The price of going to the theater has increased drastically in my lifetime. It’s more than doubled since I was in high school. Disgusting.
It hurts me to think about the industry stealing from families like they are. They’re bombarding the kids with ads, who beg their parents to go see the next Marvel film. (Nothing against Marvel, it was just the first major franchise that came to mind.)
For a family of five in Los Angeles, it likely costs about $75 for tickets alone. I can only imagine what it costs when your babies are tugging on your pants begging for popcorn. $150?
But still, I keep going. Keep dishing out $18 every time I want to see some new coming of age film like Love, Simon.
- For the same reason I still have a membership at Barnes & Noble, despite buying almost all of my books on Amazon. [To be fair, it costs me about $25/year.]
- For the same reason I try to donate to every crowdfunding campaign of acquaintances and friends.
- For the same reason I try to buy from local brands when I have the chance to (despite the subsidy of doing so).
- For the same reason I buy books I know I might not read.
Because I like these things. Because I don’t want them to go away. Because when I raise kids, I want them to know what its like to beg for popcorn, stumble into a bookstore, and be part of something bigger than themselves.
I want the little guys to win. I know it takes a lot write and edit a 300 page memoir and I want authors to know, “ I SEE YOU and I APPRECIATE YOU.”
It’s called voting with your dollar.
Tell me where your money goes each month, and I can tell you what you care about. For most Americans, myself included, we value convenience and entertainment over above practically everything else.
A quick glance at my bank statements will tell you:
- I like to go out to eat.
- I drive a fair amount.
- I like to read (a lot).
I spend the most money (after necessities such as rent and health insurance) on food, gasoline, and books.
And from this alone, you can gather a lot of information about what is important to me. For example, my high gasoline expense shows that I’m more interested in getting places quicker than I am with lowering my carbon footprint.
In a capitalist society, where your money goes each month matters as much as how you cast your ballot.
Do you know how long it takes policy makers to regulate out chemicals that clearly cause major health problems? To develop practical education curriculum to meet the needs of the economy in a few decades? Too. Fucking. Long.
We can’t rely on public policy alone to change the trajectory of this nation or this world. Our goverment systems take a long time to catch up with what’s already been proven in the real world. In some cases, lives are lost while we’re waiting for them to get it together.
This was intentional.
The Founding Fathers didn’t want laws, policies, and ruling principles to flip-flop every time the highest office changed hands.
They put the onus on THE people (us) to find ways to expedite and close down access by voting with our dollar.
I believe if you have an excess of capital, i.e. you can meet all of your basic needs with ease, that it is your obligation in this democracy to vote with your dollar. To show rather than tell what you believe in. To serve as a voice for the voiceless.
For voting with your dollar is your power when you feel powerless.
The market economics of this idea are fairly simple.
Increased demand pushes suppliers to supply more. We end up with an increased supply, and prices go down. YAY.
Every time you buy something, you are voting to keep that thing around for a longer period of time. You are in essence saying “yes” to it.
So for example, if you want to see a healthier world, buy organic fruits and vegetables. You’ll help incentivize more farmer to start organic divisions. You’ll help drive the prices down.
If you want to see a more knowledgeable world, buy more books and watch more documentaries. Support the creators of this kind of art and they will be incentivized to keep creating it.
If you go to see Black Panther, you are literally “voting” for the industry to continue to make films with all-Black casts. Amazing.
Lower demand creates an excess supply. Suppliers stop supplying quite as much (because they don’t want to waste moneyzz). Prices go up.
Every time you don’t buy something, you are voting against it. You are in essence saying “no” to it.
If you care about the world‘s ecosystem, stop buying products with Palm Oil in them or eating red meat on Mondays.
If you are worried about animal cruelty, stop buying factory farm meet, eggs, and dairy.
If you believe Black Lives Matter (which you obviously should), don’t donate to the police force that murdered Stephon Clark.
The opportunity costs are potentially high.
Amazon has figured something critical out:
You care more about getting things fast and cheap than perhaps anything else.
Every time you buy from Amazon, you are saying “yes” to this thesis and “no” to the local guys’ thesis. You’re saying “no” to the environmentalists that think you should care about excess packaging.
There is nothing objectively wrong with the choice to buy from Amazon. You have a right to do exactly what you want to do in the marketplace. To buy what you want and to vote how you want.
But you have to be critical of what this means about your priorities and about what this decision means for the world. On a macro, long-term plane, how might the world change shape around our collective decision making to purchase (practically everything) on Amazon? Is that a world you want to live in?
On a big scale, this can drive MAJOR change.
“Voting with your dollar” like regular voting takes into account the sum total of the voters. Who is putting their dollar here? And who is putting their dollar there?
On a large scale, with major voices leading the charge, we can change the trajectory of major companies, drive policy shifts, push drastic economic changes, and create a better world.
Recently we’ve been seeing all of these companies come forth divesting from fossil fuels and refusing to take additional funding from the NRA. This is amazing and it’s proof of this concept in action.
We’ve even seen the former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, have to step down because he was doing unethical things. Not because the Board of Directors at Uber is highly moral, but because drivers and riders were pulling their support and it was harming the company’s financials.
A piece of the world changed just because users started to ride Lyft instead of Uber.
Imagine what would happen if we applied this same attention and energy to things that matter on a massive scale. Climate Change. Race Relations. College Education Prices. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Final thought: this isn’t just about money. You are voting with everything you have.
You are voting with your clicks, your attention, your data, and your time. Anything that can be potentially monetized is part of the portfolio you’re offering.
If you don’t want to see empty listicles in your newsfeed, stop clicking on them. If you think the Kardashians are abysmal, stop watching their show.
You can say you hypothetically care about Facebook selling your information and renting out its ad space to Russia, but if you don’t actually pull your profile, you’re still giving them what they want: your attention.
If at any point, you are taking action in a way that’s making someone else money, you are casting a vote.
Remember this as you continue to operate in a world that is monetizing everything about who you are.
Start by taking a look at your bank statement. Auditing how you are spending your time. What are you really voting for? What really matters to you? What are you saying, but not backing up with action?
These are hard questions. And this can get a bit uncomfortable. But I believe this kind of thinking is necessary to make the future of this world one worth living in.