Guest Post: Have A Merry DeGrowth Christmas--Boycott Black Friday

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The "aggregate demand is God" Keynesian Cargo Cult fetish of focusing on holiday sales is worse than meaningless--it is profoundly misleading.

Counting on strong holiday retail sales to "boost the economy" is like eating triple-paddy cheeseburgers and fries to lose weight. The last thing a debt-dependent economy needs is more borrowing to buy excess consumption, and the last thing an economy that imports most of the junk being purchased needs is empty-headed economists declaring that the purchase of more low-quality, mostly needless junk is anything other than a waste of money and resources.

Since most of the junk (and it is junk--most Americans have either forgotten what actual quality is or they have never experienced it) is made overseas, the "boost" to the economy generated by rampant charge-card consumption flows to only one slice of the the U.S. economy: corporate profits.

U.S.-based global corporations skim most of the profits made when junk is made overseas; how much profit do you think the Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers of the iPad and iPhone components make? If you guessed 1%-2% of their part of the cost, you're right. So if a $300 device costs $100 to actually manufacture in China, the Chinese suppliers make a dollar or two. Apple skims about $100 and the distribution/retail channels skim the other $100.

I have covered this dynamic in depth over the years: for example:

Trade with China: Making Out Like a Bandit (March 30, 2006)
Much of China's manufacturing is owned and managed by foreign corporations. In effect, the companies aren't Chinese at all; only the workers are Chinese.

Trade and "Trade War" with China: Who Benefits? (October 5, 2010)

In effect, Black Friday is not about "deals," it's about padding already record-high corporate profits with excess consumption of 1) junk 2) needless stuff.

Please, Santa, Let This Be the Last Christmas in America (that's supposed to "save" the U.S. economy) (November 23, 2010):


The propaganda machine is cranking up to announce that a 2% increase in holiday retail sales means the U.S. economy is off and running. Santa, please, please, please order your reindeer to stomp the life out of the idiotic fantasy that Americans buying a few billion dollars more needless junk from China is any sort of evidence that the U.S. economy is "growing at a healthy clip."

The entire retail sector is 7.9% of the GDP compared to a 21.4% share for the FIRE tranch (finance, insurance and real estate) of the economy.

Santa, you have my deep gratitude if you could jam the propaganda machine so that this is the last Christmas in America where trivial retail sales are hyped as the bellwether for the $16 trillion U.S. economy.

The "aggregate demand is God" Keynesian Cargo Cult fetish of focusing on holiday sales is worse than meaningless--it is profoundly misleading. What the economy needs is not more mindless debt-based consumption (the "aggregate demand" that the cargo cult sees as a "folk cure" for everything that's wrong with the economy) but the exact opposite: paying down debt, reducing the share of the national income skimmed by a parastic banking sector, a boycott of low-quality junk (i.e. 90% of what's bought on Black Friday) and an evolution beyond a model of "growth" that's dependent on ever-rising debt and consumption of needless junk made overseas to benefit Corporate America's bulging bottom line.

If you missed my recent entry on the Degrowth movement in Europe, please check it out: Degrowth, Anti-Consumerism and Peak Consumption (May 9, 2013)

The anti-consumerism Degrowth movement is gaining visibility and adherents in Europe. Degrowth (French: décroissance, Spanish: decrecimiento, Italian: decrescita) recognizes that the mindless expansion of mindless consumption fueled by credit and financialization is qualitatively and quantitatively different from positive growth.


Degrowth is based on a number of principles:

1. Consumerism is psychological/spiritual junk food (French: malbouffe) that actively reduces well-being (bien-etre) rather than increases it.

2. Better rather than more: well-being is increased by everything that cannot be commoditized by a market economy or financialized by a cartel-state financial machine-- friendship, family, community, self-cultivation--rather than by acquiring more. The goal of economic and social growth should be better, not more. On a national scale, the cancerous-growth measured by gross domestic product (GDP) should be replaced with gross domestic happiness/ gross nation happiness (GNH).


3. A recognition that resources are not infinite, despite claims to the contrary. Even if fossil fuels were infinite and low-cost (cheerleaders never mention the external costs), fisheries, soil and fresh water are not. For one example of many: China Is Plundering the Planet's Seas (The Atlantic). Indeed, all the evidence suggests that access to cheap energy only speeds up the depletion and despoliation of every other resource.


4. The unsustainability of consumerist consumption dependent on resource depletion and financialization (i.e. the endless expansion of credit and phantom collateral).


