Do you have more power as a consumer or as a voter?

Consumer vs. Voter

Consumer vs voter — who wins? As a consumer…

  • No business has ever pointed a gun at you
  • You can fire any company at any time without risk of harm
  • You can even complain and get your money back

Now compare this with your lot as a voter and taxpayer……

  • Complaints do little
  • You need the permission of a voting majority to change anything
  • You will be harmed if you try to withdraw your patronage

Where does your greater power lie?

You have vast power as a consumer, but almost none as a voter.

  • Consumers are kings
  • Voters are captives

If you prefer being a Consumer King to a Captive Citizen sign-up below.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

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Show Comments 34


  1. Consuming allows minorities to be served as niches. Voting is majority take all, at best, but mostly it is a transfer of power from the many to a tiny elite who practice self interest at the immediate expense of most and the eventual expense of all. Consuming is a fluid, continuous, dynamic expression of preferences. It empowers everyone at no one’s expense. Consumption enriches society. Voting is the indirect use of force. It is choosing winners and losers. It is pitting groups against one another in a dog eat dog fashion. It assumes some must suffer to benefit others, and minorities are to be sacrificed. It is immoral and impractical.

    1. Good comment Don EXCEPT for the last line maybe. Why is voting immoral? (having a war would be more moral?) and if it’s impractical, what should we replace it with???

      1. Voting is immoral as one sanctions the politicians to use force against those who do not share one’s beliefs. Voting sanctions the looting of A to satisfy B, i.e. it contracts politicians to commit a crime; it legalizes theft; it is legalized plunder at Frederic Bastiat would say in The Law. A good reference would be That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen… also by Bastiat.

        1. Jack, I think voting can be a means of “self-defense” against the initiation of coercive force. The co-creators of the Zero Aggression Project both worked on Libertarian political campaigns, most notably that of Harry Browne for President, for whom we both also voted. We did so precisely because we did not want to loot A to satisfy B.

          1. I joined the LP in 1973, went to NY and LA as a delegate for NV. I worked for McBride & Clark, voting off & on until 2007? (Rep. primary for R.P.). I now regret all the time/money I spent on politics. I was contradicting my beliefs on NAP. When you vote, you concede the premise that the majority has the right to concentrate their power and the minority, especially if they voted, can be forced to comply or die. You do not stop looting, you make it legit. Boycotting the vote denies your permission to the thug who is looking for legitimacy. I was told by the NV Chairman & Vice chair the LP was not after power, but was only running candidates to get a platform to educate, so I joined for that purpose. I soon learned that was not the primary goal of many. I was naive.

          2. I respect those who disagree, but I don’t vote for the lesser of looters. I think your point is logical, but I only vote for candidates who value the Zero Aggression Principle, as a matter of defense. My greatest disagreement with your position is strategic. I think we cannot predict the future or even engineer it. I think a portfolio of approaches are needed. And that leads me to believe that we’re going to have/need, eventually, a political approach to “turn off the aggression.”

      2. Voting is an indirect way of inflicting violence. You are delegating power to a person who is called your representative, but that “rep” can do the opposite of what was promised, or worse, give away your money (bank bail-out) or give someone (the pres.) the power to violate all rights (NDAA) or violate the oath of office “to protect and defend the US Constitution” without fear of prosecution for his/her treason. Voting is giving a moral blank check check. Joining a gang of thugs, e.g., the Mafia, would be no more moral, but more honest. They don’t pretend to be saving the world or making it better. Voters claim to be acting civilized by concentrating their power, by paying for a system of institutionalized violence. They also justify every instance of injustice as an “unfortunate exception” or “a necessary sacrifice to the common good” or “national security”.
        You ask for a voting replacement and suggest war might replace voting. Voting is an act of indirect violence, or indirect war of the majority. Democracy is majority rule. Rule is control by force. Isn’t control by fraud (false promises) and threat of force, a “cold war”? Isn’t every cold war backed up by hot war, i.e., behind every threat of force is force, or it is meaningless? Of course. So, to answer your last question, we replace force with reason, with voluntary interactions, with self governance, with self determination, with self responsibility.
        They standard rebuttal to my answer (T.J.’s answer also) made by Hamilton and every statist since is: “But some people aren’t moral or civil.” True. But that’s not a rebuttal. It’s why we need can’t concentrate power. When we do, the worst tend to get the most power, and once power is relinquished it makes the morally superior less so, the morally average corrupt, and the morally worst, monsters. History is testimony, a long record of the failure of rulers to civilize society.

        1. Just a quick reply as this is also just a test to see if this message will also go into “junk Mail” – those are some good tough arguments for voting being immoral. and I only wish more libertarian thinkers would get involved in this discussion. No time to think now though. Maybe more later if this will get posted.

  2. I know that I have no power as a voter mostly because of the of the money and lobbying issues. As a consumer, I’m not sure.

