The death of consumerism?

If you go to frugality blogs, you’ll occasionally see comments from trolls telling the frugal blogger “thanks for wrecking the US economy, buddy”. This was easy to ignore and be skeptical about as late as three months ago, when the live-within-your-means crowd were very much the outliers. What, a bunch of guys who tore up their credit cards were going to wreck consumer spending?

It’s a whole ‘nother story if millions of people, voluntarily or not, tear up their credit cards all at once. In those conditions, there is, to say the least, something to the idea of the paradox of thrift – the notion that what is good for one person (living within your means, cutting down frivolous expenses, saving) can be bad at the collective level.

But it seems to me that there’s more going on than Americans and to a lesser extent (so far) Europeans deciding to be all virtuous about their personal finances out of fear over their own future. The consumer hasn’t just capitulated like that Krugman article I linked to says in its title. I think the consumer has also decided that he or she has had enough. As the blog Of Two Minds says, one of “the structural realities which have yet to play out” is that

7. The U.S. already has too much of everything: too many hotels, malls, office towers, homes, condos, strip-malls, lamps, furniture, CDs, TVs, clothing, etc. As 50 million storage lockers filled to capacity with consumer crap are emptied in a desperate move to reduce expenses and raise cash, the value of literally everything ever manufactured will fall to near-zero.(via Financial Armageddon)

And I think he’s right. The change that is in the air isn’t just economical although that aspect of it may well turn out to be so god-awful that it’s going to block out all other aspects over the next few years. It’s cultural. Over the past few years there’s been a boom in online resources relating to frugality, decluttering and related lifestyle changes; a small house movement has sprung up, and local food has become a fad. As I’ve said before, those issues are related; they reflect a desire to simplify and a realization that enough is enough, that we don’t need to have that much stuff in our lives. Or, alternatively, they reflect a new calvinism for a new era of sobriety, envy and conformity. Take your pick. I’m more inclined to the former but I might end up loathing the tendency a few years down the line.

In any case, I think we just might be seeing consumerism dying in the next couple of years.

One reply on “The death of consumerism?”

  1. Affluenza is Real!

    I know, I am decluttering my house. Its shameful. Where did all this shit come from?!

    There are always trolls everywhere saying something stupid. I had a Bible Beater Troll on my blog last week. I am sure he had just gotten done posting economic crap on the blogs you mentioned.

    Back to your post:
    I really perceive Dominionism to be the root of Conspicuous Consumption.

    Most people believe that Dominionism is a theological issue, but its more than that. Its a way of life. And it encourages this Culture of Entitlement. After all if you are in dominion, if you dominate, are supreme, etc., then you can have it all, and if you dont, then you must be doing it wrong. Dominionism is the product of the unholy union of the Prostestant Work Ethic and Industrialization.

    If the world is your holy oyster to consume at will, until Jesus gives you a new one, well then collecting all that crap, shitting where you eat, polluting the earth, making species extinct and living like there is no tomorrow makes perfect sense. Its like the Bible told them the Earth is training pants. And What do you do with training pants when you are done?

    Economically that just means buy more crap. Nothing is enough, give me more more more. If Money and Things are symbolic of God’s love, then the more you have, the more God must love you.

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