Voting with Dollars? Systems Thinking for Change


“Every time you spend money, you cast a vote for the kind of world you want.”
“Three times a day, you cast a vote.”

These admonishments have become ever more popular, and they are good reminders of the daily small decisions (or more likely, habits) that are intimately related to the cultures and economies we are a part of – shaped by them, and at the same time, perpetuating them.

However, what is meant to be a reminder of our potential to change things shows just how good such systems are in submitting supposed alternatives to their own logic, hijacking what would be an attempt at changing them for their own continuance:
MoneyVoting in elections alone will not bring about a great change when the choices we are given are all only among parties and politicians that fail to acknowledge the ecological foundations of our lives and, even more so, fail to see the potential for survival, real growth, and better lives.
Likewise, voting with the wallet may not mean anything much when there are choices only between big-ag organic or big-ag “conventional” products, textiles made of synthetic fibers in Vietnam or textiles made of New Zealand wool in China.

Quality rather than obsolescence, fair wages for laborers or better still more jobs in more localized economies and fewer global streams of goods all for cheapness, lower overall consumption and lower negative impact may all not be influenced much when the choice is only that between spending more on something branded as better or spending less on something that is more obviously cheaper (in many a way).
It all tends to be involved in the same system of global supply chains and labor, in the same need to make ever more money to buy ever more things, with the only choice that between different goods – which, in the supermarket, are all too often different brand products from the same few multinational corporations…

Voting by shopping, then, follows the same logic as all of consumerism, the logic of the rat race, of happiness just around the next corner, with the next paycheck, a promotion, the next product.

The more interesting vote for the world we want is the one we can cast with our hands and feet, in living more deeply and richly and creating work that is not another sphere removed from life, the impacts of which are considered good as long as donations result from them, but a natural and beneficial part of truly better living .

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