    1. Bob, Next time you go for a burger and fries, find any tiny thing about which you can complain. You could tell them the order of fries are too skimpy. Be a little dramatic. You can compare it to the menu and cry, “That doesn’t look like the picture, does it?” Observe their response. I bet they do something to make you happy, even if you’re in the wrong. And if they don’t, demand to see a manager, and repeat your claim. I’d be even more sure, at that point, they’d do something for you. That’s power!

    1. See Jim Babka’s comment above,. Citizens can complain at their government officials indefinitely, and see ‘what difference, at this point, does it make!” Most businesses will go out of their way to keep you as a customer when there is even a minor complaint. We can’t even get this ‘government’ to abide by the Constitution, much less give us a fair ‘redress of grievances’.

  3. Milton Friedman pointed out in his book, “Capitalism & Freedom,” that the common 1940-50s stereotype of prosperous middle class African-Americans driving fancy luxury cars while living in the ghetto was an example of how they were free, in the market, to invest in a good car, but in the real estate market they were segregated and prevented from buying upscale housing. With zoning laws and discrimination in lending due to political power against them, they could not improve housing much but the auto market was open to their rising-income spending.

  4. Your last paragraph that says: “It assumes some must suffer to benefit others, and minorities
    are to be sacrificed. It is immoral and impractical.” Uh… excuse me. I don’t see that happening
    with obama at the helm. If anything I see a Divider-In-Chief who purposely tries to create racial
    divide amongst the races, especially pitting blacks against whites. I see open borders, where
    an INVASION of illegal aliens come in from various countries, i.e. Mexico, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and numerous other middle Eastern countries. I would consider these people, miniorities, and yet they are treated far better than the U.S. citizenry of tax-paying Americans. They are given subsidized housing, foodstamps, free college grants for education, and free healthcare, all on the U.S. taxpayers back! So, please do explain as to how miniorities are sacrificed? If anything hard-working Americans, and the middle-class are being sacrificed, by the invasion of minorities, with obama orchestrating this plot, with the sole-purpose of bulking-up the DemoNcrat voter-base, for the next election. These same illegals/minorities are leeching off our Welfare system, in which they did NOT pay one dime! The only thing immoral here, is the completely corrupt “so-called POTUS” (cough cough) and his administration and regime in power in WA, D.C. It’s a lawless administration with a completely insane Usurper at the helm!

    1. Hi Jea B. We approved your comment for publication despite the fact that we can’t determine what you are actually commenting about. You quote text from somewhere, but that text appears neither in the article where you are commenting, nor in any of the comments to that article, so far as we can see. The only thing we can determine for certain is that you think of minorities as being people of other races. We think of minorities as all those who get coerced against by the majority.

    2. The theory was: We elect (give our power) to people who will use their monopoly on force to serve us. If we don’t like the result, we can change the faces. The result is: The power is used to benefit the elected and their friends at our expense. When we change faces, same result. After 200+ years the theory has been proven immoral/impractical. The blame is on everyone who participates, i.e., keeps supporting the same political paradigm, while hoping for a different result. The solution: Stop supporting the paradigm which is built on institutionalized violence, and replace it with a paradigm based on voluntary social interactions, devoid of the initiation of force, but using force only as defense, reactive.

  5. Interesting in theory, but I don’t see how it would work practically. Do we each hire our own government? And get taxes back when we complain? Who organizes people to raise money to build roads and equip a national military defense? Not opposed right now, just confused.

    1. CS, Start with this Mental Lever, Then click the right arrow to read the next one. You can keep going through the ones that follow if you want, and if it’s pleasurable and interesting to do so. But start with those two.
      To finish answering your question, skip to this Collection, and read these 11 Mental Levers

  6. The ZAP is a great ideal. The problem is that as THE guiding principle it won’t work for societies larger than tribal size. ZAP works best on “frontiers”, such as when the American West was the frontier. Frontiers are sparsely populated with practically no government. They are typically rich in “free” resources, that is, there is stuff for the taking (buffalo, gold, beavers, trees, etc), so much so that people don’t worry too much about “who owns this land” because it’s simply whoever chooses to work it. Others just move on to another spot. The occupants work things out and it’s to their mutual benefit to adhere mostly to the ZAP. Justice can be swift to those who transgress. But as the frontier starts getting settled and the resources aren’t so “free” anymore the ZAP breaks down because there’s too much benefit to those willing to aggress. And there is a shortage of people to protect those being aggressed against. Gvt steps in to even the playing field. Gvt is not inherently evil, it serves a needed purpose. Unfortunately it almost always winds up in its later stages as a cancer. That’s where the US is now, not because gvt is inherently bad but simply because gvt evolves from limited and desireable to unlimited and onerous. You will not “cure” the cancer unless you make the gvt smaller just as in your body you must make it smaller – not a perfect analogy because in your body you want it completely gone… in a bigger then tribal sized society you will never be free of gvt and you would not want to be IMHO.

