Like a hamster on a wheel we are running faster and faster to stay where we are. For businesses to be successful they need to sell more. To sell more they have to be cheaper and to be cheaper they have to manufacture at a lower cost.
Common wisdom says that to make something cheaper you have to make it in bulk. Doing so reduces the cost of manufacture per item as set up and management overheads are spread among more units. Having made so many you need to make sure you sell them and so money is spent on advertising to create a want for the product, offers are added to incentivise people to buy and we all end up consuming more than we should. We over consume.
The system is broken. Over consumption is bad for the planet in that it wastes resources. It is bad for us humans as we end up filling our lives with meaningless stuff and it is ultimately bad for the manufacturers as the whole system will one day come crashing down on their heads. The system is unsustainable.
A better balance needs to be struck. We need to consume less and buy things that we need, not just those that we want. This is a fine line however, as it is very easy to justify anything. If we want it then we need it, yet simple things can be done, such as only buy a 2 for 1 offer if you know you are going to eat whatever it is, or make it a rule to throw out an item of clothing when you buy it’s replacement. Avoid things that make you buy more than you intended. A small amount of discipline can overcome the constant craving to purchase.
Indeed, some of this may already be happening. The struggle on the high street is well documented, with much of the blame on online trading, yet some of it may well be down to us falling out of love with consumerism. Perhaps, but it is certainly early days.
What then needs to be done? We need to consume less, we need to buy things that are more durable, we need to mend things that are broken and we need to think each time before we buy something new. My understanding of economics suggests that as demand drops then prices would fall but this needs to be turned upside down. To keep society functioning we need to buy less yet pay more for it. The same money but fewer goods.