Not the end of consumerism

This article in the Business section of the New York Times is interesting, as it illustrates the difficulty that the mainstream media still have in coming to terms with the idea that living simply and buying less can make one happy.

There are glimmers of clarity in the article – for example, the opening paragraphs discuss a couple’s journey of downsizing their income, consumption and debts, in order to get the life and jobs they want. It ends with the wise observation from one partner “I really believe that the acquisition of material goods doesn’t bring about happiness”.

This is good stuff. At this point, there is a great opportunity to show how many people are realising that the rat race (including the search for ever greater income), is not for them, and that building a life around your priorities and the things that really matter to us rather than the pursuit of money can bring us greater happiness and fulfilment.

The article doesn’t do this however. Far from being a timely challenge to consumerism and the rat race, it jumps from a call to ‘buy fewer material goods’ to a suggestion to ‘buy more services and experiences’. This is not about downsizing at all – it is just shifting your spending.

Perhaps it is asking too much of the business section of a mainstream publication to question the pursuit of wealth and consumption, but it is a shame to see an article start so promisingly and then miss the point so spectacularly. It will also lead many readers to miss the point, at a time when we could all benefit from living off less.

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