The Power of the Purse

Given the move by the current administration to relax a wide variety of environmental standards and regulations, it seems particularly important to have a discussion about what we value, our role as stewards for the next generation, and how we can protect the planet from ourselves. As a educator and an economist, this issue is central to my professional mission. As a parent the issue is central to my role as a mother.

First, I would point out that every generation that came before us has left the proceeding generation with the potential for a better life. Sadly, my generation can no longer make this claim. We will leave a world to our children and grandchildren that is more indebted, less peaceful, more polluted and diminished, and characterized by friction and distrust. This realization makes me weep for humanity.  It also motivates me to strive to protect my own children by accumulating wealth as a buffer.

The later option is not one that is available to all Americans. Given this fact, the less economically advantaged should understand that all of us wield power. We have the power of the purse! Some of us carry bigger purses and have thicker wallets than others, but all of us have the ability to vote with our pocketbooks. However, for this mechanism to work, we must be informed consumers. We must take the time to know how products are made, not just where. We must read labels and compare content. We must have some awareness of a particular corporate culture and management style. In short, we must take the time to know exactly what we are buying and how it compares to other items in its product class. This is how markets are made-by consumer demand leading the way.