Consumers or the Consumed? Why the inequality?
Can we still regard ourselves as consumers or are we the ones who are being consumed? Materialism is rife in the most technologically advanced society to date (Wilkinson & Pickett 2010) and I am convinced it is somewhat responsible for the global economic inequality we face today. Wanting material things isn’t a bad intention in itself, however when this desire is gluttonous morality is pushed aside because the sharing of material things is limited to self. This individualistic view is justified by a sense of deserving and a utilitarian notion of achieving happiness by accumulating materials (Mahadea & Rawat 2008).
Its time to question this justification because it has led to major global inequalities.
How can we justify this pursuit for happiness through materialism when it has encouraged economic growth in the West and has failed to encourage activism with regard to the persistent existence of severe poverty? The West faces a morality crisis when it alone is found to exceed the necessary funds required to end severe poverty (Pogge, 2008). Unfortunately, this worthy goal hasn’t been pursued because of a concern for economic growth that seems more salient than the concern for ending poverty (Pogge, 2007, 2008). 2010 data from the Credit Suisse Research Institute revealed 68.4% of the world’s population had a net worth of USD$10,000 or under, as opposed to 0.5% of the world’s population (located in Asia, Europe and the US) having a net worth of USD$1,000,000 or more. Furthermore Pogge (2008) uses 2004 World Bank data to argue there are approximately USD$300 billion dollars worth of annual shortfalls for populations in poverty, which is “well under 1 percent of the aggregate annual gross national incomes of the high income economies.” With such facts it is more than reasonable to argue there is a gluttonous desire for economic growth that forgoes morality and allows poverty. This situation shouldn’t be tolerated when there are scores of poverty related diseases and deaths occurring that are preventable (Pogge 2007, 2008).
The excitement stirred up by our culture has perpetuated this cycle of pursuing happiness through materialism that overlooks the poverty widespread throughout the globe. This false notion of enlightenment unfortunately fails to improve levels of happiness despite its promises (Mahadea & Rawat 2008; Wilkinson & Pickett 2010) yet those in the West continue to pursue it and so the cycle perpetuates.
Lets stop the cycle. Let’s regain balance. Lets regain economic equality.
Mahadea, D. and Rawat, T. (2008). Economic Growth, Income and Happiness: An Exploratory Study. South African Journal of Economics, Vol. 76, p276 – 290.
Pogge, T. (2007). Why Inequality Matters. In David Held Aysa Kaya (Eds). Global Inequality. Malden: Polity Press, p132 – 145.
Pogge, T. (2008). General Introduction. In World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms (2nded). Cambridge: Polity Press, p1 - 26.
Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. (2010). Material Success, Social Failure. In The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. New York: Penguin Books, p3 – 30.
Credit Suisse (2010). Press Release. Retrieved from https://www.credit-suisse.com/news/en/media_release.jsp?ns=41610.
Credit Suisse (2010). Chart 1: The Wealth Pyramid. Retrieved from https://www.credit-suisse.com/upload/news-live/000000022231.pdf.