Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Conspicuous Consumption: Why isn't "Good enough" enough?

It’s very easy for some of us to jump on the anti-consumerism bandwagon. We look at soccer moms driving their 1.7 kids 2.4 miles to school in their Ford Excessives, and we smugly note that there is not so much as even a deep pothole that would require off-road capability. We rail against the excesses of the rich and famous, and decry the salaries of professional athletes. Environmentalists warn that we are literally killing ourselves and our children. Dieticians inform us that we are eating ourselves into early graves and that “all you can eat” buffets are a scourge on the earth.

Yet, we still eat too much, and we still buy a new car every time we can afford it. We still want a bigger house even though the one we have is big enough. Is it a failing of human morality that we are greedy to our own detriment? Are we singular in the animal kingdom in our apparent insatiability? It turns out the answer to both questions is a resounding no. In fact, we are behaving exactly like every other animal. It is not a weakness of will or a “flaw” in our nature. We are behaving exactly as evolutionary theory predicts.


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