Understanding Socialism – Lesson 2: Voting With Your Wallet

We in America live in a Republic.  By living in a Republic, we have the ability to cast our votes for the people, places and things we want to see either succeed or be accomplished.  (BTW, if you read that and thought, “wait, I thought we lived in a democracy,” please see me for a list of suggested reading.  You have been indoctrinated and we need to save you.)  When you think about voting, your mind probably goes to a ballot box set up in a room full of American flags and red-white-and-blue streamers where you go to pick a new political leader or make a choice on a local measure.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this kind of voting makes up maybe 1% of all the voting you will do in your lifetime.  Why—because you vote practically every day; usually multiple times a day.  You’re not voting in a booth for a politician or even on the phone for some talentless loon on American Idol.  It’s a kind of voting you have done your whole life and probably never thought about.

EVERY TIME YOU SPEND MONEY, YOU CAST A VOTE!

Confused?  You’ve probably never thought about it that way before, but it’s true, and it’s one of the many wondrous splendors our capitalist system offers us!  Every time you buy groceries, go to the movies, grab a burger at the drive thru or even order something off the internet, you are taking part in our great capitalism voting system!

Let me explain what I’m talking about.  In our economy, we are based on the principles of capitalism and a free market.  What does this mean?  It means that we are not only free to start any business we want (as long as it’s legal) but to conduct our business however we see fit.  By starting a business, your company goes on the economic ballot.

Let’s say you open a grocery store.   Naturally, you wouldn’t be going into business unless you wanted that business to succeed, right?  You’re doing this to be a success and make money.  To do that, you need to attract customers.  How do you do that?  There are probably MANY grocery stores in your town.  How do you get people to spend money in YOUR store and not another store?

Well, there are many different methods you could try.  You could have lower prices, or higher quality items.  Maybe you want to have the cleanest and nicest looking store in town, or the one with the friendliest and most helpful staff.  There are all kinds of different things you could do to set yourself apart from your competitors.

Now that you have your store and your business model, it’s time to try and sell it.  You run ads in the paper and on T.V.  “My store has the lowest prices in town!” your ad might say.  “You won’t find a more knowledgeable staff anywhere but my store!”  Who knows what route you will take?  Now, it’s time to see how many people shop with you and “vote” for your store over your competitors.

Think about the last time you went grocery shopping.  Why did you go where you did?  There must have been SOME reason you chose Store X over Store Y!  By spending your money at store X, you are saying, “I’m voting for the business model that store X represents.  I want to reward this establishment with my business in hopes that it will continue to thrive.”

Powerful thought, isn’t it?  And you just thought you were picking up milk on the way home, huh?  Now, let’s go back to your store.  Let’s say your business isn’t doing so well.  People are still shopping with your competitors and not you.  Naturally, YOU want those customers!  What do you do to get them?  You find out what the other store is doing that makes those customers happy.

Let’s say that your competing store just opened up a sushi bar in their establishment.  People are going there because they want to pick up fresh sushi with their groceries.  If that’s what the people want, you should apply that idea to your store and get some of those customers back.  Let’s say you start your OWN sushi bar but sell your sushi cheaper than your competitor.  BINGO!  Customer’s dollars, or “votes,” start going your way!

From this example, let’s zoom out and look at the bigger picture.  If all kinds of businesses across the country are all playing in this same game; competing with one another for your dollar votes, what starts to happen?   People are constantly treated to better and better products!  Prices keep falling, quality keeps rising and stores become more and more welcoming to be in!  EVERYBODY WINS!   Do you see it?  By having our whole system constantly compete for your business, those businesses will forever improve in order to please you and keep you coming back!

This is how capitalism DOES help the collective!  These competing businesses keep raising the bar which means better opportunities for consumers.  WE are the consumers!  The company Lendingtree.com used to run the slogan, “When banks compete, you win!”  Well, that’s not just true for banks.  Consumers win when ANY businesses compete!  Capitalism begets innovation and innovation strengthens a nation.

Now, let’s take a step away from capitalism and look at the socialistic setup.  Now remember, in a socialistic society, EVERYTHING is controlled by the government.  After all, it all has to stay fair, right?  Competition isn’t fair to a socialist.  To a socialist, each store should receive an equal amount of business.  So, let’s nationalize all the grocery stores.  All the grocery stores are now government controlled so they are all EXACTLY the same.  Nothing sets one apart from the other.

At first, it can sound like a relief, right?  I mean, if there’s no competition, no one has to worry about going out of business and losing their job.  What a calm and relaxed citizenry we would be if we NEVER had to worry about our businesses going under and our jobs being lost.  But, remember the big picture?

