Notes from the Margin – August

This monthly column was written for the Friday AM in Salmon Arm  and appeared in the August 2012 All Month edition

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate is a quote I recently came across. If doing good and making a difference is what you’re into (and good for you), consider your own power as an economic advocate. Advocacy is not reserved for the mighty. The truth is, it rests with you and every single purchasing decision you make. The single consumer’s power to act on his/her decisions is what really runs our economy. But to quote the all powerful Spiderman, great power comes with great responsibility. 

Economic advocacy will entail a few assumptions. Economists are fond of assumptions such as perfect information, rational decision making, and the market’s natural cycle. My particular favourite is scarcity. As consumers, we have unlimited wants. As an economy, we have limited resources. Such is life.

The problem is that we don’t really have perfect information. Some of our purchasing decisions are hardly rational (pet rock anyone?). And you can only see a market cycle with certainty once it’s over (or we could have predicted 2008 and saved ourselves). Finally, in today’s society, there’s a tendency to act as if we’re entitled to everything we want whenever we want it. 

Trying to achieve the right balance and get as much as we can for as little as we have can be a challenge in ideal conditions. Trouble is, current conditions are far from ideal. Concentration of media ownership, powerful corporate agendas, and ideological government policy means we’re left in a state where money itself has a greater value than the actual value for which it’s a means of exchange. As such, the few who have the most (20%), often hoard (80%) and those who have the least (80%) often struggle to make what’s left (20%) work. 

So what’s a person to do if they want to flex greater economic muscle? Here’s what I’d suggest. Start by doing research and asking questions. Most of all, think before you spend. How you spend your money and what happens to it once it’s spent is what really makes you powerful. It’s straightforward. Shop as local as you can as often as you can. The money you spend at the farmer’s market, for example, packs way more punch than money spent elsewhere.

Same goes for local shops and services. Your customers are your neighbours. Invite them to tell you how they feel and what they think. Price too high? Not enough choice? Product not available? That’s the beauty of a local economy. If we pay good attention to one another, gaps in the marketplace are actual opportunities. Many have expressed concern that Zellers is closed and Smart Centres isn’t built. Fair enough. Seems to me there’s a great amount of opportunity there given pop-up retail, social media and young career-hungry people.

I choose to promote what I love. Salmon Arm is stuffed full of talented, creative, smart and resilient folk. We’ve found solutions to much more difficult problems (fires and floods, for example). With micro investment and mentorship, I feel sure we can find a solution to any gap in our economy. 

Or, on the other hand, you can bash what you hate, ridicule those you disagree with and complain on local Facebook groups, for example, about not getting what you want. Be mean and pointless or think about what good you could do. Believe it or not, the rest of us are depending on you, whether you like it (and us) or not. 

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