Are We Citizens or Consumers?

The myth of consumer activism


| October 10, 2003


'Vote with your dollars' has long been a mantra of progressive-minded folk. But as Minneapolis activist Betsy Barnum writes in CommonDreams.org, the power of the consumer is a 'myth' that 'not only doesn't work but actually distracts us from the only real power we have to address corporate rule and the degradation of our world.'

Though corporations are often thought of as economic entities, Barnum argues that they hold tremendous political clout and must be dealt with politically. Besides, she adds, 'consumers don't decide what happens in the marketplace, they merely respond.' Consumer demand for a certain product is corrupted by the billions of dollars corporations spend on advertising, allowing the marketplace to be saturated with useless and dangerous goods. And consumer action is often a solitary endeavor, when what's really needed is mass action.

'To end corporate domination, we need a social movement as strong and broad as those that changed law and culture about slavery, women's right to vote, organized labor, and civil rights for people of color,' she concludes.

Political action may not be quite as easy as shelling out -- or withholding --the almighty buck. But if people educate themselves, start talking politics together, and reclaim their responsibilities as citizens, they can blunt the power of corporations. The key is to vote not just with your money, but also with your vote and your voice.
-- Erica Wetter

Go there>>Let's Act Like Citizens, Not Consumers

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