The Power of One

Recently the issue of democracy and the power of the individual in a society has started to really get on my nerves. Does democracy work? Is there any point in the individual speaking out? Is anyone listening or do they really care?

I've become a little jaded with this over the years as I know in my personal experience that in the Australian system I do not count for much except for tax dollars – middle class, unmarried, no kids, etc – but then again I don't lobby for personal issues such as less tax or concessions, rather focusing on broader issues that I perceive has a greater importance such as the environment. That's democracy for me, choosing the issues a person wants to support and doing their best to get that issue put forward and resolved.

It's not an easy thing to get an issue recognised, it needs the weight of many people behind it and it always helps if the media can give you some coverage, but as long as you try for something you can at least then complain if the outcome is not to your liking.

Most of the complaints I hear is that an issue didn't go how the person thought it should. When I ask them what they did to support the issue, they often reply that they did nothing, not even generate a petition or send a letter/email to their representative. To this I reply, “then how did you expect to get the outcome you wanted?” That usually ends the conversation. After all, most issues that people discuss have many players representing different agendas and more often than not, the loudest or most populous voice wins.

The ability to provide passive support for an issue has become much easier in recent years with the formation of online lobby groups that regularly develop petitions and campaigns that can be supported by a mouse click and a small monetary donation. These groups have forums for members to put forward ideas and help develop them into future campaigns, so if they are not covering the issue you want yet, you can start to get it into people's heads so it can become a global issue. There is really no reason why anyone can complain about a lack of opportunity to support whatever issue they want so long as they have access to the Internet, which is widely available in Australia. These groups also provide links to other groups so that you can escalate your involvement to a level of your choosing.

There is however another way by which an individual can express their democratic rights, and it is actually one of the more potent methods I know of – Money. Money is vitally important in today's society, and the more of it you have the more powerful you can become. The thing is that any level of money is power. Every cent you spend, invest, or save effects the economy. The way you spend your money on a daily basis can be the most effective way to create change.

Think about your grocery shopping for a minute. Where do you do the majority of your shopping? Is it at one of the large chain supermarkets and independent Grocer or at a farmers market? If the answer is the chain, then your money is going first to the corporation and down the chain paying staff and suppliers and shareholders. If it's a Farmers Market, then it is usually going direct to the primary producer then paying staff and suppliers. The major difference is the local distribution of the money and the level of participation in profits.

This also the same with regards to other sectors of the economy. Unless there is a monopoly, you have a choice.

In Australia, we are afforded enough choices in our purchases that we can choose how locally our money interacts with the economy. Small decisions regarding the locality of our spending can make great differences. A local producer who earns more will start to expand and will thus need to employ more people to keep up with demand which means more local wages which will then be spent in the community, thus keeping the local community in fiscal health.

The difficulty in ascertaining where your money goes once you've bought an item is all on of education but thanks to the Internet this education has become easier to get. A quick search on a company can give you a great deal of information regarding who they are, their corporate philosophy, their ownership and profit sharing. This information is vital if you want to use your money to change your society.

It's not just where you get your products from though, it's also the products that you use. Who owns the company? Where is the product manufactured? Where are the ingredients/components sourced? Where do the profits go? Does the company match your own philosophy?

These are vital questions to ask if you want use your money to change society. There are numerous companies that have a poor track record in regards to the environment, labour, human rights, etcetera and when I have become aware of these companies I have chosen not to purchase their products thus not supporting their actions and ever so slightly removing a bit of their power.

This philosophy works for all aspects of trade from Produce to Technology, Fuel to Insurance and everything in between. Every company that exists, exists only by the will of consumers. If they have no-one to buy their product, they don't exist for long.

Now, you're probably thinking that one person's purchases doesn't really amount to anything. And in a way that is true, but that one person can also talk to people about these issues and maybe the other person will choose to act accordingly.

An industry that I hear a great many complaints about, whether it's the media or an individual, is banking. The media reports that the RBA has opted not to increase the cash rate then a week or so later the Banks raise their rates anyway stating other factors as the cause. To anyone that complains about the banks I simply ask “Why don't you change to a bank that treats you how you want to be treated? Do you think the banks wouldn't notice if they suddenly had clients closing accounts and moving to another facility? Do you not think Banks would begin to change their operations in order to keep their customers?”

After all, Banks need their clients money in order to operate and thus generate their profits. So, without your money, the Bank can't operate.

This is not some esoteric knowledge, this should be common sense. All it takes is a little effort. Learn who you are dealing with and change your dealings accordingly. If you can't be bothered to change, don't complain when the world doesn't change the way you want it to.

It is up to the individual to utilise their money to demand the products, services, and price they want. True, it may take a bit more effort to get the right product and price, but in the end by changing your habits and who gets your money, you start to change the fabric of the economy to suit your philosophy rather than the other way around. This is the power of a free market, this is the power of choice, and this is a far greater power (in my opinion) than casting a vote every four years and expecting that things will just work out right. Your money is the greatest tool of Democracy you have.

You can complain to a company regarding their practices and hope for change, or you can force change by stripping the company of your money. After all, the buck can stop with you.


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