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In graduate school, I encountered the disturbing theory that your vote doesn’t actually count for much. We have a winner-take-all system of voting in this country. That means that one vote for x is always canceled out by a vote for y. So a husband and wife who disagree might as well stay home.
I can recall as a kid that my mother told me that she and my father always voted the same way so that their votes would not cancel each other out. I remember being puzzled by that a bit. Something did not seem quite right about it all.
In the big theory, only an election that turns on one single vote really empowers the individual. Otherwise, your chances of making a difference in voting is one in 100,000 or 1,000,000. The upshot is that smart people ought generally to sit out most elections. Yep, that realization kind of takes the air out of democratic enthusiasm.
It’s exactly the kind of theory that appeals to the smart set because it allows the educated to look down on all the dumb people who participate in the rituals in an unthinking way.
To be sure, as the years went on, I realized that this theory is too clever by half. In fact, elections can turn on one vote. And if a certain constituency can be relied upon to stay home—for example, highly informed libertarians—the politicians will forget about them completely both in the campaign and in governing. This reality explains a lot.
So the theory taps into more than a grain of truth but it is not the whole story. Voting can in fact make a difference. Not voting at all might be more convenient but it also sends no real message to anyone.
Still, let’s face it: your voting power isn’t worth as much as it is cracked up to be. We all know this. This problem is only amplified by widespread suspicion that elections are rigged. So even if a majority favors x, y can still win if y is the favored candidate. All of this is a serious problem for any democracy with a first-past-the-post model of selection.
Cynicism aside, you know what vote really matters? Your own personal spending. The products you buy, the companies with whom you trade, and the places where you shop all gain a vote of confidence with your spending. Both sides benefit: each side leaving the exchange better off than before. Your surrender of your property for theirs makes a contribution to the accounting ledger and says: keep doing business!
In other words, your spending decisions cannot be canceled out by someone else who disagrees. That makes it a more fair version of voting than political democracy. The democracy of the marketplace is legitimately empowering of your rights. And it is something you don’t have to wait two and four years to do. Very likely you do this every single day. Plus, the results of the commercial election taking place all day every day really do matter in the shape of the society in which we live.
Commercial democracy is a daily plebiscite in which average people have more power than even the largest corporation. Enterprises simply cannot survive without your willing participation. This is true even for seeming behemoths like Apple and Google. If the consuming public revolts, they would be a fraction of their size.
Most of the time, consumers go about their business without this awareness. But today, things are changing with the rise of a more conscious consumer. In post-lockdown America, people are becoming more aware of the needs of small and local businesses and newly appreciative of the quality, price, and health that they offer as compared to the huge companies that benefited from lockdowns and have huge costs to bear in support of vast management structures.
And here is the background to the highly effective consumer boycotts of Bud Light, Target, North Point, and others. These are companies that have adopted the values of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and not their middle-class American buyers, much less stockholders. Their loyalties are clearly geared toward their financial benefactors at BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street Bank who are pushing the entire CEI/DEI/ESG agenda.
And we are now seeing just how effective the shift in the public mood can be to impact the shape of the marketplace. Budweiser the company is utterly mystified about how making a single customized can and sending it to an Instagram influencer could have set off a mass public protest. But they completely misunderstand the times in which we live.
Freedom as we once knew it has been under grave assault, rarely more than in the last three years as we were locked in our homes, could not go to church, could not attend funerals or organize weddings, and saw businesses wrecked all over the country. The kids were even kept from school.
In such times, people are absolutely aching to test the ways in which their own choices can have an impact on the world. And they are discovering that the best way is through the marketplace.
It’s also safer. We saw what happened to the January 6th protestors. Some languish in prison without a clear sense of what they did wrong. They have been hounded by the media and fired from their jobs. Facial recognition technologies in general make every public protest dangerous.
This is not true with consumer boycotts. All you have to do is decline to do something, merely choosing this over that or not doing anything at all. No one gets in trouble for that.
No one at Anheuser-Busch really took the boycott threat very seriously but here we are. The company has not tweeted in a month because the last time they tried it, they were bombarded with thousands of denunciations. The ratio of comments to retweets was out of control. That surely sent the marketing gurus into complete meltdown.
Now retailers are offering cases of the beer for as little as $3, and even paying people to buy it with rebate coupons. We keep hearing that sales have fallen by 30 percent but that is only what we know. It could in fact be much larger.
Looking forward, what is going to happen to this brand that is now known across the country and the world as an example of the utter betrayal of its buyer base? One can imagine a future in which the company completely gives it up, deprecates the brand, and even decommissions it entirely. Bud Light could completely disappear from production.
What happens then? Nothing good for the company because of course the same consumers will decline to purchase the other beers in the catalog. There is no way this public anger is subsiding.
Let’s just get ahead of the timetable and admit what is only said in private. This whole thing could actually destroy the entire company forever. It will then be faced with a massive stockholder revolt, a takeover, and a complete purge of the entire board and management structure. This is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
And keep in mind, this is not a result of some kind of attack. It is only the consumers who are declining to buy. Nothing more or less. But think about it: that means the demolition of an entire company. That’s right: your spending decisions are making the difference between companies that thrive and companies that die. That’s how much power is in your hands.
Normally, one might suppose that such industrial changes do not have political consequences. But we know now what we did not know only a few years ago: these companies are hip-deep in politics. They have been cooperating with political forces the whole time, getting more and more involved in coercive attempts to reconstruct our lives.
A complete meltdown of these companies will send a massive message to the WEF, to Washington, D.C., and finally to your representatives that the public has finally woken up. This can happen without any elections or ballots. Indeed, the election happens every day in the way you spend your money.
The power is in your hands. The most effective form of democracy is the democracy of the marketplace. Here is where your vote truly matters.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.