Friday, 16 June 2017

Every note is a vote

A popular view these days seems to be that since it costs more to buy stuff labelled Fairtrade and Organic, let's call it ethical shopping, you can do more good for the world by not shopping ethically, and using the money that you get over for charity! Let us test that hypothesis by a little maths excercise:

Say that your household shops consumer goods for €400 per month, and that nothing of this is marked Organic or Fairtrade, and so is not ethical. If instead you would have bought all of it ethically, it would cost more. How much more depends on what you buy, but perhaps as much as 50%, say. So a total of €600. By not shopping your stuff ethically, you have thus saved €200 that you can now give to charity.

Wow, that much! That must really do good for the world!... one might think. But on the other hand, if you would have shopped all that stuff ethically, for €600, then every single € out of those 600 would have done good for the world. And that's even more.

In addition, let's not forget that by shopping unethically - which involves vedgetables that were grown with poisonous chemicals, animals brought up in stressful factories, clothes sown by child labor or grown-ups in appawling working conditions, without union rights and hardly any salary, etc - of course you also contribute to making the world worse. I mean, the chemical agriculture and the exploitation fo poor laborers don't exist for their own sake, but continue only so long as there are consumers left to sponsor these activities with their money. By laying your €600 on ethical shopping, you have thus not only put €600 in sponsoring good for the world, you have also avoided putting €400 in sponsoring bad for the world. The total difference for the world thus becomes no less than €1000 for the better! :D

So you see how big a difference it really makes where we place our votes, that is, our money! Many of you might donate some €10/month or so to Greenpeace or Amnesty, and that's of course nice of you, but how big a chunk is it out of your economy? Infinitesimal.

So keep donating to charity if you like, but take a good look at what you do with the rest of your money as well. Because every note is a vote! (And every bill is a ballot.) And if you live in one of the rich countries in this world, you have a lot of them.