giovedì 26 marzo 2009

The Economy fo Frugality and Downshifting

Everyday we receive continuing messages which invite us to consume more above all in this period of crisis and recession. Consumption is proposed as the sole scope of the entire productive system whose growth exclusively depends on increases in consumption levels. It is presented also as the sole tool capable to provide wealth to individuals and communities.

The benefits deriving from consumption economy, which many economists try continuosly to highlight, are completely overocome by its costs and dis-advantages: increasing energy needs, overexploitation of natural resources, out-of control pollution, unsustainable life styles in physical and psychological terms.

It is important to remind that consumption economy is not "rationally" sustainable as well: how many other cars can we buy? How many TVs can we have at home? How many fridges? In how many other objects can we drown? How much food can we be stuffed with? How many debts can we make to buy other no-use things?

In the same time, there are many non monetary costs generated by this irrational economy: the exasperation of those particularly competitive aspects of this speculation and exploitation economy provoked a physical and mental obesity, the debunking of the idea of family and community, a systemic individual and collective humiliation, the destruction of solidarity links.

All this makes evident how important can be an idea of economy based on frugality. The consumption economy has transformed the concept of frugality into a synonym of deprivation and sacrifice. Frugality is linked to the idea of modest consumption and semplicity giving more emphasis to other aspects fo life rather than job carrier, accumulation, money.

Frugality is often accompanied by the concept of "downshifting": "downshifters" are those who, reducing their time to job and thus accepting a reduced income and less carrier opportunity, have decided to spend more time with their family and the community where they live. This is translated into less stress, more activities with direct contacts with nature and environment, more social committment.

While consumption economy is mainly focused on production, purchase and waste of objects (with relevant impacts in wastes' production) a frugal economy is mainly biased on production and management of relations.

A frugal economy and downshifting are based on great investment in human capital to create the abilities to minimize and optimize consumption maximizing in the same time personal control over personal choices and lifestyles.

Living a frugal life doesn't mean renouncing to something. It rather means catching up what we have lost consuming less and better in an intelligent and more aware way.

I will discuss this issue again together with the topic of the economy of sobriety (this is an interesting article written in italian), above all about the capability of these forms of economy to generate adequate incomes.

Any suggestion, contribution and idea are thus welcome.

Interesting documents:

Downshifting in Australia


The U.S. Downshifting Manifesto

International Downshifting Week

Conscious Consuming

The Macroeconomics of Downshifting

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