The Clash of Worlds

Just this week I had two people tell me they are worried about the economy and it’s people like me who are causing all the problems, which of course led to all parties privy to this comment to take sides, or I should say all faced off against me. My gut reaction was to tell them they were wrong, but I didn’t.

hand

I admitted to them that things look bad and I was concerned but I refused to let the accusations lead  to a full disagreement.  I played the conversation over later and soon saw there are, at a minimum, two viewpoints worth considering and while I believe mine provides me peace of mind, and I have no intention of changing, I can see why these people feel as they do.

Where this begins

In January of every year the retail sales numbers are reported showing how much money was spent on holiday shopping. It’s a way for the retail stores to brag and show we are still number one when it comes to consuming. Most every year that is. This year I have not been able to find the numbers, no one is reporting on them. I know it’s silly of me to look for these numbers every year but I keep hoping the reported numbers will fall showing people are learning some restraint on their holiday spending.

~
While I haven’t been able to find this year’s numbers, there are theories floating about that the lack of reporting is an effort to hide the fact that sales were so low they pointed to a slowing economy. That may be so because we are entering an election year and the powers that be prefer to have the appearance of a rosy, robust economy in election years.

~
In January the stock market began falling and no one could hide that. China closed trading for two days, , although the closures were blamed on circuits blowing due to heavy trading. At the same time reports of the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) came out. The BDI is the cost of shipping raw materials. You can see in these graphs, back in 2008, the BDI was roughly 11,400 and where in January 2016 it’s hit an all time low of 369. While none of these figures specifically indicate a slowing or failing economy, the fear of one is what is motivating some to point fingers and looking to place blame.

~

Why I am I being blamed?

~
It’s simple. I am not a consumer. I don’t shop, hate to shop. If more people follow the lead of those of us who live frugally and turn to the second-hand markets before purchasing new items it reduces the demand for new products to be made. In my view, this is a good thing that will bring about a more sustainable economy.

.
But is this a good thing? Well, that depends on your point of view.  When demand falls it means fewer resources are being used to produce goods. It also means less pollution is being spewed by ships, trucks and other modes of transport to deliver goods to communities. It is this reason my conscience is clear and I will continue to reject consumerism in my life.

.
The other side of the issue?

.
On the other hand, those who are consumers, those who rely on stores and just-in-time inventory are scared. They see the possible shortages in stores as threats to their way of life.  Do a quick search on store shelves emptying and you will find pages of reports of just that along with store closings for 2016.   There is enough information out there to scare people.  Yet, they fear job losses even more, I believe, than empty shelves.

.
They are right. Manufacturing jobs will be cut if people stop buying. That’s not as big a deal for those living in the US because we don’t produce much anymore. But if demand for goods fall too low layoffs will occur in the service economy which the US is built on. Think of all the dollar stores, Walmarts etc that won’t need as many people stocking shelves or checking out customers. Yes, there will be job losses.

.
But their fears are also justified because they will have to change how they live if the economy slows to the point where products they use daily are no longer available. If store shelves, whether the grocery store or retails shops, start to empty they won’t know what to do.

.

Which brings me back to those two discussions I mentioned where my choices have been blamed for the economic problems.  I guess I am to blame as belonging to a segment of the population who has rejected consumerism. I knew all along that if more people turned to the second hand markets and became more self-reliant it would slow the consumerist economy.  I welcomed this as it would be less taxing on the environment.

.

I didn’t think how hard people would fight to hold on to that abundant availability of cheap imported goods or the enjoyment of shopping as entertainment.  They are angry that their way of life is threatened when we are only a month into bad economic news. How angry will they be if the worst case scenario comes to be and this leads to a real depression?

.
Those of us who have considered the consequences of a consumerist lifestyle and rejected it will fare better in a slowed economy. But it will fall to us to teach the rest of society how to take care of themselves.

.

Are we ready to teach when our family and friends are ready to learn?  Are you concerned with the economic indicators of 2016?

 

Advertisements

26 comments

  1. Gosh..you have summed it up oh so well.

    I will just say, that on these issues, I am with you. No, I am not as far as you, not by a long shot. But we certainly lean heavily that way.

    Will we all together sink the economy? Doubt it. There seems to be a whole lot of folks happy to take up the slack.

    Will we “educate” folks we know?

