Why Anti-Consumption?

Anti-consumption is often misunderstood, often taken by some to mean some sort of life trapped in a cabin in some remote mountain, guarded by leagues of pines, concealing your fate to a remote corner of the world.  In fact there are some good reasons to jail the Visa, serve a pink slip to the mall and quit drinking wheatgrass.

1) Money

Money, money, money. The oxygen of our society, the oil of our culture.  Money binds us and keeps things going. It keeps some crawling over a desert of broken glass to obtain it. The absence of it has turned some into emaciated dogs, starved of the simplest material pleasures.Realistically, any stab at having a normal life requires keeping the lines filled with some money.  Money is the electrical pulse that keeps modern life ticking and we have a ridiculous amount of ways to blow our money.  The fundamental problem that confronts us, we are beings with many wants (or unlimited, according to orthodox economics) with a very finite amount of resources.

Atop our prism of self-control, many spill their bags of coin on the short term.  Short term gratification versus long term gratification, is the paradigm that helps explain why some are so recklessly careless with money.  Some of course will say, “you can’t take it with you”.  That’s true, you can’t take money to the great “beyond” (or great nothingness), but for many who do make it to old age, there is one day where you cannot work anymore.  One day your bones will grow old, your ability to sense oncoming storms will be greatly improved.  Walking around will become an arduous chore, a harrowing adventure.  All of sudden clocking in 8 hours at the dirt factory will be a hellish experience, befit to the damned.  Anti-consumerism, anti-consumption, frugality, all help you control the cash injector valve.   There is probably a hundred trillion ways to better spend money than buying some bull shit.  A place to live, a vehicle maybe, freedom from work, retirement.   Anti-consumption allows you to appreciate the value of not endlessly consuming, the positive externality is that your wallet potentially is flush with money that would’ve been spent otherwise.


2) Happiness

Happiness™, it’s what we’re after right?   It’s a business unto itself.   Some have become personal tyrants, rampant consumption, constant consumption to keep the negative feelings away.  Like a heroin addict looking for one more hit, consumption hits off the dopamine.  The life of the consumer, one where the consumer is obsessed with the endless pursuit of buying things will not increase happiness.

Anti-consumption allows people to cast off the unnecessary impulse of constantly buying stuff and lets you focus more on things that make people happy, relationships, community, and self-improvement.


3) Minimalism

Focus less on materialism, focus less on acquiring things, a minimalist life is one about having less.  Things get simpler with less things, like a computer trying to render complex scenery, the less items, the easier it is to do so.  Things are cognitively taxing.   More things don’t equate to happiness. You probably know someone who has to have the newest toys, appliances, or whatever.  The endless pursuit of acquiring goods is tantamount to rolling a boulder up a hill, just to see it roll back down.

4) Responsible Ownership

Anti-consumption, isn’t necessarily anti-stuff.  I think many in the anti-consumption crowd would advocate for people to be better informed about the stuff they already have or seek to have.  Anti-consumption means, better knowledge about what they have, how to fix it (if possible), and ultimately take better care of what you have.  For most things, it’s a smart idea to buy something that lasts for a long time rather than re-buying it 20 times.  Although, I’ll add as an aside that the BIFL (buy it for life) crowd isn’t a perfect paragon of anti-consumption virtue (more on that in an upcoming article).

5) Environmental

Notice, my first four points are focused to you the individual, but there are ways that consuming less is better for all.   Our way of living is focused on the short term.  Corporations live and die by the quarterly earnings, meaning that  there aren’t many incentives to think long  that’s not to say that corporations never focus on the long term, but they always have incentives for the easy route.  We know that rampant production has caused grievous environmental harm, with so many examples it is difficult to know where to start.  For instance, mining for electronic elements is extremely toxic for communities that have to suffer it.  China, where much of global production is occurring, is largely powered by coal power, coal is one of the largest contributors of carbon.  Unless you’re the Heritage Foundation, the rest of us in the real world know that climate change is a pressing challenge and our way of life will be challenged at some point.

6) Ethical consideration for labour

The sweat shop paradox.  Sweat shops have enabled disenfranchised people to have some very limited economic prosperity.  While many might just shrug their shoulders They would be worse off without the sweat shops, there are many who think their predicaments are a travesty of justice.  Some embrace anti-consumption as a way of protesting treatment of labour in the global south.   Some with anti-consumption mindset might take to buying more ethical commodities.

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