Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Why I Won't be Participating in "Not-One-Damn-Dime-Day" Tomorrow

Many, especially those on the left end of the political spectrum, are calling for tomorrow to become "Not One Damn Dime Day" in which those "who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending". In my mind, however, it's a totally empty gesture designed to make the powerless feel like they still have a voice in the process. Ultimately, it will have no impact on the political process or climate, and therefore I think that it's an action (or non-action if you please) best ignored.

By dismissing it, I don't mean to belittle those who have organized or trumpeted the cause, because I think their hearts and minds are in the right place. It was only a few months ago even that I was reminding people of Buy Nothing Day (the day after Thanksgiving), but I've had a change of heart since then because just as Buy Nothing Day fails to have any impact on our eceonomy, just as boycotts of certain gasoline purveyors fail to bring prices down, so will this fail to drive any message home about the war in Iraq and the U.S. role in it.

Why don't they work? First of all, not enough people participate in them. Even if 10% of the country managed not to spend even $.10 tomorrow (a number I think is highly unlikely) it would be a one-day abberration as cash flows return to normal on Friday. That's not going to be enough to make anyone sit up and take notice. The second reason is hidden in the first: a one-off event like this has, by it's very ephemeral nature, a short time period to make an impact. Without huge turnouts and demonstrations in the street, the impact will be minimal. Thirdly, the logic of not buying anything is flawed because one of two things will happen; people will either spend their money the day before to prepare themselves for spending $0 (i.e. buying something to pack for lunch or gassing up the car the night before); or they will make up for it by spending a bit more in the days following such that the net amount of money pumped into the economy will be the same and any effects will be negated. Meanwhile those likely to be most affected by such a movement are small businesses and their owners who hold little sway over the policies of the Defense Department.

An addict can quit for a day and still be addicted. For those of us addicted to consumerism (and by "those of us" I mean "99.99% of Americans" [to varying degrees]), the only hope to make an impact in this way is to make long-term changes in your purchasing patterns either by reducing the amount you spend or by being more selective about where your money goes. It's certainly not an easy way to state your preference for progressive politics and a sustainable outlook to the environment, but I believe it can have the most impact without requiring huge sacrifices in our day-to-day lifestyles. I don't want to get preachy, but think about this: 10% of people taking a day off from shopping may not have an impact, but 10% of people buying hybrid cars or switching to renewable energy for their home or business or avoiding companies that sell products made in sweatshops would most certainly leave an impression on the consumer landscape. It's the type of thing where a little momentum could go a long way.

As usual, Snopes has it's own quality breakdown of the logical flaws inherent in this idea.


Blogger Listmaker said...

let me get this straight, are you telling me to go to mcdonald's tomorrow?

January 19, 2005 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger jamie said...

you should go for breakfast, lunch AND dinner if possible.

January 20, 2005 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Listmaker said...

damn, that is brilliant. that gives me an idea for a movie!

January 20, 2005 at 2:38 PM  

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