    NOT A CHANCE. Not even a whisker of a chance.

    the comments/looks/snide references we have received, on some of our “frugal ways”..Oh my. Will most certainly not be leaning in to “educate” anyone.

    for example…Destination weddings. Weddings thousands of miles and thousands of dollars away. No, we have not/will not be attending any. We’ve been rather frugal at what might be considered “holidays”. To have folks berate us/make snide comments that everyone goes to the carribbean etc every year anyway, is totally offensive. We’ve been through this a number of times, and not gone, gotten the “works” over it. We don’t have the money. If we did have the money, we would very much like to pick our own many thousand dollar holiday. We would not spend thousand to travel to (okay I am going to be nasty here, but actually factual)…watch “others” drink till they barf on the sand, squeeze into swimsuits/bikinis which were not meant for “them”, eat from a buffet which has sat out for twelve hours, expose ourselves to every new tropical mosquito disease going on, etc etc..

    nope, we will stay home. shop stupid cheap managers sales. buy most of our goods second hand. goods we do purchase new will be on super super sale. etc etc.

    I find a great deal of security and comfort in knowing the freezer is full/the cupboard is full, the pantry well stocked.
    I find a lot of folks “stimulate” the economy by spending a couple hundred at the bar every weekend, replace their vehicle every two or three yrs, replace their couch new every few yrs, etc etc… I do wonder how they handle the stress of it all.

    Like

    • Oh the arrogance of some people who make such assumptions about expensive trips and what others should be willing to pay for. I have been fortunate in this way as no one close to me has ever suggested such a thing. The closest would have been my son’s wedding. His wife is from another state, Arizona, and he decided it would be only fair to get married in her state since her family has to pay to visit since she willingly followed him here. My son made arrangements for anyone who was willing to make the trip to have inexpensive lodging ($175 for the entire week), and delivered us food as well. He wanted his best friend to not only be able to be there but to marry them so he paid for the trip for him and counted it as paying for the services of a pastor.

      There are people I won’t help, obviously. Those who have harmed me in the past would top that list but yes, I would help even those who feel today that my lifestyle may harm the economy. Teaching them how to grow food and preserve it would be the most important lesson I could pass on.

      Like

  2. Oh! I had a conversation along these lines just a few days ago in regards to the TPPA. While my opinion wasn’t even acknowledged at least people didn’t argue I was causing the problem! I think that must’ve felt quite uncomfortable for you 😦 What is causing the problem is that the economic growth pattern isn’t sustainable because in order for that to grow we must consume – there is so much poverty in all our countries, spending/consuming is no longer possible by many. I take comfort that we at least know how to survive should it all fall down, I don’t need to answer to anyone for that! However others have their own opinions which are safer in keeping with the status quo and respect for that has to be. I find it frustrating that while I am interested in things like TPPA, the bill that is going through govt soon to regulate natural therapies (which I never thought I would see in this country, ever!) etc people can’t get their heads around the fact I am interested and challenging those ideas – and I am never one to voice opinions out loud but I do so quietly in my own way…ok, usually 🙂 I am thought of as problematic for even thinking of such things. Can relate here!

    Like

    • I had a news story in my feed that said Obama quietly signed the TPP. I didn’t read it or follow up so I don’t know if this is true or not as I was so angry it might be true. I have found that even those who do not share my concerns about the environment are outraged about the TPP when they learn the details of it. While most don’t care too much about the provision that would regulate the natural health they don’t want to see anymore trade agreements and this falls in that category for them. The TPP will only bring problems for nations who join with corporations being able to sue countries that say no to them doing business in their country. In the US we are already seeing what these agreements can do. Canada is suing the US government for $15 billion, for lost income as a result of rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline!

      Being accused of being the cause of problems wasn’t really uncomfortable as much as it was eye opening. I’m used to being the outsider with strange views but realizing how many people are still desperately holding on to the lifestyle we go accustomed to showed me just how hard a change away from a consumer society will be when we are unable to have easy access to whatever we want when we want it.

      Like

      • The TPP was signed here in NZ last week amidst protests and marches around the country – I expect Obama signed his bit from his stately office. I watched our PM talk so proudly of it on the news, wearing a flag on his jacket that isn’t our flag but what he wants ours changed to, I was so heavy hearted. He just sold out the people of our beautiful country. Then came news of the natural supplements regulations….. 😦
        And yes, I agree with you there.

