Driving to the airport this morning I was listening to Taos’ local radio station KTAO. On the program the DJ was interviewing a city planner, as well as one of the head honcho’s from the local energy company Kit Carson Electric. The topic was renewable energy, and what people can do to help make their households more green. During the interview the woman (DJ) said something quite profound, “How you spend your dollar is one of the most important things you can do.” Now I’ve always been skeptical of the capitalist system. I don’t like that capitalism places causes people to make decisions based on the fiscal outcome as opposed to moral outcome. But if there is any positive light to be found within the capitalistic framework it’s that the people, the consumers, ultimately decide the survival of the company, the producers.
In a recent blog entry I argued that we should buy American made products to help our country out in this time of need. I made the claim based upon my patriotic (and as my friend pointed out- protectionist) beliefs. At this point I want to make it clear that this statement is conditional, and not universal (i.e. don’t just buy American to buy American, research your companies first.) Suppose an American company that makes gloves happens to work in the US, but hires illegal immigrant help at below-minimal wage. Certainly this is not a company I would recommend, for while they are American, I believe that their decisions are immoral. And this is the voting process that the DJ is talking about. For every dollar you spend, you’re casting a vote towards that cause. The representative from the energy company pointed out that by signing onto their Green Project (it's on their website), you’re adding two dollars onto your monthly power bill. Now while for some two dollars may be a lot, that extra bit you spend is a vote going towards creating more renewable energy. This act is similar to what a lot of vegetarians will tell you, “Vote with your fork.” If you don’t buy meat the demand for meat goes down. And if the demand for meat goes down, less farmers will create meat. And when less farmers create meat, that means there will be less animals deaths for meat. This formula is exactly the same for renewable energy. Spend more energy on renewable energy, more renewable energy will become available.
A giant hole in this system is that most consumers are often ignorant to a company’s working. Where do most consumers collect their information on a product? Commercials. And who pays for the commercials? The companies. As a citizen of the earth I believe it’s the consumers responsibility to inform themselves on where their money is going, and towards what causes that money is backing. This takes a bit of time, but with the internet it has become much easier to research these facts.
I know this is an especially tough time for Americans, but when you spend those hard earned dollars try to be conscious of how you are spending them. What cause are you supporting financially? Are you casting a vote for quality products that last or saying that you’re happy to save money on wasteful engineering? Are you helping a locally owned shop or a nation-wide conglomerate? Are you giving money to an environmentally conscious entity or supporting a major polluter? The next time you slide that dollar across the counter take a good deep look into Washington’s eyes and ask yourself, “What am I casting a vote for?”