Un-Merry Christmas: The Perverse Incentives to Over-Consume and Over-Spend

Few topics are off-limits nowadays: the personal and private are now splashed everywhere for all to see.

One topic is still taboo: the holiday’s perverse incentives to over-consume and over-spend,lest our economy implode. This topic is taboo because it strikes at the very heart of our socio-economic system, which is fundamentally based on permanent growth, the faster the better, as if unlimited expansion on a finite planet is not just possible, but desirable.

In the current Mode of Production, the solution to every social and economic ill is to “grow our way out of it.”

The solution to unemployment: jump-start growth by expanding consumption, spending and borrowing.

The solution to stagnant wages: jump-start growth.

The solution to declining profits: jump-start growth.

The solution to government deficit spending: jump-start growth.

And so on.

So what happens when most people have not just the basics of life, but a surplus of stuff? Where is the growth going to come from if people already have everything?

The answer is three-fold:

1. Replace a perfectly good product with a new product and dump the old one in the landfill.

2. Buy duplicates and put the surplus products in the closet or storage facility.

3. Buy gimmicks (Pet Rocks, etc.) that are tossed in the dump shortly after the holiday gift-giving season ends.

But does this Landfill Economy make sense? The cheap oil is about gone, and so does it make any rational sense to burn the last of the cheap fossil fuels on assembling stuff nobody needs in China, shipping it thousands of miles to retailers or Amazon warehouses, adding it to the immense piles of stuff most households already own, and then shipping the old but still functional products to the landfill, just to keep the economy humming?

This is of course insane. Decisions aren’t being made as if scarcity matters; the goals and incentives are set to encourage perverse and destructive overconsumption and overspending: not only are we squandering resources in the sacrifice to the false gods of “growth,” we’re indebting households to do so, stripping income that could have been saved and invested in productive uses.

In the lunatic asylum of the current economic model, media anchors sport grins of delirious joy when reporting increases in holiday spending, as if a bump higher from $680 billion to $700 billion is a gargantuan win for the flailing economy.

Wasting resources, capital and income on stuff nobody really needs is a monumental disaster on multiple fronts. Rather than establish incentives to conserve and invest wisely, our system glorifies waste and the destruction of income and capital, as if burning time, capital, resources and wealth on stuff nobody needs is strengthening the economy.

Isn’t it obvious that this system is a one-way path to collapse? Isn’t it obvious that burning resources and capital to haul stuff to the landfill at an ever-increasing rate is madness, folly, recklessness and stupidity combined?

Isn’t it obvious that if we set out to design the most perverse, toxic and doomed system possible, we’d end up with the Keynesian Cargo Cult’s insane permanent growth/Landfill Economy?

It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve sketched out a sustainable, human-scale Mode of Production/way of living in my two books, Money and Work Unchained and A Radically Beneficial World.

A new arrangement is inevitable. Our choice boils down to changing our understanding and Mode of Production now, before the whole perverse structure falls apart, or waiting for scarcities and self-serving systems to collapse the current arrangement, leaving the ill-prepared and shell-shocked populace to sift through the wreckage.

Common sense suggests the first option is the wiser choice, but common sense is scarce in a world trapped in a bizarre Keynesian madness. 

I’m offering my new book Money and Work Unchained at a 10% discount ($8.95 for the Kindle ebook and $18 for the print edition) through December, after which the price goes up to retail ($9.95 and $20).

Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

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  • Pharaoh of Egypt

    It is all about Slavery.

    You see, people are like Fish … I was an Expert Fisherman. I could catch a fish in a puddle! People will react “got to have it” to any shiny object like a fish; so the elites figured the whip was too costly and there was profit to be made ( interest) by offering the slaves “uselss shiny objects” to make them feel rich.

    Naturally, the slaves cannot buy “anything” because they are poor. So, they ( elites) came up with a solution: Credit. Credit was invented ( modern style credit) by the roman empire as a way to make citizens slaves. Not only will it give the slaves the ability to enslave themselves; but there is also Interest assigned to slave credit to ensure that they can never fully repay ( means plenty of cheap labor) without going broke and making the slave masters RICH.

    You see, America, there is a reason you have a pyramid with the eye of Horus on the back of your Dollar, It is called a Dedication. and it shows the God you serve. You are all slaves to Mammon.