        Like

        • This whole “partnership” makes no sense to me. Why would any leader want to subject their country to the whims of the corporation? I didn’t know anything about your flag being changed so looked it up. I can see why you would be upset with the new flag. I know the US has had several flags but the style and meaning has remained. What started off as 13 stars in the upper left corner was increased as states were added to the union until we reached 50 stars. Our flag has remained the same through my lifetime, I don’t know how I would react to a new flag but I don’t think it would sit well with me. I’ve heard rumors of Canada, US and Mexico eventually joining together similar to the European Union with mock-ups of what a combined flag might look like. I hope I never see that day.

          Like

          • I know! A mystery to me too, it’s like some hidden agenda that has nothing to do with the welfare of the general population! Just doesn’t sit. No-one wants the new flag here, had a referendum on it but it’s not going to make any difference. I hadn’t heard that, after seeing what has happened within the EU that is not sounding a good idea either. a flag means something to the citizens of a country, it’s history – no, don’t like it.

            Like

          • The way I look at it we are seeing the concession of power from individual governments to corporations finally brought out into the open. The businesses have run our government for way too long but until now we at least had the illusion that our government officials were still in charge. Taking bribes and payoffs, sure, swayed by lobbyists, yep. But now it’s clear who runs things.

            I hope the people win and you get to keep the flag that means so much to you.

            Like

  3. OK… I don’t even know where to begin when I hear these arguments about how people who don’t go shopping are wrecking the economy. My hunch is that you handled the situation with much more grace than I would have. But here’s what I think about all of that…

    First of all, the primary reason that the stock market is getting pummeled is because the price of oil has tanked. The reason that’s happening is basically 3-fold. First of all the Chinese economy is slowing. This is not because people aren’t buying cheap Chinese made goods anymore, it’s because their capitalism is, from what I understand, even less regulated than ours is, leading to an inevitable cycle of boom and bust – and they are starting to experience the bust part of that cycle.

    The second reason the price of oil is down is because the Saudis were feeling threatened by the North American fracking boom, so they are flooding the market to keep the price low. Fracking and other “expensive” methods of extraction (deep sea drilling, tar sands, shale oil, etc.) are only profitable if the price of oil stays near $80/barrel. So the Saudis are trying to break (or at least limit) the North American oil companies.

    The final reason the price of oil is low is because of the loosening of sanctions on Iran, which is allowing them to sell their oil on the open market again. None of that has anything to do with you not spending enough.

    Now, in terms of the economy in general, I would argue that the single biggest reason it’s slowing is because of all the tax cuts for the rich, and the curtailing of government spending over the past 2-3 decades. When you allow the society’s wealth to be so concentrated in so few hands, you end up in a situation where a huge percentage of the money is corralled in various institutions like the banks and the markets, rather than out in circulation. Think of it this way, there’s only so much money that a rich person or corporation can spend, so when the money is all concentrated in their hands it doesn’t get spent. Many of the corporations actually pay NO taxes at all because of all the loopholes.

    If, on the other hand, you tax the wealthy and the corporations, you allow some of the money that would otherwise get “stuck” there to go back into circulation in the economy. And I’m not really talking about a redistribution of wealth through welfare and other social programs, I’m talking about infrastructure type investments where the government itself is the main consumer or spender of money. I mean, if the government spends our tax dollars repairing a bridge or building a school, library, hospital, homeless shelter or community center, that “spending” creates jobs and incomes not only for the construction workers, but also for the teachers, librarians, cooks, nurses, social workers, yadda, yadda, yadda. Those people then have money to spend on houses, clothes, food, etc., which in turn creates jobs for more people, and the cycle continues.

    I’m sorry for going on and on about this stuff, but it really makes me crazy to see how the monied interests have managed to get all of the “have nots” pointing fingers and blaming each other, when the real problem is greed on the part of the corporations and the wealthy.

    That’s my take anyhow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very well put, Cat. While the stock market might have at one time been and economic indicator today it’s run by fear and games. With corporations being globally based any news of instability in one area can cause a sell off of stock. Rumors also play a role in the fluctuation of the market. We also know the government props up the market to prevent huge swings so the whole thing is a big illusion of the economy. The market was so overvalued that it was time for a correction and the oil situation only made that correction worse.

