Have you ever stopped and looked around the grocery store? Take a minute the next time you enter one and see. There are thousands of products neatly arranged and conveniently located just for you. In fact, there are over 42,000 items in the average grocery store.
When you throw a box of Cheerios, Band-Aids, or shampoo into your shopping cart, that’s your way of voting for those products and the store you buy them from. These votes we cast day in and day out both in our own communities and across the globe are the votes that matter most for our health, prosperity, and happiness.
While the owner of your local grocery store might not know you personally, they go out of their way to try and understand both what you need and what you want. They do this because they want you to come back to their store. They can only earn a profit if you and many others choose them again and again.
This is true for the grocery store, Amazon, Walmart, and your local dentist. They need you to vote for them and not just once every four years.
The grocery store is after profit, and consumers are after quality and savings. The only way that you will vote for your grocery store is if they give you what you want.
When there are many grocery stores and other retailers from which you can choose, they must work harder to earn your votes. This means nice displays, good lighting, pleasant conditions, and better customer service.
It doesn’t mean that they will never fail you. They will; they are run by fellow human beings. But they have the necessary incentives to try not to fail and to make valiant efforts to make you happy again when they do. If they do not do this, you will vote for someone else.
This relationship that you have with your local grocer is quite different than the vote you may have cast in November. Most of us don’t know the candidates for which we may vote, and we will likely never even meet them. They don’t have a personal stake in our well-being; rather, they cater to the average voter and to the special interests. Those are simply the institutional incentives of politics. When you head to the voting booth you vote on one person for a specific office and you trust them to “choose” for you on a diverse bundle of goods and services, so they have fewer incentives to know you and to serve you personally. Rather, their incentives are to cater to large and well-organized special interests.
Your grocer may not know you personally either, but she has great reason to take account of your personal needs and wants. It is amazing how different these two voting mechanisms are. In both arrangements, we are strangers, but in the grocery store, the owner has powerful incentives to care about what I want and need and to work hard to give it to me.
Moreover, these benefits that the grocer offers get better over time through the process of competitive markets. There are more goods than ever on the shelves of our local grocery stores, and we spend less of our disposable income on food than we ever have.
This is a great thing, particularly for those who reside at the bottom of the income distribution. Grocery stores don’t pander to the wealthy. In the quest for profit they pander to all their potential customers.
Markets encourage business owners and entrepreneurs to discover new and better ways of serving strangers—rich and poor alike. In doing this, we are all made richer. We are richer in income that we can earn for our own work. And we are richer in time because we are freed from having to do everything, or most things, on our own. This frees us to pursue our interests and desires.
So your votes in the market not only help you, but countless strangers around the globe. So go out there and keep voting for prosperity by shopping at the stores that serve you the best.