Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Got stuff?

An exceptionally well written and produced short film on our consumer culture: The Story of Stuff.

Do we have too much stuff? Are there problems with the way in which we produce, consume, and dispose of our stuff? I believe it's a topic we should consider. Many economists will argue that price is the only measure of value, and therefore we don't have a "stuff problem." If we did, prices would tell us as such. But economics also brought us the concept of externalities, many of which may not be priced into the products we use. In addition, economics--and price--are not the be-all end-all of our lives. There are other values--moral values--in addition to the values associated with price.

Ecological Economics is a field that is attempting to deal with some of these issues--the non-moral ones. Economics, as a field, even when applied to our society--is insulated from the real-world. It does not consider the interface or dependency that exists between economics models and the real-world--except in terms of price. For that reason, economics will have difficulty making accurate predictions about the real world. It can only do so under limited circumstances. And for that reason, I find ecological economics interesting and noteworthy.

Perhaps it can tell us something that the more insular field of economics cannot. Perhaps it might tell us we're too preoccupied with stuff.

Or did you already know that?

  1. I said this video is well written and produced. I don't say it's entirely accurate. I think "stuff" is an issue we should all consider. In particular, our parent's or grand-parent's generation learned to do without, to make do, and to conserve. I think that perspective has merit--no matter how much money one has. But the video has at least one exageration: new central processing units (CPUs) in computers almost always require new supporting hardware: e.g. faster memory, bus, etc. The presentation of that issue is misleading.