Moderation in the Key of Me

We're more apt now than ever to label something as damaged, whatever that means. We make things readily disposable and immediately begin looking for replacements. Our jeans become too faded (or not faded enough for this year's fashion), our televisions grow out of date and our cars lose their luster, all within a year or three.

The nation's landfills burst with the results of this excess, while our natural resources dwindle in quantity and quality. But all of this has been said. Temperance has been preached by all sides of the fence. Everyone from Falwell to Gandhi has expressed the worth of accepting what we have, of appreciating present circumstances, instead of looking for the next big diversion.

It's simple math, really. For example, I have a 12-year-old car worth maybe $3,000. A new version of it costs $15,000 or more. Would I (or anyone, for that matter) get five times the use out of a new one? Five times the pleasure? Not likely. This same formula can be applied to virtually any product. If it's not really worth it, don't buy it.

This flies in the face of consumerism, the blood of this country and, to a lesser degree, the rest of the world. We've all been taught to use stuff up and throw it away because our neighbors survive by making more. Forget that much of what we consume is produced elsewhere in the world, hence the United States' ever-growing trade deficit. Forget that much of what is produced there is done so in deplorable conditions by paupers who have little other choice.

These facts interrupt the "Buy to Live" mantra of traditional America. They also confuse the battle lines of progressives bent on preserving the environment, defending human rights and feeding the needy.

The truth is, we could all survive, even thrive by consuming less, producing less and working less. This might require being paid at least the same amount for a 30-hour workweek, which would mean redistributing profits between stockholders/CEOs and everyday folks. Not an easy task, considering these powerful parties have the greatest say in how business is carried out. Not to mention that all our newfound free time could lead to even more trouble for them down the line. Idle hands and all.

But do these obstacles make the goal any less worthwhile? Let us start by curbing our own appetites, buying only what is necessary. In the short term, profits will fall. In the long term, our quality of life will grow.