It may have passed you by, but Saturday was Buy Nothing Day, a movement whipped up by the anti-consumerist organization AdBusters. They claim that “there’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth; we have to consume less”. The day “highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of shopping” promising that “for 24 hours you’ll get your life back”.
AdBusters has long campaigned on the evils of neoclassical economics and the way in which it has caused cataclysmic climate change, exploitation of developing countries and huge global inequality. However, no matter how much the group may hate today’s society, encouraging people to grind the capitalist system to a halt would of course perpetuate the problems they profess to be so concerned about.
Without the West’s ‘irresponsible’ consumption habits, developing countries would be a lot worse off. Without the soulless global corporations sucking at the pool of cheap labour, many ‘exploited’ workers would have no job at all. Workers wages help them to feed and clothe their family, and boost the income of those around them. Also, those in developing countries acquire new skills and technology that can be used to aid development. The success of the Tiger Economies show that working with a Western economic system is better than rallying against it.
Moving towards a culture of Buying Nothing will also do zilch to address climate change. Consumption leads to the creation of wealth; and increasing wealth is exactly what is needed to deal with the issue. Buying Something leads to the creation of new, better, cheaper and cleaner products. Created wealth is invested in things such as green technology and research into geo-engineering projects. Without an economic system that relies on consumption, we would be sitting in the dark and cold, paying penance for our forefather’s environmental ignorance.
Encouraging a decline in consumption is deluded, dangerous and thankfully impossible. The promise of rediscovering the true you from a day of suppressed spending is utterly daft; our economic system has evolved because it is best at serving our needs and desires. AdBusters claim that if you persist in your sacrifice of shopping “you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world.” However, all that would be transcended would be all sense of reason. The rejection of a consumption-based economy would change the world, but for the worse.