Are We Citizens or Consumers?

‘Vote with your dollars’ has long been a mantra of
progressive-minded folk. But as Minneapolis activist Betsy Barnum
writes in, 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
Erica Wetter

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Let’s Act
Like Citizens, Not Consumers

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