Frustrated by Our Electoral System? Vote With Your Wallet it’s More Effective.

I just voted.

I stood in line and took my sample ballot from the nice old lady smiling at me. Election workers in red white and blue ties shuffled me to the voting machine, and then out the back door of the elementary school cafeteria. I got my sticker and got into my car. I voted.

This year, in Virginia, my vote counts. Sort of. It counts more than it would if I lived on the other side of the Potomac. But most of the time in presidential elections, my vote has not mattered, at least with regard to the presidency.

For many people in this country this will be the case their entire lives. Try being a Republican in New York, or a Libertarian anywhere.  Many of us feel very disconnected from the “democratic process.”  It is enough to drive some people to political despair.

But despair not. There is a place where your vote counts quite a lot, the marketplace.

We don’t think of our purchases as votes most of the time but they are. When I buy X yogurt instead of Y yogurt, I am voting for X yogurt. I tell the universe that X yogurt is a product I am interested in, and if I buy X yogurt over and over my vote counts more and more.

Plus there’s always a yogurt Z on the horizon. Some new candidate for my dollar.

Purchasing yogurt is unlikely to change the world, but the type of vehicle one drives or the house one lives in just might.

If you want a “greener” world purchase things which harm the environment less. This sends an immediate message to the market that such products are viable and hopefully for the producer, profitable.  This is a much more effective way of doing things than waiting for the EPA to pass some reg which is probably ham handed, and likely does more harm than good.

Likewise, if a company engages in shameless cronyism, don’t reward their behavior. Don’t get a mortgage with that bank. Don’t buy their light bulbs when you’re at the hardware store. Don’t buy their genetically modified food at the Safeway. If enough people choose not to buy a product, that company will eventually get the message, even if it is insulated with subsidies and regulation.

It’s not easy of course. But effecting real change in the marketplace (and by extension the broader world) is far easier than effecting it at the polls these days. Even now, with things as regulated and stacked as they are, your dollar still counts even when your ballot may not.