Choking on Consumption  

Posted by Alex Pendragon

I think one of the major problems facing this economy, one which may prove to make a full recovery impossible, is our burgeoning population. Our economy has depended upon the full-tilt spending of the largest group of consumers the world has ever known, which includes all those Indians and Chinese, and when all those people suddenly can't spend like banshees anymore, a chain reaction begins which just any one fix, including throwing "money" at the problem, can't overcome. It's very much like the environment, in which removing one species from the web of life has a detrimental effect all throughout the system. Case in point; the wood products/paper industry in the Pacific NorthWest is in dire straights, not simply because there is less need for wood to build houses, but because there is less demand for cardboard to wrap up all these goodies with, such as electronics (oh, and that includes the plastic packaging that you need scissors to break into) and all that stuff that Amazon.Com ships. The housing collapse effected all of the construction trades, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, plus all those people who deal with real estate and it's associated paperwork, then you head down the line to those who manufacture sinks, ovens, refrigerators, pvc pipe, concrete, etc, etc, etc.............

OK, now all THOSE people are out of work, not only not spending their paychecks, but now drawing on unemployment, food stamps, or whatever program they can to try and survive. Those of us still working pay for all of that, as did those who once held tax-paying jobs. It keeps getting all that money that used to be spent on groceries, clothing, rent, car payments, health insurance premiums, etc, etc, etc, is now gone, so those whose jobs depend on on that now lose THEIR jobs. No, don't worry, unless the whole company goes under, the CEO's of those companies will never suffer....hell, only in America, they will probably get a raise for laying all those people off. We might have defeated the British in 1776, but we never defeated royalty.

Now, you say, fine, you got laid off, too bad, quit whining and go out and find another job. Oh, really? WHAT job? And, even if you DID meet the requirements for another job, so do a whole new crop of people who are in the same boat as you, and only one person gets each job that MIGHT be available. Besides, an economy that is going down the tubes is not creating new jobs, except perhaps in foreclosure departments..

So, one wonders how all this gets turned around and everybody gets to go back to work and try and pick up the pieces. Well, IF and when a recovery occurs, all the new jobs that people find to replace the old ones will pay less, offer fewer if any benefits, and all that experience and seniority you once had is just flat gone; you are starting from scratch just like everybody else. If you're lucky, you will get to return to the very place you got laid off from, working for the same board of bastards that shit-canned you and then gave themselves all raises. Isn't that SPECIAL? Oh, and hopefully, the rent you are paying for your new apartment won't be much higher than the mortgage you were paying for the home you lost to foreclosure.

Oh, and at the first whiff of an economic upturn, gas will head rapidly back up to about $5 a gallon, so let's hope you are not still stuck with that SUV you were tooling around town in before the Depression hit. Not that you'll be able to afford a Toyota, Nissan, or Honda hybrid which have cornered the market with the bankruptcy and disappearance of all of our own auto manufacturers. Boing and Northrop Grumman will go on the block next. Who will be buy our tanks and destroyers from then?

Our entire economic, political, and social system, both here in the West and those of other "persuasions", is self-destructive due to it's reliance on consumerism, and the way that most all of us have to support ourselves. If ever a species needed to learn how to live WITH it's surroundings rather than becoming expert at using it all up, we do. It's quite simple, actually; when deer (prey animals) are not held in check by wolves or hunters (predators), they overpopulate, strip the territory of food, and starve to death. Despite all our wars, natural disasters, and other threats, we continue to increase our numbers with no checks or balances, with the same consequences. We here in the West have never had to face those consequences the way they do in the third world, thus we have ignored the ever-increasing peril we put ourselves in when the system that is straining to sustain us starts to collapse under it's own weight. This intricate weave of goods and services is becoming so complex that none of us entirely understand how it really works, and there comes a time when all the PHD's and bailouts will not put Humpty back together again.

