We Don’t Need More
Our collective health depends on our desire for something better.
Capitalism is in constant pursuit of more. More profits, more growth, more jobs, more markets, more products, and more consumers. This guiding ethic is sometimes helpful to us as individuals and to the social order, and sometimes it is unhelpful. The main negative impact on human life and the ecosystem more broadly is that “more” has morphed from the primary driver of our current economic model and become the guiding ethic of our personal lives. As George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian in April 2016 , “[Our current social order] redefines citizens as consumers”. This redefinition happened from the top down, but it has been adopted by most of us in western societies to devastating effect. Exploring the negative impacts of the consumptive ethic of “more” will help us understand what has been done to us and, hopefully, will help us find room for an ethic that is more likely to produce well-being.
“More” ignores reality. An Intro to Economics professor once had me write down the following definition for Economics: “The study of people and the choices they make in a world of scarcity.” If scarcity is the defining characteristic of the world we all inhabit according to economics, then it begs the question why the predominant economic model of our time pursues endless growth. Wielding all the powers of state, capital, and labor to strive constantly for more in a world of finite resources is a delusion of the highest order. An ethic of more cannot produce well-being because it ignores the finite nature of our reality. We, like our civilization and the planet itself, will die one day, and the ethic of “more” flies in the face of that fact.
“More” often means worse. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of chain restaurants. As a restaurant empire grows they, by necessity, have to source cheaper products and figure out ways to reduce costs in order to continue to grow. What this means is that any given Olive Garden is driven not by the ethic of quality, but the ethic of more. To make up for the fact that they are charging us quality restaurant prices for food that has been shipped frozen to our town and reheated, they give us endless breadsticks. They know that by making sure we are full, they can can keep us from noticing that we…