Vote with Your Wallet

Whether you’re an animal rights proponent, want to reduce climate change, or are against GMO products, you can have a positive impact every day on all issues meaningful to you. You don’t have to sell your worldly possessions to support the cause or spend well-earned relax time protesting. This isn’t a civil-liberties cry.

9 percent of the adult population in Sub-Saharan Africa is HIV positive. Traveling to combat this epidemic is a noble venture. There are opportunities to educate parents about the pitfalls associated with HIV/AIDS and strengthen the economy to help them better address the needs of HIV victims. There is a problem with total immersion like this. We are a dynamic people.

We have many issues or aspects of the world we’d like to change for the better and going whole hog on just one doesn’t give the flexibility required to impact all your values. For instance, I believe in the power behind organically grown produce. My stance is two-fold. First, producing vegetables organically encourages farmers to implement farming practices that protect nutrients in plants’ soil. By prohibiting the use of pesticides, herbicides, etc., the farmland operates in a sustainable manner. Second, the nutrient density in organically produced fruits and vegetables is higher. This provides us with vitamins and minerals that can get stripped out when other practices are implemented.

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Quick side note.

I’ve yet to find a study relating the cost per nutrient in organic vs non-organic foods. There are numerous studies comparing nutrients in organic vs non-organic foods, but not related to average price. The basis behind my curiosity is due to complaints about the higher cost of organic produce. There is the potential that the price per nutrient within organic produce is the same or even better. If you’ve found something on this, please comment below. Thanks!

Just because I feel this way about organic fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean I oppose animal rights. Or that I’m pro-child slavery. Or that I encourage nuclear war. By going go all in on one of your opinions, you’ll likely miss out on all the other components that make you, you! So how can we positively impact so many things without giving every spare hour to influence these opinions? The answer lies in your pocket, purse, or phone.

Cash Prize.

Our daily purchases provide us with an unbelievable opportunity to shape the world around us. Every dollar, yen, or pound we spend gives us a chance to reduce our carbon footprint or increase global sustainability. Unless you’re a super-hippie who doesn’t use money (no judgement here, you do you!), the goods you buy everyday influence everything. Choose your ballot boxes carefully, and stuff them with money!

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Before we reveal the impact you can make, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with a few concepts.

Free Market.

A free market is defined as a system in which the forces of supply and demand are allowed to act unencumbered and that these forces are controlled by consumers and seller competition. The term ‘free market’ is frequently used as a synonym for laissez-faire capitalism. While no country exhibits a truly free market, many countries exhibit minimal intervention into the market and give us a decent model as a free market. This capitalist market allows us to think about and use the laws of supply and demand to our advantage.

Supply and Demand.

Bam! You’re back to high school sitting in that econ class just before lunch. The plastic chair may as well be a bed of nails and your stomach’s grumbling. In an effort to divert your attention from the discomfort, your eyes start to wander. You look to your left and sitting one row over there’s your crush. Their in that perfect spot where you can daydream and not get noticed. And damn they look good today. Even sitting, that ass…is…exceptional. They’ve got on a regular school shirt, but they somehow make it sexy. The new hairstyle somehow one-ups the perfection they had before, and as you quietly breathe their scent drifts your way. While you’re ogling, the teacher calls your name and says “Looks like I’m boring you! Maybe you’d like to teach the class?” …everyone giggles…but you’re a badass. You snap back “Yeah!.” Then storm up to the board, snag the chalk, and launch. The law of demand states that, if all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the fewer people will demand that good. For example, in a group of 100 people (demanders), 50 of them may be willing to pay $1 for a banana, but maybe only 7 would be willing to pay $5 for the same banana. The more expensive a good, the less demand there is for that good. On the other hand, the law of supply states that, if all other factors remain equal, an increase in price results in an increase in quantity supplied. For example, a banana supplier may supply 80 bananas at $1 for a banana, but might supply 400 bananas charging $5 per banana. The more expensive a good, the more motivation for a seller to provide that good. When the quantity of supply matches the demand and the system is at a state of equilibrium. You draw the graph below and on the way back to your desk that babe hands you a note and says “call me”. Victory never felt so sweet.

