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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #26A: The Consumerist   Worldview Theme#26B:   

         The More is Better Mentality 

consumerism--associated with those who purchase goods and services in the free market economy. The term is understood differently depending upon whether it is considered at the individual or national economic level. 

consumerists--those who believe in the fundamental importance of the role that consumerism plays in either their own individual lives, national economies, or both.

consumer protection—government regulation which protects consumers both from health and safety dangers that products or services might pose and from unfair business practices such as fraud, misrepresentation and collusion

consumer protection movement--involves consumers demanding certain rights and legal protection as they consume goods and services. Beginning in the mid-1950s in the United States, by 1962 President Kennedy identified certain rights (such as the rights to safe products, and to file complaints, etc) that latter, when expanded, came to be known as The Consumer Bill of Rights.  Parts of it have since become law. By 1985 the United Nations embraced consumer rights and identified eight basic rights.

consumer spending, American--the 2007 amount of $9.5 trillion accounts for over 70% of the U.S. GDP and 20% of world GDP.  To put this amount in perspective, compare it with what consumers in China and India spent in 2007:an estimated $1.25 trillion. On a per capita basis, American consumers in 2007 outspent their counterparts in these Asian countries by 60 times!  

consumption function--the relationship between personal consumption expenditures (plotted vertically) and disposable (that is, after taxes) income (plotted horizontally).  It is useful in making predictions based on economic models.     

discounting the future -- doing or having (consuming) something now, rather than waiting , or rather than investing the money you would have spent and getting a high return on the investment

economics, behavioral–challenges neoclassical economics based on appreciation of human nature and research involving "how actual people make financial decisions" as Barack Obama put it in 2009.  With economic crisis casting doubt on "markets know best," governments may increasingly turn to behavioral economists' ideas to restore prosperity.

egocentric -- the selfish, self-centered viewpoint that narrowly limits a person’s outlook to focus on his or her own feelings, needs, concerns, problems and activities 

envy -- painful or resentful awareness of someone who is more fortunate or enjoys some advantage

individualism -- a social philosophy and belief system that places individual interests and rights above those of society , and individual freedom and independence above any social contract obligations

instant gratification -- the thrill that comes when you immediately get a desired something. Driving this is a childish “I want that now!” force. For some, this force is powerful enough to overcome the opposing force: a rational, restraining adult attitude that questions whether the desired something is really needed and whether there is money to pay for it.

market economy -- a private, free-enterprise system based on independent consumer agents, a price system, and economic forces of supply and demand

marginal propensity to consume -- in the economic theory behind consumer spending and disposable income, this term is defined as the fraction of an extra dollar of income that goes to purchase consumer goods. Technically, it represents the slope of the consumption function.

needs vs. wants--the former are something that you have to have, the latter are something you would like to have.  If you haven't guessed, needs are more basic, things like air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, shelter, and other things-- including other people and non-material things they can provide, and other intangibles.  As an example of what might be in this last category are needs that involve feelings such as  "the need to feel valued".  How do you decide if something is really a need or merely a want?  One way is to ask yourself the question, "Can I survive without this?" 

prisoners of consumerism-- a derogatory term referring to those who have unthinkingly succumbed to the all pervasive advertising messages of multinational corporations and adopted a consumerist lifestyle based on wanting, valuing, and continually spending money on things that they don’t really need.

propaganda -- broadly speaking, information that is designed and disseminated as part of a concerted effort to influence what individuals believe or want, and manipulate public opinion and desires.

purchasing power parity -- a scheme by what a nation’s currency is adjusted so that, in comparing it to another currency, they will purchase the same amount of goods and services.

pusher -- a derogatory term referring to someone who consciously makes an effort to hook someone on an addictive product or behavior -- including a consumerist lifestyle. With respect to this latter possibility, one can argue that the most massive pusher effort in history involves the nearly impossible to escape advertising messages of multinational corporations trying to hook individuals on wanting and continually spending money on things that they don’t really need.

shopping as a religion--various books, including Coming of Age in the Global Village and The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture by Dell deChant, have argued that consumerism is a culture which increasingly meets or replaces religious needs of affluent Western shoppers.  The Christmas holiday season--and the parallels between religious and consumerist aspects--is typically a key part of such arguments.

utility -- in economic theory, this refers to the amount of use and satisfaction that a consumer gets from a particular purchase

  Contrast Worldview Themes #26B and #23B --  these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!         

