You may believe that a steady-state economy cannot happen. Or perhaps you have doubts about it’s full-fledged ability to “rule” as the new standard. Whatever the case, you are still a consumer to some extent, right? We still need to eat, you still need clothes, you still need certain things to conduct a happy life (regardless of whether you like the idea of needing stuff for happiness). Sometimes it is difficult to not buy the new and improved computer for work (or play)…
This underlying need to buy food, clothing, and other essentials (arguably, the computer is not really essential) – these are the very things that will keep our economy moving, especially as we transition into a sustainable economy.
In the meantime… Realize that every dollar you spend goes into someone’s pocket, where it will be spent again. Some of these “secondary expenditures” are often vastly different in both size and intent than your original purchase. You may be buying organic food/clothing, but where you buy is just as important as what you buy. Where is that money going that you spend?
Do you shop for deals at Wal-Mart? That money goes to a small, immensely rich family. They donate very little of their giant personal incomes (unless it helps on the taxes, which try to reduce each year by lobbying for personal tax cuts). They pay their employees the minimum wage and only provide benefits when required to by law (often forcing employees to work part time to be excluded from benefits). This family uses up our resources for wasteful ventures. This family is, without a doubt, far richer than they need to be (now second only to Bill Gates). They are also, without a doubt, a prime example of the liquidating class.
The liquidating class: the upper 1% of the economy that uses the resources and natural capital for non-essential wants. They use the very resources we use, but in such a quantity and at such a rate that will make it much more difficult for our grandchildren, and likely our children or even our own generation, to have much left for a future.
I should also mention that the cost savings you gain is actually paid by someone else. The savings is taken in wages from the workers who fabricated the item, from the checker who is forced to work part-time to save the company from providing benefits. The story of our stuff is thoroughly depressing if you choose to spend your money poorly. If you must spend, spend your money wisely…
So not only think about what you buy, but where you buy. How you spend your money is just as important (if not more so) in our growth-centered capitalism, as your vote on election day.
What you buy steers what will be produced in the future. The increased consumption of a specific good or service encourages the producer/provider to make more of or improve that good in the future. If you buy organic, you encourage more organic products. If you purchase plastic, you encourage the production of more plastic.
Where you buy determines, to a large degree, how your money will be spent with the next exchange. If you buy locally, sustainably made garments or organically grown foods, that next purchase is more likely to be spent locally in the next round. If you buy from a large chain, that money is likely to be siphoned off into the hands of a few already wealth executives. They will likely spend that money on a large yacht or a house on an island – all far away from the community you live in, and all hampering your ability to improve the quality of your life, you children’s lives, in the future.
Think about what you buy, as well as where you buy it. Do you want to make the rich richer? Or would you prefer to make your community richer? Spend your money wisely, but do not be swayed by a item a few dollars cheaper at the chain store – you owe it to yourself, your children, and your grandchildren to spend your money wisely, even if it is a little more now. The best investments are often a little more up-front. Do some research on where your money goes.
Your vote counts, but (most likely) your dollar counts more. Barack Obama just mentioned this in his book, The Audacity of Hope, “If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.” (pp 68)
Do you believe in a future for your grandchildren that includes natural capital like trees, grown food, and clean air? Then perhaps you should put your money where your mouth is and support the policies and people that can ensure such a future.