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On Consumerism and the American Way

Posted by Kevin on August 22, 2011
Posted in Economy  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

On Consumerism and the American Way

/*  Originally posted on November 14th, 2008, but I still agree! */

Somehow, I think we Americans took a wrong turn many decades ago. Its my understanding that near the end of the Great Depression, we were encouraged by the politicians of the time to go out and buy something to spur the economy. It worked! However, back then, most things we bought were American made and therefore the money circulated within our own economy. Over the years, the percentage of our economy that has been based on consumerism has grown, and the percentage of products we purchase that are American made has shrunk (just try and find non-food staples that are Made-In-America these days).

This just seems wrong. Consumerism should be the fruit of our labors, not the most significant economic factor. We need to get back to making things, producing, and using that income to buy things.

Of course, having a balanced budget, and making payments towards retiring our national debt (now over $28,000 per man, woman, and child), are priorities closely related to shifting the balance of our labors.

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On sustainability, oil, consumerism, and the American way of life...

Originally posted on November 28th, 2007.

Yeah… that’s a lot to talk about, but I have some strong feeling that I thought I’d post.

First, sooner rather than later we need to learn how, at least as an American society but eventually as a species, to live in balance with the planet. Its my understanding that approximately half of the oil predicted to be contained in the planet has already been pumped and burned. We did most of that since about 1920. For a large part of that time, the USA was the biggest consumer. In the last decade or so, China and India have been trying desperately to catch up. Some provinces in China, for instance, have banned e-bikes on the flimsy excuse their lead based batteries pollute – but cars are just fine! In any case, we are sucking the planet dry much faster now than in years past. What took us 80 years to do (the first 1/2 of the planets oil), I fear we are likely to match in the next 15 or so years.

Of course, hydrogen is the long term solution – but hydrogen takes power to produce, power generated today by gas, coal, and oil. Nuclear Fission plants could help – but I’m believe this is only about 100 year supply of Uranium on the planet AT CURRENT UTILIZATION RATES. E.g. Use the Uranium 10X faster, and 100 years becomes 10. Nuclear Fusion would be a nice long term solution – but we have been working on that for decades with little progress.

Wind and solar can make up about 15% of our need, shy of some unparallelled improvement in solar cell performance.

Conservation, as most people think of it, isn’t going to do it either. I think we need to learn to live on something like 1/5th the power we use today, not just a little bit less – a WHOLE LOT less.

Perhaps technology will help, at least for some workers. The Information Age employees a large number of people that honestly could work from home if they had good teleconferencing and collaboration systems. If those folks could truly never have to come into work, they could forgo cars altogether if they lived in a city with other services within walking distance.

Such changes will not be popular. The “Will of the People” can not be served and achieve this. Democracy is going to have a hard time doing this. Imagine a politician that recommended highways be REDUCED in traffic capacity to encourage more people to work from home! If he wasn’t shot, he sure would never get re-elected.

Running out of oil will probably be the savior of many politician’s careers though. It will be SO dramatic, it will overshadow our consumerism economy collapsing. Sure, in the great depression, buying things was a great way to reignite the economy – the vast majority of the money simply flowed from hand-to-hand. Today it flows from hand-to-China. We gave them the money, but buying their lower cost products, for them to in turn buy $1T (yes, that’s 1000 Billion dollars) of our debt. Now we can’t afford to tick them off, or they can retaliate and crush our economy. We basically sold them the USA one Barbie Doll at a time. We don’t need a balanced budget, we need a healthy surprise to pay down our national debt!!! Only then will we truly be in control of our economy, and our national priorities, again. Instead, today we fight a $250 Billion/Year war in Iraq that we borrow money to fund. It was recently reported that next year, its predicted we will spend about $1 MILLION PER SOLDIER in Iraq! This is not sustainable. We will bankrupt ourselves trying to do the “right thing”.

I’d like to think the world will be a better place for my children, but I fear at best it will be a very different place. I suspect the Amish have it right – or at least they are closer than we are. Faith aside, they live a much more sustainable lifestyle than most of the rest of the USA.

Me? I’m planning on exploiting the system for the very selfish goal of providing a foundation for MY family to survive the upcoming change. Surviving is fundamental. I seriously fear many will not. I can’t guarantee my family will – but I can try and tip the balance in their favor. This is at least part of why we have recently purchased land, and will soon be domesticating it into something like an Amish farm – fairly self supporting. Good luck to the rest of you.

Kevin

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