In relation to the Presidential election last November here in the U.S., I found the article in the url below to be instructive. It reflects on the responsibility to vote from an ethical perspective and makes the argument that, while an individual vote may not matter, the act of voting is an essential part of what it means to be a citizen:
“Voting is more than simply my way of making my preference known. When I vote, I am expressing not only a preference; by my vote I am making a decision intended to be binding on my fellow citizens. This is at the core of democracy. Our choices matter not because we might get a certain outcome, but because it is where we express our sense of where we believe the nation ought to be headed. Seen this way, the act of voting is a profoundly moral one. Simply expressing a preference is the act of a consumer. Paying taxes could be the act of a subject in any nation. But voting — that is the act of a citizen.”
I want to extend this metaphor to the CSR context and the relationship between the consumer and for-profit firm. I have made the analogy before, but while we get the politicians we deserve (because we vote for them), we also get the companies we deserve (because we buy from them). In relation to the specific act of voting/buying, however, just as we have the option to reject all the negative political campaigning that we say annoys us (but really works in terms of changing votes), we also have the option to educate ourselves about the actions of specific companies and support those that generate the most socially optimal outcomes. More than simply a choice that we make, engaging in the process in this way and actively supporting specific types of companies signals a profound engagement with the rest of society. In contrast, blindly shopping without the accompanying thought process elevates the needs of the individual over those of the group.
Just as the author in this article argues that voting is “the act of a citizen,” I want to argue that using a framework of values and ethics to make our purchase decisions is also “the act of a citizen.” And, given that we shop much more often than we vote, it might be the more important civic duty.
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The Grand Canyon & The Ethics of Citizenship
By Brad Rourke
September 10, 2012