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I originally posted this as a comment to a good post of Dr. Quiggin's regarding the ethical value of striving to acquire goods. It is something I'm meaning to flesh out more fully in the future.

This is sort of related to the Protestant Work Ethic (PWE hereafter). Mark Kleiman has a very good post up criticizing an article in the NY Times magazine last week, which pointed to the decline of the PWE as the reason for Europe's impending collapse.

The article seemed like bollocks to me but I am not an economist so what do I know. The only justification I can see for the consumerist "getting and spending" impulse which is under discussion in this thread is, it elevates demand for goods and services, so makes the economy grow faster than it otherwise would, or at all. I don't know if capitalism would work sans acquisitivity over and above people's basic needs -- well looking that sentence over I guess I can say I'm pretty sure it would not; but the lack of acquisitivity could be on a sort of sliding scale; what I mean to say is I don't have any clear idea how far down that scale you can go before capitalism either stops working or becomes something radically different.

Anyways: it sounds like Dr. Quiggin's problem with the "getting and spending" is that it encourages the wrong sort of economic expansion. (Correct me if I'm putting words in your mouth, sir, this is what I took away from your post but that could be transference since it was already about what I thought.) I believe this impulse -- in its present manifestation -- is wrapped up historically with the development of the PWE.

Update: Tom Runnacles offers further insight. And, Update: I think this article and question may have played a big part in generating the thoughts I am having now about effort vs. ease.

posted evening of Tuesday, June 10th, 2003


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