The Follies of Consumerism

Free samples are an important component of the engine on which consumerism runs. They encourage the consumer who acquires and uses them to purchase an item, not necessarily because she needs it, but because of the enjoyment she derives from using it.

Surely, this is the exact principle on which American consumerism functions. Consumers are encouraged to buy goods and services in increasing amounts, not so much to meet their needs, but to fuel the economy. As a result, rather than the economy existing to serve people’s needs, the people exist to nurture the economy.

Of course this is not desirable. And, in fact, things don’t have to be this way. It is perfectly possible to have a people-centered economy that does consider the welfare of the public as the highest good.

It is also the case that free product samples have a place within that economy. In order for such an economy to gain prominence and thrive, a change in mindset on the part of the average person is desirable.

Consumerism is not a phenomenon limited to America or to the “West”. It has spread to developing countries as well.

As a result of consumerism, a growing class of people worldwide is pushed to accumulate non-essential items, even as their debts pile sky high. The accumulation of these goods does not necessarily translate into a better quality of life.

In many cases, consumerism translates into high-stress, unhealthy lifestyles. Consumerism results in the consumption of highly-processed foods and the degradation of the environment, which in turn bring disease, stress and early death.

The problem with consumerism is that all sorts of economic activities are modified and reshaped to meet the unnaturally high demands for particular goods and services. Thus, activities like factory farming become the norm. This is the case despite the associated disadvantages: the animals are kept in crowded conditions, pumped full of hormones and are vulnerable to disease. Their meat makes unhealthy food when compared to the flesh of livestock that are reared in more humane conditions.

All of these problems can be addressed by returning to the root of the matter: consumption. If the world’s communities reorient themselves toward first meeting basic necessities for all, that will address the great disparities between social classes. The next step would be to reconsider the place of luxuries in society.

Luxuries are just fine as an occasional treat, but they should not be the greatest aspiration of any society. It would make more sense to relegate them to their proper place in community priorities. Then it would be possible to imagine a new economy and to make room in that economy for better use of free samples and the like.

Buying things just to buy things because you have the money to do so is not in any way, shape or form an avenue to happiness.  While a bit a temporary pleasure is derived from the activity of shopping, its end result is always to create more desire for newer and fancier things.

A person who relies upon consuming things in order to maintain a certain level of “happiness” will always find that the end result is more “unhappiness” and a need to find something new to spark their interest and keep them busy enough to avoid the feeling that something is missing in their life.

This may be why many people who have taken this route are now turning to more spiritual things and a more simple lifestyle.  A lot of people have found that getting out of debt and only spending money on things that they really need brings a lot more peace.  A simple lifestyle seems to give a person a better perspective on the important things in life and provides more time and money to help those in a lesser financial position to improve their situation.

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