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Who Profits from Over-Consumption?

Consumerism is vigorously promoted by giant corporations, advertising agencies and the media, the goal being to sell us as many products as possible for the sole purpose of maximizing their profits.

The banking and financial systems willingly fund consumers, manufacturers, and advertisers, giving ostensibly cheap credit, which perpetuates the system. Consumerism also creates substantial income for national budgets, as countries tax every link in the chain of consumption. That is, even the government has become an element that encourages excessive consumption and aspires to increase it. It engages in this for economic reasons and because the sense of abundance and numerous choices increase citizens’ satisfaction with how the government functions thus enhancing its chances of being reelected.

According to Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, England, “It’s a story about us, people, being persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.” [53]

A prime example of this is the U.S., which “sanctifies” private consumption and whose system is built to preserve and enhance that consumption. Private consumption makes up approximately 70% of the GDP. It has become the primary growth engine of the American economy.

While the term, “consumerism,” may sound “clean,” perhaps even desirable for some less developed countries, it is simply a polite term for an addiction to shopping, superficial values, financial household recklessness, and questionable morals when it comes to prioritizing. We deplete our natural resources such as water and energy in order to produce needless things. We work longer hours chasing after money that eventually buys us redundancies that only provide transient satisfaction.

We call our work life “the rat race” or “modern day slavery.” We have grown accustomed to communicating in brand names, using them to convey messages about our social and financial status. Which brands one buys, and how much of them, have become parameters that define one’s standard of living. We use it to learn about others—what they can afford, what they like, the social environment that they are in, and so on.

[53] Tim Jackson, “Tim Jackson's economic reality check,” TED, Ideas Worth Spreading (October 2010),

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