Consumers Have Power to Change the System


Consumers Have Power to Change the System
letter from a reader, and the editor's reply
from the New Unionist, August 1993, page 2


Consumers Have Power to Change the System

I enjoyed the May, 1993 front page article, "WE Can Change the World!" and share many of your fundamental assessments. Your observation that most of the problems we encounter are in some way economic-related is right on the money. Your logical conclusion that real change ultimately lies in changing the economic system is music to my ears after seeing so many groups spending all their efforts pushing for temporary band-aids to mere symptoms of our real problem.

However, your proposed solution is missing essential bits of information.

First, with your understanding of the current system, you should realize that the economic powers that control our government are not going to allow the passage of any laws that threaten their wealth. The change we are seeking is not going to be legislated by the government. That institution has already been bought out from under us. Getting our candidates into office is going to be impossible as long as the wealth of this country is concentrated in the hands of such a powerful few.

And with the emerging global economy and runaway shops, democratizing the corporate workplace will become a shortlived fantasy. Nope, we cannot hope to reform our government or democratize the economy until we have the power to do so. Funny thing, because we already do have the power; all we need is the will and the way to use it collectively.

Many of us may be slaves to big-business jobs, but there is nobody who says we have to buy their products. It makes absolutely no sense to be fighting the system with one hand while feeding it with the other. Every time we buy one of their products we are handing over more of our most powerful weapons-our consumer dollars, representing our labor, our time, our creativity.

The great disparity of wealth in this country is primarily due to us consumers centralizing our purchasing power in the Fortune 500. How do you think they got that big? To believe we are going to get all that misspent wealth back is a myth. What we must begin to do is stop handing over our economic power (i.e. political power, this is America after all) and instead invest, not in corporate America, but in the communities of America.

By purchasing from smaller, community-based businesses, we reinvest in ourselves, our values and our movement. As more consumers join the movement, a new alternative economy reflecting our values and concerns will emerge. As that alternative grows, it will provide more and more jobs for persons leaving the crumbling corporate economy.

It is the consumer who dictates acceptable business behavior by endorsing policies with consumer purchases. And it is the consumer who ultimately determines the distribution of power ir this society. There is no need tc wait for political change frorr Washington. In your pockets ii from whence political change wil come.

-- Todd Putnam, Seattle