behavior one exhibits. There are so many ways to make change, and a well-rounded approach of a couple different change-making strategies is the only way to truly see the change that we’d like to in the world. Voting with your dollar is a way of being the change.