We always encouraged to, “Go out and spend!” After all, consumers like you and I are the ultimate purpose of all business transactions. The Demand Chain starts with our desires and the Supply Chain ends with a delivery to our door. Goods and services aren’t sold to woodland creatures or aliens from other planets; they’re purchased by John & Jane Q. Public. Collectively, we have the ability to start, sustain, avoid, or end a recession. Yes, government stimulus is often required, but its ultimate purpose is to encourage consumer spending.
To consume is to be a good American, and deep down we instinctively know this. It’s analogous to the “Circle of Life” from the Lion King. Every time we purchase something we are starting a process that eventually returns an opportunity for us to make income. The path may stretch around the world and be hard to follow, but it absolutely exists.
Consumerism is never praised by anyone and is derided as almost evil by many to the left of the political spectrum. However, consumerism is the most powerful force for universal peace the world has ever seen. Typically, in economic or political discussions, capitalism versus socialism is debated as the opposing camps of societal imperatives. Yet the real issue is consumerism – will individuals be allowed to consume as they desire, or should the state restrict this ability.
You would think two plus centuries of wildly successful consumerism within the United States would unequivocally demonstrate to the world that this is a good thing. If you let people consume what they desire, you raise everyone’s standard of living and encourage continual innovation, which cycles back to again raise the standard of living. Yet, in many of the world’s nations there are basically two classes – the wealthy and the poor. These wealthy often are too short sighted to realize it is to their advantage to help raise their fellow citizens out of poverty. The United States has, by a wide margin, the greatest concentration of wealthy people in the world, simply because everyone has the opportunity to participate in our economy (e.g., become happy consumers).
The United States and other first-world countries are stable because most of our people are living above the poverty level – contented people don't normally start wars or foster terrorism. However, most of the world's population is living in crushing poverty with poor nutrition, all but non-existent healthcare, inadequate shelter and little or no educational opportunities. Poverty results in despair. Despair breeds anger. Anger fosters hatred. Hatred is the mother of terrorism. If we truly want "Peace on Earth" we must work on providing all our global citizens the opportunity for some modicum of a decent life.
And, no, I'm not proposing some Liberal notion of just giving people handouts – we don't need to create a global welfare class. Yet, we must make an initial investment to ensure people have food to eat, some degree of shelter, access to (at least minimal) healthcare, and educational opportunities. Regarding education, we need to provide it not only for children, but also for adults. Many adults need to be educated in whatever practical skills are necessary for them to begin making a living for themselves and their families.
When people can support themselves, they no longer need assistance and begin paying taxes. Helping people gain self-sufficiency is not a handout. It truly is an investment – one that produces a significant and measurable return. This will take a prolonged effort by all the developed nations, for it will take decades to achieve success. However, the result is worth the long-term commitment, as it will create a globally unified, peaceful and sustainable society.
This worthy goal will be realized by affording all our fellow global citizens the opportunity to become active consumers. Imagine if most of the world’s people had the financial ability to purchase washing machines, TV's, clothing, toys for their kids, computers, vacations, or whatever, as they desired? Think of what a vibrant global economy we would have, and what a powerful force for peace it would be.
And here’s the real payoff – taxes would go down dramatically all around the world! If there were a consumer society encircling the globe, we wouldn’t need to spend as much on the military, relief efforts, or law enforcement. Even though tax rates would be reduced, there would still be sufficient funds to significantly strengthen our infrastructure (transportation, communications, water & sewers), provide first-rate education for all and fund research in medical and other fields. This latter item would guarantee a continual improvement in everyone’s standard of living. To quote from a James Taylor song, “What a wonderful world it would be!”
Getting back to the “Circle of Life” analogy, realization of this scenario depends on the ability of individuals to become consumers. We have the answer. It’s staring us in the face.
For the last several millennia, the world’s economy has been based on the buying and selling (or bartering) of goods and services – consumerism. Even in ancient times, farmers would trade their crops or animals for other items they needed but could not produce. Consumerism does not have a religious affiliation. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindis, Buddhists, and atheists all buy and sell to survive. This fact is even recognized within the teachings of the world’s religions.
So, let’s do our patriotic duty and continue to buy “stuff”, but let’s also agree to start investing in raising the standard of living of the third world’s people. The United States made a massive investment after World War II to rebuild Europe and Japan. No one questions the huge return we realized from reawakening our fellow consumer societies. Its time for the developed nations to band together to help the rest of the world rise to our level. The sooner we afford everyone in the world the opportunity to live decent lives, the sooner peace will be at hand, for CONSUMERS RULE!