    1. Jim, We’re not arguing that government is “inherently evil.” Quite the opposite. We’re arguing for MORE governance. But we maintain that initiated force, designed to achieve an alleged social end, is not only evil, it’s impractical. We are arguing against statism. What we have at present, cannot be governance, because it assaults people. Criminal gangs are illegitimate crime fighters. BUT, if one could voluntarily select their governance AND opt-out when they believe it no longer serves their needs, governance would be both properly limited and naturally small enough so that it was no threat to your liberty.

  7. When businesses are small, the customer is king. When businesses are big, the owners become rulers.

    Though I agree with the customer is king idea in general, I have had recent experience with a large corporation stepping on the consumer and not caring one iota for what it may want or need. When a business is small it relies on the consumer to support it, but when a corporation is large enough to hire another corporation to help it create products that last just within the warranty (engineering specifically up to the warranty), a whole larger dynamic is created. In this dynamic many workers who depend upon the fraud for their paycheck are added to a bloated system which protects the company from being brought down by a rouge employee. If the news media is also either deaf or in on the scam, then there is no way for one individual to rat the system out. So the consumer continues to get new shiny products that will purposely fail just after the warranty without any oversight leveled at the companies involved.

    Think of Gulliver’s travels and the Lilliputians who have to flap the ears of the higher ranked member just to get a word up the ranks. Well this has been modified for use in the system of engineered failure. The engineers doing this have a job, probably can’t get a better job and so they willingly help a company create lemons. These engineers won’t willingly rat on what they are doing and keep anyone at their level or below form doing it as well. Of course, it’s ok with a whole other industry because after those who buy at the prime level sell out (just after their first non covered repair bill) the next level of user buys the product and then spends close to the original price for repairs over the next several years of use. No one can get a word up the chain because these engineers don’t work for the original manufacturer, they have been outsourced. Level after level of flappers keeping the top of the corporation safe from consumer complaints and keeping several thousand employed.

    Honestly, I would not have believed it until I witnessed it and got fired because I actually though I might make a difference. Nope, I was just hired to help with the scheduled failure watch. I now comprehend why cars cost upwards of 30k. It’s not just the baby boomer pensions being paid for.

    We must admit to some complicity in this because as consumers we have been charmed with having the new and shinny. I applaud those of you who resist and keep the classics instead of rushing out to buy the newest trend. And seriously, how could we feed so many if we didn’t keep this cycle going? If I buy a car when I’m twenty and never buy another one in my lifetime, how many pensions could be paid? How about an even more radical notion, what if I built that car by myself? How many would need to find a soup kitchen then?

    Obviously, eventually this will collapse. It is a massive pyramid that depends on someone being able to afford the product being produced. I can add and multiply at average levels, the number of cars produced and the number of people who can afford them doesn’t tally.

    This is what happens when we the consumers vote unintelligently with our wallets.

  8. If you look at the history and present of my equal liberty to homestead property, business has quite frequently showed the willingness to point a gun at me if I were to attempt to use my property. Can’t say I see the difference between state and business at all, frankly speaking.

    1. Release the Spyce: There is no difference, morally or practically, between those who initiate violence, threaten it or use fraud. It matters not whether they are in the public or private sector. But that is the logical argument. The psychological argument exempts the public sector from the moral criticism. It is blind to the harm that initiation of violence does, even when it threatens to annihilate the human species, e.g., nuclear winter by relying on MAD. The masses accept irrational ideas that come from authority.

      I don’t blame govt. or coercive business people. I blame those who support them by giving in and allowing them to exist, no matter their excuse. They are willfully blind to logic and in their arrogant ignorance will force others to live by their delusions. If we do not change enough minds to stop the madness (about 10-15% should do it) we are all doomed.

      1. “If we do not change enough minds to stop the madness (about 10-15% should do it) we are all doomed.”

        Agreed. To change minds, a positive vision can be of use. This is why I like to mention the idea of a basic income, financed from all the things that generate rent not as a matter of hard work, but as a matter of natural traits (land and its proximity to customers, resources, technology; exhaustion of high energy resources; patents), voluntary work (prosumers, network effects) for a third party and complexity in banking as a means to trick and massively indebt people, to collect an income via.

        We can have a society that goes with much less violence and threat than today, if the basis for property follows the golden rule. John Locke described this in the lockean proviso and Henry George refined the position, now with the massive rise of idea rights we see people like Guy Standing renew the interest in the conversation and there’s guys like Steve Keen who give the monetary system the scrutiny it deserves, so that we can better see the risks and opportunities in it. (bit of an introduction by Keen to orthodox economics and its blind spots today: )

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