Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts from Affluenza are Consuming Me

I think I've mentioned this before on here, but it bears repeating. Economics is not my thing. I hated the one economics class I was required to take in college, and I've paid little attention to how our economy really works ever since.

So now I'm reading Affluenza. I know it seems to be taking me a while to get through it. There is so much information to take in that is taking me a while. I frequently have to stop and reread passages. Sometimes I have to stop reading altogether because what I've just read is making my head spin.

Such was the case yesterday when the book got me seriously thinking about the Gross National Product. Not just thinking about it, but taking an interest in it. I spent the better part of yesterday, thinking about the GNP (that was of course after I spent the morning shoveling compost). 

Here's the concept I read about yesterday that really grabbed my attention.  In our country the marker of progress is the making of stuff. When we hear the news anchors talking about our Gross National Product, they are talking about the health of our country. 

Here is what I wrote in the margins of my book (I never read nonfiction without a pen and a highlighter). "I have never thought about this before. How dangerous and counterintuitive (if you take the time to listen to your intuition) this seems. We always have to produce more whether or not we need it or our country will fall apart economically. If a majority of the people were to embrace to live simply, it would cause havoc."

Now, not being someone who is particularly schooled on US economic theory, in the past I would have read this and thought "hmmm. I wonder if this is true?" and then forgot about it in the next chapter. 

But my times, they are a changin', and I now think. And I started to connect some economic dots that made me realize that this could be true. Right now our country is in a "recessionary climate" (as opposed to an actual recession, huh?), and our government is not telling us to tighten our belts and wait it out. They aren't scolding us like a good government should and telling us that we lived beyond our means, we made our beds, now lie in them. Instead, they are giving us money, in the form of economic stimulus checks, and telling us to spend more! 

What's going to get out us out this mess? Buying more stuff that we don't really need. Raising our GNP. If we can do that, then we'll appear healthy. 

Perhaps its time we rethought what the indicator of health in the United States is. Because this current indicator seems to be an indicator of insanity. We have more than we could ever need in this country. Sure, I understand that it is not distributed evenly, but the "haves" consuming more and more is never going to fix that. That's a different problem that needs to be fixed. 

To produce more, to consume more, only to keep us "economically healthy" is a never ending vicious cycle that will cause people to always feel the need to work more so they can make more money so they can buy more things. When they've spent all their money on things, they'll have to start working even more to get more. And all of these things that we must buy are contributing to our environmental problems. Insanity.

These are simply my first thoughts on this subject, but I wanted to share them and see if you have any thoughts or words of wisdom. If you do, please share them.
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Decaf, please said...

Hi. It's Peggy from Tree Hugging Family. Great post, and you're brave for reading a book about the economy. That bores me too.

I think that the key is for consumers to send messages to manufacturers with their spending choices. The spending doesn't have to stop altogether, but there will be more of a focus on things like cloth shopping totes instead of plastic bags, organic clothing and food, fuel-efficient cars and natural gardening supplies.

I'm convinced that in most cases there's an eco-friendly alternative to traditional products that may be harmful to the environment. And the more that people ask for those alternatives, the more widely available they will become.

So, maybe the HUMMER dealers would go out of business, but they could start making more efficient cars. There's always another option. The people who are spending just need to send the right messages.

There's a great book on this very topic -- Big Green Purse by Diane MacEachern.

But living simply does mean buying less, so you're right. Our economy might have to do some readjusting somehow.

Robin Shreeves said...

Peggy, thanks for stopping by. What's amazing me about this book is that it's not boring me. It's drawing me in.

I'll have to check out Big Green Purse. Perhaps I'll get it from the library so I don't add to the pile of stuff in my house!