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Renegade Consumer & Conventional Economics: Against the Odds

One of the most fundamental criticisms that can be leveled at Renegade Consumer is that it is contrary to nearly all conventional economic beliefs.

To which can only be said: Of course it is.

Furthermore, it can be said that the aims of Renegade Consumer undermine the basic principles of generally-accepted economic theory.

Yes, they do.

Our future as individuals, consumers, a nation and a planet is at sharp odds with conventional economic theory, and we are far past recognizing this fact. The choice is simple: either we are sacrificed in the sacred flame of economic thinking and its indispensable goal of ever-continued growth, or we sacrifice the sober nonsense of Twentieth Century economics on the trash heap of failed – or at least outmoded – thinking.

The key to understanding here is in the words “beliefs” and “theory.” Despite the heartfelt wish of its proponents, economics is not a science. Economics is composed of two things, accounting and theory. The absolute rigidity and precision that can be given the numbers and accounting and statistics is the basis on which most economists claim that their field is a science – but economic theory is never anything more than educated guesswork, prone to disruption by every butterfly effect and market tremor, and only obvious in retrospect. The inability of any consensus of even the most highly regarded minds in the field to accurately forecast economic events, other than in the most straight-line manner, is not a secret – only a particularly stylish cut of imperial clothing. Many summaries and analyses have been written on the continuing failure of economic theory to predict economic changes; success only comes to a few outliers, by luck, and to those who are rewarded when tomorrow continues like yesterday, only more so.

Economics is an important field. In most ways, it is a useful tool for monitoring and analyzing the flow of wealth in our society. But it is easy to lose sight of the massive complexity of economic systems and their tendency to be disrupted by the slightest breeze… making theories little more than hunch, hope and guesswork, no matter how distinguished the pundit or how long their string of successful guesses might be. (Lucky players are known to make ten straight passes with the dice in Las Vegas, too.)

So decisions about economic direction come down to whose guesses are better… and for whom. I contend that mainstream economics is a self-serving, self-referential spiral, in which theories and consensus are bent to fit preconceived notions, each reinforcing the other no matter how many recessions are failed to be anticipated (all fifty since WWII, according to some sources). So if Renegade Consumer starts with ideas and theories that are contradictory to mainstream thought, sometimes wildly so… it comes down to ‘cui bono’ – who benefits from these theories?

In mainstream economic theory, the benefit is to everyone… well, everyone who profits or otherwise benefits from continual growth and wealth expansion. Which can be shown to be everyone, in the trite phrasing about a rising tide lifting all boats. Bums in the street have a better life because the suits in the Street multiplied their wealth, or so it can be demonstrated with enough statistical pirouettes. What these smugly conventional notions fail to address is the cost of that increasing wealth – that, in a rude form of conservation of entities, rising wealth must come from some social, economic or ecological strip mine. And it does. We have paid for our expanding bubble of wealth in pollution, climate change, warfare (including the voracious appetite of “defense departments”), resource depletion and more… but nowhere has the ore been more costly than in human terms. To fuel this endless cycle of expansion, we have conditioned whole populations to shape their lives around producing/earning the maximum they were capable of, so that they might consume an ever-greater share of the goods fueling the expansion.

And there we have the core tenet of Renegade Consumer: that we have been generationally conditioned towards maximized fostered consumption… at the cost of far too many individual and societal options beyond those physical costs listed above.

We think it’s time to stop this madness. It’s time to free people from endless intense coercion to expend their lives in service to this mad spiral… and in doing so, solve a wide range of national and global problems stemming from the same pressure.

Which of course will cause economic collapse… by traditional interpretation. (Ask almost any economist what would happen if all wage-earners started saving ten percent of their income tomorrow… and then consider that we are advocating much steeper declines in consumer spending.)

The deflation or de-growth of the national and global economy is an integral part of Renegade Consumer theory, and it is included with the full understanding that such a thing is Armageddon by traditional economic standards… but promises salvation for us as individuals, communities, nations and a planet. Which is why we have no concern that these theories and policies are so at odds with mainstream economic theory; you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggheads.

It’s a choice between their guesswork and hunch and odds-making, with the attendant destruction of everything around us, including individual lives, for vaguely defined universal benefit (but especially that of those who directly profit from the spiral)… or our guesswork and hunch and odds-making that put individual lives, individual consumers first and can live with economic systems finding a way to adjust. It’s pitting cynical, predatory and destructive traditional thinking against fresh, humanistic, sustainable ideas.

It’s time for us to put away childish wishful thinking and mature as an economic body. It’s time to become Renegade Consumers.

At least, that’s our theory.

James Gifford (sig)

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