What are we now missing?  INOVATION!  If everyone is the same and there’s no need to compete, there’s no need to push the envelope.  Why raise the bar if it won’t bring you out ahead?  Soon, quality starts to suffer, prices skyrocket and stores start to look run down.  Why try harder?  It won’t get you anywhere.  Just do your job and get paid.  No one loses their job and everybody gets to stay in business.

If you go shopping at the socialism supermarket, how likely do you think you’d be to suddenly see a new sushi department?  Why would the store start one?  If they did the government would either shut it down or put a sushi bar in all the other stores to keep things level.  The store would not improve because it would yield no benefit, and that means no new innovations to better your shopping experience.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to live in a situation like that.  If you ever get the chance, sit down and have a conversation with ANYONE who escaped from a socialist or communist nation like the Soviet Union, China or Vietnam.  Ask them about something as simple as grocery shopping back in their home country.  Ask them how shopping in America compares.  You will be SHOCKED by what they tell you, I promise.

Now, if you’re a critic of capitalism, then I know you finished lesson one with a big counterpoint ringing in your ears.  You don’t need to say it; I’ll say it for you…

“But Joe, everyone doesn’t really EARN their wealth.  Sure, doctors and lawyers do, but look at all the no talent singers and actors that get paid millions!  Do you really expect me to believe that Paris Hilton’s riches (other than the ones she inherited) were earned through hard work and sacrifice?”

Through hard work and sacrifice?—no, you got me on that one.  However, that doesn’t mean her wealth was not fairly earned.  Let me explain with another example.

I hate the Twilight book series; just hate it, can’t stand it.  I think it’s possibly the dumbest story I’ve ever heard of and Stephanie Myer such a bad writer that she couldn’t get a job at a high school news paper.

A friend once told me that I should read the series because it was a genre they knew I enjoyed.  Having never heard of it before, I asked her what it was about. I told her to stop talking as soon as she got to the part about a group of immortal teenage vampires going to high school.  It was the dumbest concept I’d ever heard of, and seeing the movie trailer (because I wouldn’t have been caught dead actually going to see that train-wreck of a movie) was enough to confirm in my mind that I was right.  Plus, my wife gave it a shot and said that Myer probably couldn’t pass an eleventh grade English test.

Stephanie Myer is rich and I REALLY don’t think she deserves it.  How could anyone who writes so badly and has a broken imagination get so much money?  I mean, I think stories I wrote in grade school are better.  I certainly think The Chronicles of Shyra would be more enjoyable for readers than Twilight (sorry, shameless self promotion over now).   Why am I not rich but she is?

The answer is simple, I didn’t cast my dollar votes for Twilight, but millions of people did.  Myer wrote a book, published it and put it on the market for people to buy.

People bought it.  A lot of people bought it; enough people to make her a millionaire.  Do I think she deserves it?  Hell no.  Do I think she EARNED it?  Absolutely.  This is why you will be hard pressed to EVER find a rich person in this nation who doesn’t deserve every penny they have.  She put out a product and people bought it.  They “voted” for it and thus she became rich.  No one forced them to buy it (although somehow I can’t see how they could have if not by force).

The premise is simple; if you don’t agree with something, don’t spend money on it.  I was once told by a friend that Bill Gates doesn’t deserve to be as wealthy as he is.  Bill Gates controls an absolutely unreal percentage of America’s total wealth.  That’s money, he believed, should go to more deserving people.  I mean, what does Bill need with ALL THAT MULA?!

Well, I immediately responded with a very simple question; “Do you own a Window’s computer?”

He said yes.

Well, how can you say he doesn’t deserve his millions (or is it billions now?  I don’t know) when you CONTRIBUTED to them?!  You dollar voted FOR him and his product!  If you really don’t believe he deserves what he’s earned, buy a Mac!  No one forced you to buy a Window’s machine.  You did that of your own free will.  You cast your vote, now live with it.

Are you seeing the gravity of the situation?  You’re never JUST spending money!  You’re declaring your support for the thing you’re buying and the people who created them.  How many of you think pro athletes are paid too much but go to pro sporting events?  Who thinks that Hollywood actors are overpaid but are in line Friday night for the newest summer blockbuster?  No one is forcing you to buy these things and they are FAR from necessary for your survival.  You opened your wallet and cast your vote.  You have no right to complain.

I hope this will help some people put more thought into just who gets their money the next time it’s time to buy something.  Don’t just buy stuff, cast your vote!  Buy where you WANT your money to go.  By doing so, you can help to shape the world they way you want it.  If enough people “vote” your way, we start to see a change in the world.

Okay, we’ve talked enough about how we make other people rich.  Let’s spend some time on how you make YOU rich in our capitalist system.

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