If a political candidate (let’s call him Steve) built his campaign around the principles of underpaying workers, injecting chemicals into your food, and decriminalizing hazardous working conditions in developing nations, I’d laugh. Steve would lose the election before his fundraisers even started to court lobbyists. Maybe a single drunk voter would stumble into a polling location and, oblivious, color the circle next to his name on the ballot sheet, but that’s assuming he snuck his way onto the ballot in the first place.

Unfortunately, hypothetical Steve has very real, profit-hungry counterparts in the real world. They’re going under aliases like Walmart, Gap, and Nike. The oblivious drunk has a real name too; he’s called a consumer.

Your money is your vote. When you spend it at one company, you’re fueling its growth and expansion. You’re saying that its principles, its production methods, its standards are what you want to see dominate the market and, by extension, the world. When you boycott a company and shop elsewhere, you starve it of resources, reduce the amount it can expand, and leave room in the market for other, better corporations.

If everyone boycotted Walmart and shopped at Costco, Walmart would wither as its profits were pulled out from under its feet. Its storefronts would fade away, while Costco’s profits would skyrocket, bolstering development. New Costcos would spring open everywhere.

I use Walmart and Costco as examples because they’re polar opposites. Walmart is infamous for underpaying workers, reducing hours to evade health care mandates, and forcing its workers onto welfare. Costco on the other hand has an entry-level salary of nearly three times the minimum wage, offers health care, and gives a 401k to all employees. When you buy something at Walmart, you’re bankrolling Walmart’s expansion, voting for more stores with underpaid workers. The same goes for Gap expanding sweatshops in Bangladesh.

You would never vote for any political candidates without knowing what their platforms are, what they plans to do, or what party they belong to. Yet in the economy we vote as though we weren’t voting at all.

If you were the drunk who voted for Steve, I would blame you. If Steve got elected and started implementing his policies, I would send you a belligerent letter. If you started complaining about him yourself, but then donated to his fundraiser, you’d be a hypocrite. But if you bought something from an irresponsible corporation, which then started to dominate the market, while you simultaneously shopped there and complained about them, you would unfortunately be typical.