Consumerism: Boon or Bane?

Consumerism is a belief in purchasing goods in ever greater amounts. In plain sight, the principle of consumerism seems to be beneficial to the development of societies. Most simply put, when people purchase more goods, companies generate more revenue, allowing them to grow and hire more workers. Apparently, the presence of consumerism can be seen to be essential to kickstart a virtuous cycle that would generate economic growth for a country.

Undoubtedly, consumerism has its positive effects on the development of countries in general. However, excess spending, the overt purchasing of goods that are not necessary to survival, in today’s society reflects an underlying condition that plagues the world as we know it. Back in the 18th century, the trend of consumerism began sky-rocketing in London. This was because with the rising prosperity and increasing degree of social mobility, more people were seen to have the disposable income for unnecessary consumption. This might seem like a good thing for the Londoners back then, as it might seem like a good thing to the fortunate citizens of developed countries today. However, as developed countries have an increasing amount of disposable income for conspicuous consumption, we see that the general wealth of the world remains relatively unchanged and that international income disparity has increased on a daily basis. While it might not be right to point the finger at consumerism for being the direct cause of poverty in developing countries, we can be sure that by removing this order of consumerism, we can help develop the LEDCs by sharing with them what we deem as our “disposable income”. Thus, it might be right to say that consumerism is a symptom of an increasing economic disparity and one of the factors of poverty in the world.

However, you might say: I come from a developed country, this doesn’t concern me. In reply, I will say it does. As mentioned earlier, consumerism latches on the disposable income of wealthy nations. This income might not be as disposable as it seems, since where this money ultimately draws its value from is the environment around us. This is to say that whatever money we “throw-away” as disposable income to purchase superfluous goods during conspicuous consumption, the Earth loses in terms of its resources. That is, the increasing and often unnecessary demand for certain goods, as propelled by consumerism, has rendered the earth unable to sustain the human population. If this doesn’t worry you — that if we do not get rid of or reduce the extent of consumerism, Man’s future will be bleak — then I’m not sure what will.

I truly apologise for how pessimistically this article paints our future to be, but I hope you have understood my point. Consumerism brings about a short term benefit to the few wealthy developed countries around the world, while having a net negative impact on the world as a whole. Thus, I can safely conclude that blind consumerism brings more harm than good.

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