    Christmas is an Abomination. Any true Christian would see the writing on the wall and stop buying Crap to Support another gods Kingdom. However, Christians are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Sad.

    Merry Christmas …. NOW … ‘GET BACK TO WORK!!”

    • Sparticus

      Oh, and to the Silly Little Man who does not like Religion, Let Me Explain it to You? I believe Religions because they make more sense than Evolution Theory; besides, if you want to be related to an APE … Well, that is testimony to an Eternal Insult portrayed upon mankind by Evolution. Your Choice.

      Now, all of mankind ( ALL) cannot even account for:.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the Constructs in the Universe, Much Less in Time and Dimensional Space. So … The Math is on My Side and It says, ” I am correct.” Sorry, but I am not a Monkey.

      I know you cannot argue or debate me because I am just too far ahead of your little league. And, if I catch you insulting me behind my back again …. I`m gonna take my belt of on You.

      If you have something to say, ” SAY IT TO ME, Only cowards go around like scared little girls and talk behind someones back.

      • Nexusfast123

        I reject religion as a construct. Happy for you to believe what you like.

        • Sparticus

          You can believe what you like. Putting your faith in mankind is like putting it in an Ape; So, You may be correct? All of mankind cannot even list all the constructs on the Earth, so, You atheists are really looking sad.

          • Sparticus

            Clarification ….

            Oh, and I do hate online communication because it is hard to convey humor, wit, sarcasm or anything else. However, Humans are good for lying and manipulating religion; but you have to know how to read the book to get the answers.

            One line … Genesis 2: 22-24 Gives Gods “Fingerprint” and Authorship of the Inspired Word. Translating it takes skill. This is all a test.

            Religions are Garbage but there are bits of truth scattered ( just like the human Genome) to the four-winds and four corners. Nevertheless, from what we know,today, and can do today with the Human Genome there can be no doubt that the scriptures have Gods Signature. We can create woman from a mans rib today. This has been done, and more, with animals and the procedures are identical. Science is only a basic religion but it is catching up!

            The Chance of a Fairy Tale having such precise metaphor ( and more) for human cloning … ZERO. Now, did the Romans mess with the BOOK … Sure, and that is why one must be wise to read it. I dislike Religion too. However, I keep an open mind and take nothing for granted; especially, when all of mankind knows so little. We are the peanut Gallery.

  • kimyo

    if you zoom out further, the problem is that essentially every single human organization sees growth as being fundamental to its survival.

    imagine the pope embracing contraception. (if he is serious about the threat presented by ‘carbon’, he must do so, today). would the catholic church ever be fine with fewer catholics next year, the year after, and after?

    would david swanson be fine with fewer peace protestors next year, the year after?

    how many colleges would sign up for annual reductions in enrollment?

    how many cities would be ready to cap their populations (ie: tax revenue base) at current levels?

    humanity and the earth would greatly benefit if al bartlett’s arithmetic, population, energy was required viewing in every high school across the globe.

    bartlett quotes:

    Dumb growth destroys the environment. Smart growth destroys the environment. The difference is that smart growth destroys the environment with good taste.

    the lesson is that zero population growth is going to happen. now we can debate whether we like zero population growth or don’t like it. it’s gonna happen whether we debate it or not. whether we like it or not.

  • Jed Grover

    This household does not participate in this economic exploitation. We view as another family day.

  • ICFubar

    All this economic mantra of ‘growth’ is mandatory to pay back ever increasing debt loads because all money and credit is created as debt. The debt rises faster than growth, the only thing saving this ponzi monetary system is that debt is paid back over time or put another way borrowing from future earnings. If future earnings do not arrive in a ‘growth’ function then the system begins to break down or goes into collapse.

    Mainstream economists have said the reason for economic stagnation is because of lack of population growth (demand) and a lack of innovation by engineers (new product supply). This is of course a load of codswallop.

    An interesting look at how money and banking affect our current economic construct is revealed in this animated documentary which also contains a look at various solutions to the present paradigm.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AC6RSau7r8

    There are several more videos to this series found on youtube.

  • Tom Paine

    In biology an uncontrolled growth is called a cancer.