Does Voting With Your Wallet Work?
It may not change the world; do it anyway
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. ~ Excerpt from the “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership” by Kent M. Keith, frequently misattributed to Mother Teresa
Voting with your wallet (VWYW) is the practice of spending in a way that is consistent with your values. If you don’t like the way Amazon treats its warehouse workers, as an example, you can stop giving Amazon your money. If you don’t like the way your leftovers are being enveloped in Styrofoam at one restaurant, you can quit eating there and start frequenting the ones that use cardboard instead. If you don’t like the way animals are brutalized by factory farms, you can stop enriching the people who run those operations by not buying their meat.
VWYW is one way to put your money where your mouth is. It allows you to embody your principles, and that has value in and of itself. But implicit in the VWYW movement is the hope that withholding support for unethical practices will encourage business owners to change them. At times, it seems to have that effect.
For example, shortly after a consumer boycott brought attention to the conditions under which Ivanka Trump’s clothing line was being produced, she pulled it off the market (or said she did, who knows?). In this case, withdrawing support for sweatshop labor seems to have made a difference.
However, Caille Millner, writing for the SFChronicle, doubted the power of VWYW in this case. She pointed her finger at what she saw as a likelier cause of the brand’s demise — the clothes Trump sold were shit-styles, anyway (I’m paraphrasing). That’s more in line with the thinking of Paris Marx, who says the narrative of consumers driving the marketplace with their actions is “a great myth.”
…it’s not the way the economy really works. Not only is the economy not a democracy, but your individual purchasing decisions mean next to nothing in the big scheme of things — unless you’re a billionaire (or very close to it). Paris Marx in A Dollar is Not a Vote
Marx is right when he says our individual purchasing decisions mean next-to-nothing in the big scheme of things. But then, if you think about it, neither do any…