Contrast Worldview Themes #26B and #24 --  these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

conspicuous consumption -- a term coined by Veblen in the early part of the 20th century that refers to people buying expensive things just to show that they can afford them -- a snob effect that flies in the face of a cheaper is better orientation, or practical utility considerations.

consumer spending, American--the 2007 amount of $9.5 trillion accounts for over 70% of the U.S. GDP and 20% of world GDP.  To put this amount in perspective, compare it with what consumers in China and India spent in 2007:an estimated $1.25 trillion. On a per capita basis, American consumers in 2007 outspent their counterparts in these Asian countries by 60 times!

corporate executive pay issues--According to many observers of top U.S. companies, the ratio of top corporate executive compensation to that of an ordinary private sector worker is excessively large. Based on figures compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies, in 2005 average annual CEO compensation for the top 350 American companies was $11.6 million, whereas that same year the average American worker made $28,300. Dividing the former number by the latter yields a ratio of 411 to 1.  This ratio is up from 100 to 1in 1990, and is much higher than the corresponding 11 to 1 ratio in Japan.  While some feel all such high corporate executive compensation is unjustified, many single out the outrageously high salaries, bonuses, and severance pay packages of executives who led companies which performed poorly.

economic efficiency -- may refer to either minimizing costs while maximizing production or wisely allocating consumption related expenditures to maximize consumer satisfaction

engineering design -- the process by which scientific principles, engineering analysis, mathematics, computers, words and pictures are used to produce a plan or design, which, when carried out, will satisfy previously identified and well defined human needs.

grabber -- a derogatory term to be associated with those who succeed wildly in their search for wealth and power (sometimes through ethically questionable means) and, instead of using what they’ve won to help those in need or to make the world a better place, excessively indulge, waste and revel in luxury. It has been charged that their real religion is based on “a gospel of their own wealth”.

marginal utility -- the added satisfaction to be had by consuming an additional unit of a commodity. Economic theory suggests that as a person consumes increasingly more of a commodity,  the marginal utility eventually declines.

McMansions--a slang term that refers to the large size of homes being built today (especially in the USA) --typically 3000 ft2 to 5000 ft2--and their cultural sameness / homogenization.  In the USA in the last 30 years, while the average new home size has increased (from 1700 ft2 to 2350 ft2) by 38%,  the average family size has decreased (from 3.1 people to 2.6 people) by 16%.

narcissism -- an exaggerated sense of self love or heightened emotional investment in one’s self , detracting from one’s appreciation of or emotional investment in others . It has been suggested that this masks deep feelings of unworthiness and emptiness -- unacknowledged, but unconsciously lurking. Critics of  individual excess in the consumer culture have linked the psychology behind it to narcissism. 

obsession -- an idea, feeling or emotion that persistently haunts or disturbs one’s consciousness and leads to what becomes, either through its repetition or otherwise, inappropriate, unreasonable behavior. Many obsessions are beyond willful control, even with the recognition of their inappropriateness.

positive thinking, the power of -- This phrase is the title of a 1952 best-selling book by Christian preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale. The basic idea behind his book--and behind similar routes to empowerment advocated by various New Age enthusiasts-- is that repeating good thoughts brings good things, while continually dwelling on negative thoughts can bring bad things. In short, people create their own reality by their thoughts.  Many, Peale included, consider thoughts to be things.  Some New Agers don't stop there, but connect whatever they are promoting with the mysteries of quantum physics in claiming that all matter is condensed thought.  For others, similar positive thinking / visualization techniques--and belief that God wants you to have abundant wealth--serve as the basis for teaching others how to get rich.  Coupling such "ask, believe, and receive" recipes with the idea that "you can control the world by what you think" methods provides the essence of numerous books about how to obtain wealth and power.

Winner Take All Society--a phrase used to characterize what many see as a disturbing societal trend toward greater inequality.  The phrase is from the title of a 1995 book by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook about income inequality in America and why, in the words of Molly Ivins,  "A few people get ungodly rich, and the rest of us fall behind!"  Simple-minded example of such a trend: Imagine a hypothetical state lottery switches from awarding $1 million prizes to twenty people and instead decides that one lucky person should take all $20 million! 


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