      And don’t get me started on China. China is playing at capitalism within a communist framework. Greenspan would be so proud of teaching the world how to use bubbles.

      I wish more people would take a serious look at the effects of having so much wealth consolidated in just a handful of people. No other country has such a big difference between what CEOs make and what the worker do. Even many of the ultra rich such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have said it’s wrong not to tax them at the same rates as the middle class, but as long as they have the loopholes they use them. I heard once Paul McCartney was asked why he didn’t move out of England to save on taxes. He replied that it was his duty to pay taxes to support his country and he wasn’t going to move away to avoid taxes.

      Like

  4. Well done, Lois, and such well thought out comments. I just have a couple things to add.
    Your accusers have made up their minds and are not going to be swayed with facts and statistics because they have latched on to the easy answer/target and don’t want to think deeper or contemplate making big changes in their lifestyles. It’s easier to blame someone else.
    On the other hand, I’ve been seeing something very encouraging happening in a small way using another tactic. There is a Facebook group, a quite large one, called the Nonconsumer Advocate after a blog by that name, that is very active. People share encouragement via their successes and failures in reducing debt and living with less stuff. And every day there are posts by people, mostly very young people, who have been sceptically reading for awhile, who are won over to reducing consumption. They have “seen the light” by being educated and encouraged by reading about the lives of other nonconsumers.
    I think you ARE quietly making a difference. With your blog, with the way you live your life. Your accusers aren’t ready to accept your ideas or make changes to a similar lifestyle, not yet anyway, but you have put the possibilities in front of them. I see my own daughters suddenly doing small things that they have laughed at me for and I remind myself, I “got this way” over a lifetime.
    Thanks for such a well researched post!

    Like

    • That’s exactly why I didn’t bother to argue with them. I’ve learned just from my experiences of being a vegetarian in the middle of farm country that even facts will not sway one deeply entrenched in their own beliefs. It is said grief goes through 4 stages, denial, anger, bargaining, then finally acceptance. If I live to see the day when easy access to goods is no longer available I expect to see each of these stages as people get used to living differently.

      I get so excited seeing the involvement in groups such as the nonconsumer advocate, plastic-free July, No spend January and year of buying nothing new. These are the people who will teach the rest of us.

      I too see my kids doing things today I hadn’t even considered at their age. They also want their children to learn to grow their own food and learn life skills that have been lacking in recent years so I have hope for the future generations.

      Like

  5. Wow, what an interesting post, Lois. I am amazed (and not amazed) at how stupid some people can be with deciding “people like you” are causing the current dip in the economy! Human beings can be so disappointing.

    I agree totally with EchoCatLady. She totally summed up my opinion beautifully.

    With that said, I will admit that the dip in the stock market has been worrisome for my husband and I. We are retired. We did not have the luxury of a company pensions (not that company pensions can save you from the costs of inflation over the long haul – as evidenced by my mother-in-law and mother’s retirement – and companies find these programs too expensive to maintain anyway.) Our retirement funds are tied to the stock market which is diving down every single day. And we are not alone in this concern. We survived the last dip in the market and we will survive this one as well. We do not count ourselves among the rich, and at times do not even think of ourselves as medium income. But I know we are better off than some who cannot retire, because they cannot eat if they do quit work. I wish we weren’t at the whim of global economics but that was a decision we made years ago with reputable financial advice – that so far has not been wrong. I believe finding educated professional financial advisors is key – and maintaining that relationship over the years – especially if your retirement savings are housed in complicated financial vehicles. Maybe we will be proved wrong in the future, but we will ride out this “bust” period – for the second time in 10 years. No choice, we are now unemployable.

    BUT … we will continue to live within our means – no matter how small those means are. And we continue to save (outside the stock market) so life will go on. We will continue to reduce spending.

    So, Lois, if you and people like you are to blame – so am I. You are in good, good company!! 🙂

    Like

    • I am so sorry, Elaine, that you have to worry about your investments. I thought it was horrible when companies stopped offering pensions and expected people to invest in the 401K to have retirement money. I grew up with my grandparents who were very afraid of trusting the stock market after living through the Great Depression. They didn’t trust banks much either. I hope you weather this storm and come out unscathed.

