POSITIVES OF CONSUMERISM
Consumerism is an economic and societal way of viewing and understanding the economy, which focuses on the idea of the consumption of a steady supply of goods and services by the citizens of a given country. The consumption of goods and services by individual consumers helps drive the economic engine of a consumerist society in that it creates jobs for workers and wealth for businesses owners. While consumerism as an ideology can be present in several different types of economic systems, it is most often associated with capitalism. In particular, consumerism plays an important role in modern democratic countries with mixed economies such as: the United States, England, France, Canada, etc. Furthermore, consumerism is an important component of the concept of supply and demand because it involves the supply of goods and services and the demand (consumption) of goods and services by individual consumers. To fully understand the significance of consumerism as an ideology it’s also important to understand its development throughout history as well as its positives and negatives.
In general, consumerism has five main positive elements, including:
- Increases economic output and creates jobs.
- Leads to increases in wealth for companies.
- Promotes competition between companies.
- Allows for a large variety of goods and services.
- Improves the quality of life for people.
On the positive side, economists consider consumerism to be important to the development of the economy on both a national and global level. At its heart, consumerism is the idea that people buy goods on a mass scale from producers (business owners). This system is vitally important to the economy because it is a major factor in job and wealth creation. For example, in a consumerist society, the constant consumption of goods provides many different people and industries with jobs. This includes the people who own the businesses that produce the goods as well as the people who work directly in the design and manufacturing of the specific product. These people could include factory workers, engineers, advertisers, etc. As well, there are many secondary (not directly related) jobs created in transportation and construction. More specifically, since many of the current goods are manufactured in places such as China and sold in North America and Europe, there are many people needed to ship the goods by sea and then over land. Furthermore, the expansion of large businesses creates construction jobs for people as they build warehouses and stores for the products. This job creation is important because it is the major factor of economic well-being in a consumerist society. For example, the jobs created from consumerist activity is an efficient means of distributing the wealth through society as it passes from the consumers to the producers and then to the workers.
The second positive element of consumerism is that it is generally beneficial to businesses and can lead to a large accumulation of wealth for the business owners. For example, throughout the 20th century many major transnational corporations have developed due to consumerism. These types of companies operate around the world with their manufacturing, distribution and sales all occurring in many different countries. As a result of this growth, some transnational companies have been able to accumulate large amounts of wealth. Some examples include Apple, Walmart, Nike, etc. Therefore, consumerism has been beneficial to the growth of businesses and the overall economy. It has created a system that promotes the growth of businesses which in turn arguably creates jobs and wealth for the rest of society.
The third positive element of consumerism builds off of the growth of businesses. While consumerism had helped businesses to flourish, it has also led to competition between the differing companies as they compete for sales in the economy. Competition is a key factor in economics and is a central principle in right-wing economic systems such as laissez-faire capitalism and free market economies. Laissez-faire capitalism, which emerged in the timeframe of the Industrial Revolution, introduced the idea that individuals and businesses should compete against each other and their success should be determined by the market forces of supply and demand. Therefore, consumers had the ability to decide the success of a business based upon whether they purchased the good or service. Laissez-faire capitalists argued that competition benefited society in a number of ways, including: it lowered the price of goods and service as producers competed for the business of consumers, and it fostered innovation of goods and services as companies compete to outdo each other. For example, modern companies such as Apple and Samsung compete for consumers’ business which causes them to innovate their phones with new features, while still trying to keep costs as low as possible.
The next main positive element of consumerism is related to the previous one in that the system of competition that led to constant innovation among companies also led to the development of a large variety of goods and services. As consumerism intensified throughout the 1800s and 1900s it led to an explosion of new and different products and services that were available for consumers. Because companies were competing with each other this led them to constantly seek new ideas for their products. As a result, people today have many options available to them in relation to their own level of consumerism. This has arguably benefitted the lives of people today in a variety of ways, including standard of living. In general, standard of living refers to the variety and amount of goods that a person has available to them. A person with a high standard of living generally has the ability to purchase many different types of goods and services, while a person with a low standard of living does not. Countries based on consumerism (such as the United States, Canada, Britain and France) generally have the highest standard of living levels in the world. The people in these countries benefit not only from having access to luxury items (such as phones, electronics and household items) but they also benefit from the consumerist impacts on services such as healthcare and education. Therefore, consumerism allows people greater access to the goods and services that improve their lives.
The final point for the positives of consumerism is that it generally increases people’s quality of life. Quality of life is a measurement of a person’s happiness in regards to having their basic needs met. As stated above, consumerism is vital in helping people meet these needs. For example, consumerism has created a process by which people can access different goods and services related to fulfilling their basic needs, such as: food, clothing and shelter. By helping people meet these needs, consumerism has improved the lives of many people.