A great many cons have been played on the unsuspecting majority of the world throughout our history. Great cons have had the means and the opportunity to exist because an exchange takes place. Conspicuous consumption is one such con: in exchange for not stopping the con, the conned get a semblance of stability, identity, or predictability – but only for a while.
Conspicuous consumption is the premier myth driving the engine of our economy. An amalgam of emotionalism, excess and impulsiveness, conspicuous consumption rests upon mountains of research and decades of well-funded social psychology that have created the collective acceptance that we are primarily consumers of life, not creators of life.
We have been studied and dissected like no other species. Conspicuous consumption adapts, it is a changing art of artifice, from badges of status to experiential luxuries and ‘alternative’ lifestyles and did you know that today’s consumers are “different” from consumers of ten or fifteen years ago? “Consumers today place a greater premium on connoisseurship, quality, and authenticity than on status.” (Luxe Redus, Boston Consulting Group)
Perhaps it is our malleability and uncertainty as a collective that causes our vulnerability to marketing. On the flip side, why can’t our malleability and vulnerability be the starting point for a different choice – a choice that, if we would only decide, would never allow a world where 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation and where one in six people do not have access to clean water?
How did we fall for the con that freedom is the freedom to choose products? Such freedom becomes compulsion, where a $1200 handbag and bags like are now coveted by women in the big cities because it shows others that “someone loves me this much.” (This from a Deloitte’s analysis that also found that the world’s 75 largest luxury goods companies generated nearly $172 billion in sales in the most recent fiscal year. A 13% gain over the previous year.)
This great con of modernism is looking shabby these days and as this era winds down the next con is in waiting in the wings – the ‘post consumer’ society, with it’s transhuman bright lights and big cities. So, what is growing and gaining strength – is it conformity to consumerism or is it the challenge to consumerism?
Today most luxury buyers, “detest the old values conveyed by the word luxury—the idea of ostentation or the evidence of conspicuous consumption, for instance—yet they do want to treat themselves, to enjoy fine products and experiences for their own sake, and to share those products and experiences with family and good friends.” 55% of global consumers surveyed by Neilson claim they are willing to pay extra for products or services from companies that contribute to social or environmental causes. Can this positive trend be redirected toward intentional spending to rescue real people who are really dying, right now?
The Living Income Guaranteed would provide the basic foundation so that everyone can, at minimum, live a decent life. Finally, a new definition of luxury.