Best things are free

The best things in life are free, but they’ve found a way of selling them to you.

When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable income), economic growth depends on selling the utterly useless. An ear-shaped I-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day.

Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness.

When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production. We are hurting the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers. Forests are felled to make personalized heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets.

Governments cut taxes, deregulate business and manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask “spending on what?”

When the growth of inequality that has accompanied the consumer boom ensures that the rising economic tide no longer lifts all boats. In the U.S. in 2010 a remarkable 93 percent of the growth in incomes accrued to the top 1 percent of the population. So effectively have governments, the media and advertisers associated consumption with prosperity and happiness that we neglect to see what’s happened to us.

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.

Robin Tulloch Hall