Friday, June 1, 2007

Enough is Enough

Recently a news report came out stating that US economic growth is the lowest it has been in years. Somewhere around 2%. There is also non-stop talk about the decline in the housing market - especially in housing starts. Yesterday, a local company announced it is being bought out by a much larger institution - allowing it even greater growth. Last fall, I was saddened to see Burt's Bees and The Body Shop sold, also to allow them greater "growth".

I am not against growth, I am just frustrated by the great emphasis put on it. Of course, there needs to be a certain amount of growth . Companies need to be able to cover their expenses, support themselves and their employees, and allow for innovation. But, when is enough enough? Obviously some people would say, "the sky's the limit. Why would we even consider limiting our growth? That is antithetical to our entrepreneurial values." But where does it really get you?

I would posit that, in the end, you lose a lot. There is a loss of quality and connectedness with the customer, employee satisfaction often diminishes thus product output decreases, and there becomes a disconnect between the corporation goals and the actual needs of society. I am most disappointed with companies that started out with an ethical and sustainable vision and, in the end - to "reach a greater audience" -have sold themselves to large conglomerates. What is wrong with staying at the level you are at? Why is there always a strong push for more? We are so wrapped up in the bottom line, we fail to see the bigger picture.

This obviously spills into the rest of our lives. The whole phrase "keeping up with the Jones'" pervades advertising. People are confronted constantly with the need to have more. Somehow having more will make your life better. There is little talk of the downside to having more: higher mortgages, more clutter, more debt, more reponsibilities, less time to enjoy life, questionable values, depletion of natural resources and, finally, exhaustion! I am very encouraged by the growing simplicity and taking back childhood movements. I would also add responsible consumerism. Shop local, buy from the farmer's market and CSA, make a difference in your community. I feel grateful that I have friends that have similar values and we try the best we can. Plus, it is a lot of fun to get out there and see what our community has to offer!


debra said...

Amen to that. When you buy from a local business, you not only support the proprietor and his/her family, you feed all the workers' families You support the business's suppliers and accountants; you truly keep the money in your neighborhood.
The economy, at least here in NE Ohio, is slow, and it's a challenge to stay afloat, especially in the arts.
As a small business, we know our patrons and they know our family; we have been honored to participate in significant events in their lives. And we are all richer for it.

Anonymous said...

I heard the other day that even though people's wealth has increased in the past half century our happiness has gone down. I feel that is driven by the "Need" for more, driven by advertising. We are always told we need something, popcorn, cereal, a $3000 TV or maybe a new laptop. We don't need to turn every event into a reason to go shopping or have to buy a gift.

Angelina said...

I have thought a lot about this too and I think you have asked very important questions and spoken eloquently.

Nothing makes my respect for a company plummet more than a sell out to a huge corporation. Would I do it? I guess if I was still struggling and someone wanted to take over my good ideas and pay me lots of money, I would be tempted.

But if my company was already prospering and already known on a national level, why must I sell out to someone larger than myself?

It makes me sick.

I'm especially repulsed by Rachel Ray's ubiquitous mug shot spread across the entire grocery store lately. Why? Is there no endorsement she'll say no to?

It's hard to say what you would do when you're on the empty end of a living. Since Philip and I are shutting down the store, our prospects for a living are much fewer. He has to look for a job. We all have to make money to survive.

But I have become very clear lately that while I would really like to be comfortable and have enough to take care of us all when we're old, I don't want to become filthy rich.