Supply and Demand

Shifts in Demand.

Shifts in the demand or supply curve of a product/service occurs when the quantity demanded or supplied changes, but price remains constant. Let’s go through a simple example considering the demand for beer. Let’s say we’re at a party with 100 people. The host is a real jerk and has a cash bar. Making guests pay for their own drinks? What a dick! At the party’s bar, they are offering beer for $5, wine for $5 a glass, and a pre-mixed cocktail for $5 each. Let’s assume the group has varied tastes and consumes the three options about equally. Now in order for the beer demand curve to shift, the original demand relationship needs to change. However, the quantity demanded needs to be affected by a factor other than price. Now let’s say our asshole of a host only bought a few bottles of wine and only made a small batch of this pre-mixed cocktail, but has 12 kegs of beer. After 30 min of partying everything but the beer has run out. Everyone at the party is now drinking beer (increased quantity demanded), but the price is still $5 (constant price). This is how we shift the demand curve. Quantity demanded goes up, but price remains constant.

Demand Shift

Why does this matter though? Well, the concept of shifting the demand curve is a deeply important factor when considering the impact you have on the things you believe in most. And that is the fact that you (yeah you!) can voluntarily shift the demand curve to support your beliefs. Let’s go back to the party example to show what voluntarily causing a shift in the demand curve would look like. The three drinks are still $5 each, but there is plenty of beer, wine, and cocktails to go around. Now let’s say one of the guests, we’ll call her Emily, loves wine. Emily thinks wine is the best drink out there and it also happens to be an option at this party! She starts talking to everyone there about the benefits of wine. How it has antioxidants, how it’s a natural product, it’s aphrodisiac qualities. You get the picture. She’s such a good salesperson that everyone switches over to drinking wine. Impressive! This is admittedly an oversimplified and outrageous example, but it’s meant to serve a point. Emily has independently shifted the demand curve for wine. Not only that, but she’s impacted beer and liquor sales as well. And if she has truly convinced the partygoers, they might leave the party with a new-found appreciation, and greater consumption of, wine.

Okay enough about booze, how can we use our wallet to do our dirty work for us. Determining how you can influence issues most meaningful to you is easier than you may think. Regardless of how you feel about the issue below, you’ll want to know how to walk through the process.

Case Study: Reduce Global Warming & Positively Impact Climate Change.

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When thinking about the impact we can have, the first thing that pops into my head is fossil fuels. Riding your bike, walking, or using public transit are all great ways to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. By decreasing your spending on fossil fuels for transit, you’re decreasing the demand for that product.

The manner in which your home consumes energy is also a great way. If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.), then opting to pay specifically for energy from these sources increases demand for that product and spreads its influence. Otherwise, reducing energy consumption and decreasing your spending on power plant produced energy, decreases demand for that product.

Probably the most direct route, however, is by eating less animal products. That’s right, going vegan is the arguably the biggest way to minimize global warming. Once again, you don’t have to dive fully in to have an impact. Committing to a vegan diet for one meal a day or one day a week can have a tremendous impact. Please see this page by the World Preservation Foundation for more information about how veganism can slow/reverse climate change.

We’ve found three potential attack points for how we spend to impact this cause. Boom! By discovering the driving forces behind the issues we want to influence, we can control our spending to compel the world to change around us.

Final notes.

With every purchase you make, you are impacting the demand for that product and furthering all aspects of what that product promotes or destroys. By choosing products and services wisely you have the opportunity to create demand where you want it. And suppliers will notice! In today’s information age, suppliers/vendors are constantly monitoring what is being purchased or not purchased. This means that your voluntary shifts in demand will be recognized. If I switch to purchasing organic broccoli every week, I’m telling my local store that there’s someone who wants this product. In wanting to serve its customer, the store then goes and sources more of this product because the demand is heightened. In turn, the farmers are encouraged to grow more organic broccoli. This eventually leads to the organic broccoli becoming more widely available and will inevitably catch the eye of another store patron who buys and continues the trend. Every purchase you make expands the implications of what that product carries. This gives you an opportunity like no other to vote with your actions, vote with your knowledge, and vote with your wallet.

 

Further Reading:

 

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