Sunday, May 03, 2015

How to change the world? Vote for the future with every dollar you spend!

I recently saw an article about social capitalism (The Opinion Pages - Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks - How to Leave a Mark The comments reminded me of something I tell myself when I want to change the world:
If I want to change the world, a world driven and shaped by economic forces, then communicate using the language of the world: vote for the future with every dollar I spend.
What does that mean? Well, for starters, I have to remember that what I buy is telling manufacturers what I want them to make. So being more conscious of what I buy, conscious of the consequences of my purchase, helps me choose the world that I want to be leave for my grandchildren.

This is really good news. In other words, every dollar I spend is a dollar I am voting for the future. I get to vote on the future every single day. I don't have to wait for an election. Every purchase is election day.

This is really bad news, too, since most of my training, the way I was brought up, was to consider purchases as a reward for my hard work. Ever since I saved my paper route money for my new bicycle, I have learned that if I do something for someone else, I can get paid. And the money I get can turn my hard work into something I want. But what I did not learn was how to manage my responsibility for the consequences of my buying. At no time did I consider what kind of world I was encouraging when I bought my shiny new bike. I didn't think of how the people were treated who made the bike. I didn't think of how the resources were acquired to make the bike, or what would need to happen to dispose of the bike. I didn't think of any of the consequences of my purchase, other than the smile on my face as I rode it down the street.

So it's ironic when I point my finger at the "big bad companies" that are tearing the world apart to compete, or who are treating people as if they were just another commodity resource, and the environment as if it was a garbage can. It's especially ironic since I know that companies in a competitive economy will respond to purchasers much faster than politicians respond to voters.

When, and how, will I begin to vote "responsibly"? How do I find out if a product has been manufactured in a way that I want? How do I know if the product will encourage a future I want to leave for my grandchildren?

In today's internet-connected society, is there a way I can get ratings on products to know how well they match my own preferences for the future? Will enough people "vote" responsibly to make a difference?

And I can't just say that it's too complicated and stick my head in the sand. As a good friend and mentor reminded me, I'm already voting for the future every time I buy something. The only question is which future I am voting for.

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