There are so many ways to actually simplify this system we rely on it's not even funny. Smaller farms serving local markets rather than supporting an endless army of middlemen is one example. Locally produced organic and much safer and healthier produce, will raise the income of the people who actually grow the stuff while lowing the cost and carbon footprint. Elimination of pretty manicure lawns in favor of zeroscaped properties would cut down on all the pesticides, herbicides, and over-fertilization that is killing our rivers and ground water. Providing sane alternatives to baby making such as safe and effective contraception, parenting classes, universal health care for those who take responsibility for themselves and their own heath with healthy diet and exercise, genetic screening and counseling, and other measures can drastically reduce the cost of health care and support of children without good families to raise them. But, I think the best thing we can really do is ask all of ourselves a serious question; does owning more and more things really make me happy? Just because one COULD buy something (providing a demand for it) does not necessarily mean one SHOULD buy something, as if simply the very ACT of purchasing some piece of crap is another form of "getting high". The fashion industry is one of our worst offenders, with an endless stream of clothing and assesories such as women's shoes and purses having to be replaced and sent to the landfill just because you owned them for three months. Heaven forbid you get caught wearing a pump that is "soooo yesterday"!

No, really, if you don't understand just how selfish and self-centered that behavior is, as well as the unseen consequences on the whole environment, then you are personally responsible and equally guilty of committing slow murder of everything around you. Remember how previously I described how intricate and interwoven this economy based on consumption is? That bag you payed far to much for that is suddenly out of style.....well......people made that bag and now that it isn't "IN", they lost business and might lose their jobs, just because you, YES YOU, were so fickle about your purse preferences. And to think those people might have been well employed making good, sturdy clothing items that lasted and were affordable.

Another misguided aspect is our failure to promote cooperation between industries to provide the best products for the least cost while employing the most people with the best kinds of jobs. Instead, it's out and out competition, companies pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to "defeat" the competition and steal more market share. As I once said, the REAL reason any business or industry exists is because that's how people support themselves.....NOT because rich people want to plant a money seed and grow a money tree so that they can buy a whole fleet of lear jets. So, instead of falsely claiming to be concerned about how well investors are served (when the truth of the matter is how well the CEO and his board buddies make out), management of ANY company should be comprised of those whose blood, sweat and tears MAKE that company work, and whose choices have a direct impact upon their own fortunes. A worker in a car factory is going to want to make the best damn car he can, because THAT will satisfy the customer and insure the worker a better standard of living. If the WORKER doesn't work hard enough and takes an excess amount of compensation for his labors, then HE will suffer the consequences and only has HIMSELF to blame, not that blood sucking CEO or his supposed concern for "investors". The stock market is a sham that is actually more responsible for economic downturns than any other instrument in the whole process. So, until we eliminate the whole concept of corporations and their boards of entitled royalty, there will never be economic justice and the endless cycle of economic downturns will continue.

But, that's just me..........what do I know?

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 4, 2008 at Thursday, December 04, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

5 slick comments


you know what I heard yesterday? In Canada, in the last census (last year), 1 in 46 Canadians now lives on a farm, the median age of a farmer is now 66 AND there are more livestock on farms now .... in 1930, 1 in 3 Canadians lived on a farm .... I find that scary...

December 4, 2008 at 10:24 AM

You make some good points.

December 4, 2008 at 11:01 AM

I love the way you think; you make perfect sense. I have several friends, including one carpenter, who are underemployed and underpaid because of this economy. Trickle down economics... meh.

December 4, 2008 at 11:44 AM

Excellent, Michael! Really. Things will change now because they have to just as they did in the 30s. Hopefully people will pay closer attention to the following failure of us as a people that occurred after the first depression instead of abusing those times of thriving that came after the first depression by regressing again into another period of unsustainable consumption.

Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.

December 4, 2008 at 12:21 PM

I suppose it won't help to have me say I got totally distracted by those green-suited geese? No?

I don't think buying something new now and agin is the problem - it's the endless quest for the next new thing that gets in our way. "I'm a Libra, so I say balance, balance, balance." (Ani Difranco)

December 4, 2008 at 8:03 PM

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