      They kept some money in the bank but hid a lot around the house too. One of the best stories ever was about almost losing a lot of the money that was in the house. My grandparents were downsizing from a 4 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom back in the 60s when I was little. My grandmother put all the furnishings they wouldn’t be taking with them outside for others to take. My grandfather came home and spotted a mattress out there and angrily dragged it back into the house. I’d never seen him angry like this. My grandmother said she wasn’t taking that lumpy mattress with them. Turns out it was lumpy because my grandfather had been secretly removing some of the stuffing and replacing it with rolls of dollar bills then carefully stitching the mattress closed. 🙂

      Like

      • Oh my God. That story is so funny!! Times were different then.

        We have been tied to the stock market now for almost 20 years. It hasn’t been unkind to us. But we have someone who knows the business. Of course we know it can all blow up but without the stock market we would have already been in a world of hurt. My husband needed to retire at 57 because of his vision and I needed to retire at 59 because I couldn’t juggle mom and a full time job at the same time … and stay sane! So we were both forced to retire early. Both my mom and mother-in-law had pretty generous government pensions from the State of Maryland and when they retired they were comfortable. But even with social security and their pensions (and they both led frugal lives) towards the end of their lives my husband and I were subsidizing their bills because inflation caught up with them. Really, there is no perfect solution when it comes to what you need in retirement. I hate what the market is doing now, but I also know it always bounces back up – it is a cycle. And if you have someone professional guiding you, the stock market isn’t a bad place to be. But it isn’t risk free.

        Like

        • I think we are going to see more people keeping money hidden in the house as the banks are offering such low interest and talk of a negative interest rate will drive those who understand what that means to remove most of their money. I give you a lot of credit for riding through the ups and downs of the cyclical cycles of the stock market. I have been swayed by the distrust I grew up with to ever put my money in there.

          Like

      • Instead of entering this discussion from afar (nowhere is perfect, but goodness, blame culture is infectious for some…!) I had to laugh at this story and was reminded that when my husband’s great uncle and aunt died 30 years ago, there was clearing out to be done by their granddaughters. They took an old TV to be disposed of and were informed that they had to take certains parts out for separate disposal before it would be accepted. Lo and behold, in the back of the TV they found about $30K :O Even divided several ways among the cousins, it made for a nice starter nest egg (they were all in their early 20s at the time).
        Having said that, my daughter and I were just saying yesterday that with interest down to 0.025% or less in the (Swiss!) banks – and the bank fees ultimately making it negative interest unless you have a large sum there – we would all be better off keeping our money stashed at home. Theoretically. Sigh.

        This is not to say I don’t take your thoughts absolutely seriously and am not interested in world economy, I am.

        Like

        • I bet that was quite a surprise to find all that money in the TV. 🙂 Your conversation with you daughter reminded me of the article I read on the the people in Sweden keeping cash in the microwave.

          My grandfather continued to stash money in the house, he just got better at it. Before his death, as his health failed he collected all his hiding spots together into one location and made me memorize where it was. He was insistent the money he saved wouldn’t be lost forever or until a stranger found it.

          Like

  6. I’ve heard that the numbers were the lowest ever. We are at a tipping point. The gas prices are reflective of what’s going on. We can’t change them all but we can change enough to make a difference. It’s like the statistics on unemployment. The numbers are showing they are down but that doesn’t count those that have stopped looking for work or those no longer getting unemployment benefits. Numbers don’t tell anything and we can’t keep buying crap to keep the numbers growing. I think we need different standards of measurements.

    Like

    • The unemployment numbers are so inaccurate it’s not funny. I heard a report just this last Friday that showed the media saying manufacturing, new construction building in housing and retail were all up, then the guy tore those reports apart, so nothing is being reported accurately. We definitely need new ways of measuring the economic indicators. Or better yet, give them up and switch to the Economics of Happiness, that would shake people up to see how unhappy we are as a whole.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this blog!!
    I’m not sure where to start!!! My husband and I aren’t “Good Consumers” either. So much of our economy is built on the backs of people not wise enough or self-restrained enough to live within their means. Keeping the interest rates so low tempts the masses into remaining in debt. I don’t know what kind of chaos fixing this would cause. Or even if it would be possible….
    Meanwhile I’m just going to opt out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to have you opting out with the rest of us, Cindy. I can’t even imagine what it will take to fix the mess we created but I hate knowing it’s being put off for future generations to figure out.

      Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear your thoughts, won't you please tell me what's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s