Article and Interview at Metro International 11/25

Forthwith a sidebar interview and a short article on consumer spending to appear tomorrow, 11/25, in Metro International, which supposedly has a circulation of 17 million worldwide.
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Do we really need more things?

The argument is not about things–we’ve always expressed ourselves through objects–it’s about commodities. What we do with the things?  At work, as producers, we’re means to the end of growth or careers. Outside of work, we can treat people as ends in themselves. Consumers have more integrity than producers in this sense.

Is there a danger we have become too obsessed with consumption?

Sure, if we’re hoarding stuff in the garage.  But we’ve become too obsessed with production–work harder, save more–in the last four years.  We need to see that consuming goods is better for us than producing goods, in every way.  There’s this idea that we empty ourselves into objects in the consumer culture.  We’re not not emptying ourselves, we’re just finding ourselves.

Are Walmart and Starbucks evil?

I think Walmart is disturbing and distressing. However, it has reduced the cost of being a consumer to an extraordinary extent. People are saving part of their meager incomes because they can.  Should we accuse them of hypersonsumerism?

What is the best way to increase growth?

Money needs to move from so-called investors to consumers. In the long run, what is needed is a radical redistribution of income. Better wages, for two reasons: consumer demand and long term growth, and secondly, we need to take money away from the people who created the crisis. There’s still too much money in speculative hands.
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The article follows

To Shop or Not to Shop?

Do we have too much stuff or are we not spending enough?
Buy Nothing Day urges us to spend a day without spending

If you feel like taking time out from the shopping frenzy of today’s society you are not alone. On Saturday people celebrate International Buy Nothing Day by, precisely, buying nothing at all.

American activist ‘Reverend Billy’ is the passionate leader of Stop Shopping Church. He encourages us not to give any money to the large banks which he calls ‘gambling casinos in the sky’, and buy as local as we can. “Whenever you buy something from Marks and Spencer you give money to the money market. Bring it back home, go local,” he says.

Will a Christmas without shopping be as fun though? According to Reverend Billy, you don’t have to buy a gift to give a gift: “You don’t have to get into a traffic jam and join the crowds of consumers with dollar signs in their eyes. Drive the demons from the cash machines!”

Then there are people who think we shop too little. Economic History Professor James Livingston is one of them. He is the author of the new book ‘Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is good for the Economy, the Environment, and your Soul.’

“Why shouldn’t we be spending? There is no growth in the absence of consumer spending. The resistance to consumer culture needs to go,” says Livingston. He explains: “The current crisis is due to the fact that we shifted away from consumption to saving.”

Livingston continues: “Consumerism is a creative force. We can afford to be our brothers keeper. We don’t have to be worried; we have the capacity and goods to deliver.”

The professor is aware he is arguing against wisdom. “I think right now somebody has to make this argument. Austerity is not the way to go,” he concludes.

It’s the twentieth Buy Nothing Day since the event started in 1991.

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