With the arrival of the end-of-year holidays, the debate that contrasts the “consumerists” to the “austere”. The former, benefiting from the development conditions that the market economy makes available, would like to spend their money (however little or how much) as they please. The latter, however, would like a sober and thrifty attitude to be adopted, turning off the lights and limiting consumption to have a more austere life which, as such, would be more virtuous and worth living. This behavior, considered virtuous, should then, in their opinion, be widespread and, where possible, imposed as a mandatory lifestyle.
The question has been open since the dawn of time and involves political ideologies, religious doctrines and, inevitably, economic theories: “A similar logic animates the centuries-old debate between consumerist and austere economists (…). This is a controversy that arose (we have written proof) since the time of the wars between Athens and Sparta, the former consumerist, the latter austere, and continued over the course of the centuries up to the present day. In the French eighteenth century, for example, Voltaire and the libertines sided with luxury, against Rousseau and the Catholics of Fénelon; the encyclopedists and physiocrats remained uncertain” (Sergio Ricossa, Where is the science in economicsDi Renzo Editore – 1997).
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This vision is contrasted with that of those who believe that the consumer left free to choose risks falling into too many temptations: “The austere, on the contrary, reply that the market uses the vices and weaknesses of consumers and that prohibiting consumerist temptations benefits the virtue. This argument certainly has a grain of truth, but its concrete implementation has always proven to be flawed enormous complexity, and I believe that we should be wary of those who, deciding on our behalf, propose (or impose) forced choices on us to strengthen our virtue. In Soviet Russia a similar project had rather serious results. Furthermore, often the person who claims the right to decide which goods to ban benefits himself greatly from it” (Ibid).
From here to get to an economic system that controls and decides how, what and how much to produce, the step is short: “Due to the prejudice we talked about, therefore, it is appreciated and considered compliant with the collective and common good (even if no one knows what it is) only public economic activity, while private economic activity is accused of being organized to allow the free rein of the desire for profit”. (Ibid)
Unfortunately, if the decision maker is only public, the whole system is distorted: “In the market, in fact, you do not receive anything without offering something in exchange and there must be an equivalence of values between what you give and what you receive. It’s in thepublic economy that unfortunately there is not always an exchange and, if it does exist, it is not always fair. Indeed, we note that very often public activity is the seat of appetites for riches and lust for power.” (Ibid)
Best wishes to all those who will be able to freely purchase what they want.
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