“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.”
Economist Victor Lebow writing in The Journal of Retailing in 1955, quoted by Richard Heinberg in his book “Afterburn”.

As offensive as the statement above might be to many people, it fairly sums up the direction our society has taken in the past century.  We are currently locked into a pattern of high and ever-growing consumption obvious to the impacts on the planet and on the health of our society and the people in it.

Our endless consumption takes the form of:

  • throw-away or disposable goods
  • large houses
  • expansive suburbs
  • our globe-trotting travel habits
  • large, powerful cars driven great distances

All point to an expectation of endless consumption without penalty. The growth-forever paradigm serves the elites well as it creates the conditions under which their wealth will grow the fastest. For the remainder of the population, a fascination with material goods masks the underlying weaknesses of:

  • debt
  • resource depletion
  • long work hours
  • diminishing quality of life 

The fantasy of a retail economist of the 1950’s can no longer form the guiding light of a progressive society in 2016. Over-consumption lies at the heart of many of our current fiscal, social and environmental problems. The metrics by which a consumer society is controlled are completely distorted optics for viewing national and individual welfare.

As we move towards a conserver society, we can more plainly see how unsustainable consumerism is and how counter to social progress it has driven us.