Democracy gives everyone the opportunity to play
a part in the determination of his own fate. Of course only the
opportunity is given. If one chooses not to take advantage of
his opportunity to influence his world, someone else will be happy
to exercise that power for him. I should hope (despite some evidence
to the contrary) that everyone in the U.S. has at least a passing
acquaintance with our form of government. Almost everyone should
know that voting can decide the nature of the government one has
to pay for. What may not be quite so obvious is the economic power
one wields when product choices are made.
Once an airline did something that annoyed me,
and then paid very little attention when I complained. I have
never again voluntarily used that airline and do not ever intend
to do so. They are still in business over thirty years later so
I will assume that they must have treated others better than me.
I hope it does not mean that everyone else was willing to put
up with their arrogance.
Some people complain about the quality of television.
Of course different people are complaining about different things
when they bemoan the quality of television. Some people are tired
of seeing at least one happy homosexual on every prime time sitcom.
Some people believe that getting laid should not be the central
theme all drama and comedy shows. Some people are tired of seeing
talking heads introduce reruns of former “stories”
on evening “news magazines.” Some people are just
tired of finding the airways clogged with those “magazines.”
Of course there are other people who believe that there should
be more of some or all of the things listed above. Is there anything
you can do to register your displeasure with the current quality
People who make their living by producing things
you don’t want will tell you to exercise your right to turn
off the set. That certainly is an option, but it may not be the
best option. Perhaps you don’t want certain types of television
programming in your house. Turning off the set will keep it out,
but your child may turn it back on when you are not available
to turn it off; or perhaps the availability of certain programming
leads to strife within the family unit. Telling a teenager that
something is not to be watched is not always a definitive determination
of the matter.
You may not be in a position to remove from television
those programs of which you disapprove, but you don’t have
to pay for them. If you believe that certain programming is harmful
to you, your family, or to society in general, find out who sponsors
the programming and do not buy their products. Proposing that
you exercise economic democracy should not be considered a call
for organized boycotts. The people who cry “censorship”
when their programming is questioned may have some argument when
it comes to organized boycotts. This is simply an exercise of
an individual’s right not to pay for something of which
he disapproves. If you are the only one who finds the program
offensive, your refusal to buy the sponsor’s product won’t
do him much harm. If a large percentage of the viewing audience
refuses to buy the product, then that refusal may make a difference.
That is what democracy is all about.
While this discussion has so far centered on
television programming, economic democracy can have an effect
on every aspect of our lives. If you think rap music is harmful,
there is something you can do. Not buying the records will most
likely not make a difference because you probably weren’t
buying the records in the first place. Find out who owns the record
company and what other products they make that you do use. Stop
using them. That may get their attention.
If you get bad service in a restaurant or a retail
store, don’t go back, ever. The system works for everything.
If you feel compassionate toward the retailer, manufacturer, etc.,
you can write a letter explaining why you are discontinuing use
of their products or services. If enough letters show up, there
may be a favorable change, but you should feel no obligation to
explain your actions. Simply discontinue the product without warning.
If enough people feel as you do, the affected business will probably
figure out what is wrong and take appropriate action. If not,
they will struggle on with reduced profit or go out of business.
If they go out of business it should not cause any difficulty
for you since you have already transferred your business to a
Economic democracy is an exercise of your economic
power which may result in changing what you consider an undesirable
situation. At the very least, it will allow you to avoid paying
for things you consider harmful, undesirable, insulting, or unpleasant.