Sunday, October 23, 2005

Of Social Values and Spending Cash 

I'm a social egalitarian. Some might even call me a socialist. They'd be right when it comes to some things -- say, healthcare -- but more wrong than right overall. Some have called me a communist in jest, and they mean it more than they let on.

But the truth is that I'm a believer in markets. But markets have their limits, of course, and where they fail, I do feel the state has a place -- say, healthcare.

But this post isn't about healthcare. I leave that to Kevin Drum, who does a better job of it.

This post is about furthering your values through the market. When I try to buy only sweatshop-free clothes and organic food, or shop at locally owned business instead of big box chains, I am relying on my belief in markets. I support those in the market who share my values. The internet is making this much easier. The easy access to information online means it's easier to find out if a company offering a product pays its employees a living wage or is serious about curtailing pollution. Online shopping offers those without physical access to what are often boutique items unavailable at large chains a chance to get those items and support their providers.

But that's not all. Now websites like Alonovo allow users to shop online with an eye toward providing market incentives for companies to demonstrate social responsibility. The site is basically a database that rates vendors and products and allows registered users to set value priorities that are then matched to the database. In other words, it is a system that aims to give you the most bang for your buck in terms of steering the market toward your desired social goals. I think that's a pretty sweet use of information technology. The system is also relatively transparent, though I think it could be more so (hello Wikimarket?).

There are similar databases for investors as well, but I'm too lazy to find a good one to which I can link and too poor to know about one from personal experience.

UPDATE: If you're wondering why none of my horde of regular readers has commented on this incredibly insightful and enlightened post, it's because Haloscan has on the blink all day. Hopefully they'll fix it soon.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?