The topic of anti-consumeurism is a topic close to my heart. After all, I am a consumer.
I know, I know, you’re thinking “duh Franc, everyone is a consumer.” This is correct. However, many people are anti-consumeurism, even though they are also consumers. They treat consumption more like a gambling or drug problem than a natural part of living in society.
What does it mean to live in society? It is a basic moral decision. We decide, implicitly or explicitly, to live in society because we understand that we can only fulfill our values to a certain limited extent when we act in isolation. Some people would no doubt be very happy living in isolation, but most of us wouldn’t, otherwise society would never form to begin with. Our ancestors joined their efforts because they realized that greater benefits could only come with cooperation and its accompanying inter-dependence. Once we mix our efforts together, we necessarily also mix our interests.
The market is the highest expression of cooperation and inter-dependence. Under its aegis, hundreds of thousands of people, millions in some cases, cooperate in order to make such trivial-looking things as pencils. Why do they get together? Not because they love everyone, or out of charity, but because they profit from it. Some people profit from knowing a little bit of the production process, and sell their work for a profit. Others do the same, for a different part of the process. When we look at the finished product, we observe that all of these people acted as they did because they profited from it. The end result is that someone buys a pencil because he needs it to write things. The price of the pencil reflects the efficacy of the process in each of its parts, the availability of the raw material, the existence of competing products, and so on.
We consume because we prefer to reap the fruits of the labour of hundreds of thousands of people than to reap only our own. That’s basically all that it reduces to!
Who benefits most from this ultra-efficient division of labour? Those who have the least resources. They are the ones who benefit most from progress. The upper classes are most able to bear the cost of inefficiency through the sheer accumulation of resources. If we look at history, we find that progress has equalized society, not divided it. Look at the difference between yourself and Bill Gates. Now look at the difference between a king and a peasant, or later between an industrialist and a factory worker. What progress does is spread wealth around, making technology available to all. While we obviously have wildly differing levels of freedom, Bill Gates and I benefit from the same products, technologies and the same general standard of living. The differences between an upper-class nobleman and a lower-class peasant, to us, seem in comparison abysmal.
If we look at our modern society, it is the ability to mass produce which has served the poor, not isolated action. The reason why we are all, apart from the welfare class which serves a specific political purpose, able to live surrounded by such technology is because other people profit from it and competition and technological progress, in the long run, ensure that prices will keep going down (with the exception of heavily unionized production, such as houses and cars, but even they become more and more advanced even though their prices remain stable).
People who hate malls, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, or any other form of cheap mass production, hate the poor, because they are the ones who use their services the most. Poor people are the most sensitive to price changes, because their pool of resources is more limited than everyone else’s. And since lower prices also permit us to do more with our money, to fulfill more of our values, they also oppose individualism (I am not saying that they do so explicitly, although many of them do). Consumption gives people in third-world “countries” their first opportunity to transcend the oppression of their culture- either by moving away, or by having the freedom to live closer to the way they want without having to rely on their family or community.
The idea that they offer sub-standard employment is a bullshit argument. They pay as much as any other similar business- in fact, they have an incentive to force the market to pay MORE for employment. Wal-Mart supports minimum wage hikes because its administration knows very well that they can bear higher wages but their competition can’t. So they use the State in order to try to bankrupt the competition.
Greed is the fuel of progress. Giving totally free expression to people’s desires to better their life is the only true social justice. And globalization does this on a global scale, now as it did thousands of years ago. Globalization is not a new phenomena, but the hatred for freedom and progress manifested by the Greenies and other statist believers is unprecedented. If they had their way, they would repress all individuality or technology in the name of culture and the environment. This is why we need to take down the State.