Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 20, 2010

Every Dollar You Spend

This is as political as I get anymore. Mostly I try to mind my own business and let the larger world tumble down the road at its own pace and in its own direction. I pay my taxes, hoping the government will a) have something useful to do with the money and b) leave me alone. I go to the polls as the occasion arises and do my best to make reasonable choices.

I don’t like the two party system: I feel as though I’m not trusted to make a more thoughtful choice than Thing One or Thing Two. But I promise I’ll be more politically engaged just as soon as we have proportional representation.

In the ‘macro’ sense though, I’m a hardcore political activist. This country is governed democratically. Yet every person with a dollar to spend has the opportunity, regardless of country of origin, felony convictions, and/or minor status to make a preference known. Because this nation also runs as a capitalist system. Every dollar is a vote. So the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year are filled with just as many chances to participate in the larger political forum (and usually more) as any particular Tuesday in November.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, since I’ve got so many ‘votes’ going out this year. I have long ‘voted’ for organic foods and goods. Now I have lots of those ‘votes’ going out to record my preferences. I’ve made many votes  for ‘second-hand goods’ over ‘made cheaply with toxic materials by exploited labor forces three-quarters of the world away goods’. I’ve been voting for local, renewable resources as a fuel source over ‘Big Electric’–and that’s a by-product of burning wood to heat the home.

I try to vote for locally available over long-haul options. As our produce season kicks in, my voting block grows with the members of our CSA and their choice to support food from here at the top of the Potomac watershed over food from Mexico, California and Oregon. It’s a good feeling, knowing I have influence over a group of votes simply by offering a service allowing those less rich in land to benefit from mine.

Soon, people will be able to ‘vote’ to spend vacation dollars here on my farm. They’ll be voting for organic, seasonal, low-tech, renewable, inclusive, outdoorsy good times. They may spend fewer dollars doing so (a form of voting in itself, ask successful hunger strikers about the power of  ‘no’). But each of those dollars will carry a message.

If anyone had told me a decade ago that national grocery chains would routinely stock a wide variety of fresh and packaged organic goods, many with house labels on them; I’d have laughed and pointed at the poor dupe. But enough people voted organic with their dollars that now those chains do sell organic. Change happens. It happens with dollars.

Go ahead. Spend what you like on what you want. But remember, you’re voting every single time a dollar of yours changes hands.

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