At the very heart of our world system, we’re still just consumers.

While I flipped through the news this morning, sentences like these just pop out at me:

The [German] Economics Minister, boasted that his country had become something “out of a fairy tale,” so strong were the growth, employment and consumer-confidence figures. “We’re consuming again, people are doing well and people are spending again,” he said.

It makes me cringe. “Yeah! Our country is doing well! Our people are going to the mall!”

At the heart of our world economic system, going shopping is the healthiest thing we can do for the world.   How belittling. And how unsustainable in the long run. For those that have seen the Story of Stuff, this is the golden arrow.

Photo: Story of Stuff

None of this is new to me.  (I  have 7 years of university training, mostly in business).  First thing you learn in economics is that GDP is measured by  private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exportsimports). So as it goes, if you just went through an expensive divorce, crashed your car, and now have cancer – you’re doing well for our economy.

Granted,  even economists have long known that there are considerable issues with the GDP and there’s a movement to try and move away from this unhealthy system.  Going  “Beyond GDP” is a movement in Europe and elsewhere and there is considerable push to adopt the Gross National Happiness concept or other well-being indices but as always, it’s hard to break a well-oiled machine (yes, pun intended).

But at the end of the day, do you really think that we’ll move away from this system that is fed on growth? As pessimistic as this sounds, I don’t see it happening any time soon.  We were close to changing the heart of the system during the crash of 2008, but then things got better and we reverted back to the same old practices. 

I feel weird making this post because I’m not necessary adding anything new to the debate. I just  hope that comments like the one above by the German Economics Minister shakes people at least a little. It should be a wake up call that not all is well with the system we’ve created.

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