Voting In The Real World

As you know, this past Tuesday was election day. According to FairVote, presidential elections bring out about 60% of the voting population, while mid-term elections only attract about 40%, and odd year elections even less.

On Tuesday, election day, I was walking out of Wal-Mart, and met a man walking in wearing an “I Voted” sticker. Not being a registered voter, I hadn’t even thought of election day. But given the setting (Wal-Mart) and seeing the sticker on his sweater awakened a train of thoughts I have often entertained during elections.

This man, obviously, had cast his ballot at the voting poll. My hat’s off to him. He did his duty as an American citizen. However, he was about to cast another vote. Not on a ballot, to be sure, but with a medium that may be more powerful than a ballot at the polls. His consumer dollar.

Due to a growing interest in the power of commerce in general—and the food industry in particular, I am increasingly distrustful of corporate business, especially multi-national chains such as Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Amazon, etc. and have arrived at the point where I don’t patronize them more than I have to. Why the dislike? While there’s more than one reason, to put it in a nutshell; corporations who reach the size of the ones I just mentioned attain monetary clout and consequently, governmental influence that skews the playing field of commerce which nearly always ends up being nothing more than a boon to the corporation, and a detriment to local and national economies. As Natalie Winch writes in Ditching the Drive-Thru; We may have separation of church and state in this country, but we do not have a separation of government and capitalism.

I hear someone saying; “But I didn’t you say you were walking out of Wal-Mart?” I know, I know. I was shopping at Wal-Mart. My weak excuse is this; I don’t shop at Wal-Mart often, but do buy a few items that—other than online— are not available at local stores other than Wal-Mart. The few times I do shop there I go in and grab the few items I need, check out as quickly as possible (which isn’t always very quick due to their few open checkout lines), and walk out appalled at the demographic of people who work and shop there (which to me, is an indication of what Wal-Mart stands for). But all the same, I was at Wal-Mart, and actually purchased a few items. Guilty as charged.

Back to the voter who was about to vote with his dollar at one of the largest supermarket chains in the world. What eats me is this; each time we cast our “monetary vote” we not only create demand for more of the item we just voted upon, but we also support the manufacturer, each and every middleman or broker who drew an income from handling or brokering the item, and most of all, the retailer. This—in the case of mass importers like Wal-Mart—has far-reaching tentacles that cross oceans and cultures into foreign lands with values very different from our own—often even opposing ours. The same could be said of corporate restaurant chains such as McDonalds, who is the biggest purchaser in the world of beef, pork, potatoes, lettuce and tomatoes, and the second-biggest buyer of chicken, after KFC. How is that food produced? Very commercially, and for the lowest price possible. Know this, corporations of this size jump suppliers over fractions of a penny. I may have a thorn in my flesh, but that kind of buying power is bad for the world.

So then, should we ask for the feds to intervene? Should McDonalds be brought before the courts for creating a monopoly? In my opinion, not at all. While they play by the same questionable business ethics many multi-national corporations do, they’re not solely at fault for their position and power. The consuming populace has given it to them. Should knowledgeable consumers like you and I boycott them? Absolutely! The food they serve isn’t good for us, their buying habits support terrible food production models, their presence in every town and village displaces smaller businesses founded on better values, and their corporate clout sways lawmakers, regulators, and agricultural policy alike.

At the risk of being crass about electing government leaders, let me say that I feel most Americans place far too much emphasis on it. True, we need good leaders who have the good of their constituents at heart. For that to happen we need a balanced field of voters—not too far left nor too far right. I am highly concerned for the future of our country if we stay on the trajectory we’re on. But we consumers have a responsibility greater than that. That is, prayerful voting in the polls, incessant appeal to God for godly leaders, and ever careful consideration given daily to who and what we support with our “monetary vote.” And that’s the View from the Country.

How does your monetary vote affect the world?