The Future of Consumption: Part II

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To: consumerforum@motherjones.com
From: eric_umansky

Bill, it’s comparatively easy to decide on your own to use less (the “to each their own” model). But it seems to me that potentially avoids having to answer some tougher questions. What happens if people don’t follow your own path to voluntary reduction in consumption?

If reducing consumption is that important—if hyperconsumption doesn’t just reduce the happiness of person who buys too much stuff but also has negative repercussions for society in general—then shouldn’t we try and come up with some policies that can help us move away from hyperconsumption as a society?

I mean, that’s one of the reasons we have a government. You have to pay taxes. You can’t physically attack people; you can’t dump toxic chemicals; in some cities, recycling is required. All because sometimes constraints are put the individual in order that society on the whole might benefit (or at least not be harmed). If hyperconsumption really is leading us down a road to disaster (and “represents our deepest problem,” as Bill says in his article), then wouldn’t we need something stronger than a voluntary effort?

God only knows what those policies look like. Any ideas or suggestions?

Bill, is skiing that close for you? Impressive.

 

To: consumerforum@motherjones.com
From: bill_mckibben

Should the government get involved to force such changes? I don’t even think it’s a question. The moment a democratic government could rouse itself to do such a thing would be the moment it was no longer necessary—the moment when a substantial majority of us had decided to do something slightly different with our lives.

As for skiing nearby—it’s right out the door, provided you’re willing to break trail. Of course there’s no store, bar, theater, health club, or bagel bakery anywhere in the vicinity (all of which makes reducing consumption somewhat easier).

The Forum Part II: Searching for Solutions 1 2 3 4

The Forum Part I: Defining the Problem

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And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

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