5. The diminishing returns on consumption. Investing in clean air and water, public transit, universally accessible knowledge/information--these forms of consumption yield high returns in public health, affordable mobility, etc. Buying clothing to wear once or twice and then throw away does not.

The investment in the rule of law, public infrastructure and universal access to clean air, water and education moves nations from developing to developed and greatly improves the material lives of the residents. Beyond this, consumption of resources offers diminishing returns up to a point of social/spiritual/ psychological derangement. Consumption beyond this point actively reduces well-being.


6. The failure of neoliberal capitalism and communism alike in their pursuit of growth at any cost.


Both the religion of growth and its Cargo Cult enablers are merely superficial facades masking the real force: the expansion of global finance via financialization. Expanding capital, profits and power is the key agenda, and the quasi-religion of growth is just the public-relations narrative that mesmerizes the debt-serfs, political toadies and media sycophants.


What does Degrowth mean in practical terms? Use the thing until it cannot be repaired. Don't ditch the mobile phone, auto, dress or digital device until it can no longer repaired. Buy local rather than than global-corporate whenever feasible. Crave less, need less, want less, resist the brainwashing of 24/7 marketing. Learn to become a person who does not need corporate-status signifiers for a sense of identity.

What if Progress requires less consumption, less debt, less shopping-gives-me-meaning?

A DeGrowth Christmas does not mean a "no gift" Christmas: it means either making gifts, regifting (making a gift of something that is perfectly usable or in many cases, still in the box), giving an experience (i.e. time with someone), or (at least in my opinion) giving a well-made tool or book that leverages new skills or new understanding.

Does excess consumption really add that much to our lives? Goodness gracious, people, look in the closets of America--they're stuffed to the gills with clothing, shoes, sporting goods, etc. etc. etc. Even "poor people" have endless gadgets, multiple TV sets, etc. etc. Look at the storage units crammed with excess everything.

There's a new documentary on DeGrowth: GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth; free screenings are being held on Black Friday in select cities.

1:39 minute video on the documentary: Attack of the Zombie Shoppers.


Of related interest:

The Last Christmas in America (December 23, 2010)

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irazmo's picture

Trickle Down! Trickle Down my leg.

Say What Again's picture

That's Jammie - I richer than you - D pissing on you from above.

Yes, I know there are many other versions of that img

Say What Again's picture

Speaking of Jammie D.

Mr B. has been working hard, producing great stuff....


p.s. I wish I could post pictures

TruthInSunshine's picture

Before purchasing any additional items, ask yourself one simple question: Do you really need it and/or does it truly relate to a true, core passion you have (some activity that truly improves your quality of mood and life for more than 5 minutes/days/months - hopefully it will on a permanent basis since it pertains to a passion, which most people only have a few of, at most).

If yes, buy it. If not, don't.

You will be happier, healthier, wiser & have less shit/junk/detritus collecting dust, bought with your labor (or worse yet, acquired by debt), that you absolutely have no need for.

Embrace minimalism, of a QUALITY OVER QUANTITY type, not to deprive yourself, but to make your life infinitely better.

Quit the acquisition of useless shit. The economy will improve as the producers of useless/dead detritus wither and die, people will shed debt and stress, and real virtue & productivity will return in the form of healthy equilibrium.

CH1's picture

Do NOT do what television tells you to do!

The Gooch's picture

Triple PADDY? 

Is it marinated in Jamesons?

TruthInSunshine's picture

I have a client of considerable wealth who is in his 70s (now owns over 30 branded vehicle dealerships) who grew up dirt poor, and once told me that the average American Household could pack up all their "stuff" into boxes, as if they were moving, then retrieve only what they needed as they need it.

He opined that if they did this, they would soon realize that, at minimum, they've collected at least 80% of what they have absolutely no use for, paid for with their labor, or worse yet, debt, that collects dust.

He lives modestly, by the way, as a % of his net wealth (he has zero debt despite bankers begging him to take out loans constantly), but he does have a few expensive, high quality things that relate to his lifelong core passions (one being a custom & hand built, retro-designed but new Singer Porsche 911 that has to be seen to be believed - he can strip and rebuild Porsche motors in his sleep; it's a true passion of his).

Think about how that adversely affects the average person/worker bee/slave, sponsored by the power of sophisticated and pervasive marketing.

He's 100% correct, and the ultimate irony is that his fortune was built on many (not all) of his customers buying vehicles they didn't need, to impress people or for some other asinine reason, with money they may not have had, essentially turning them deeper into debt slaves (and now, many of the vehicles they are trading in are of a higher quality than the "new" vehicles they are purchasing or leasing - his favorite example is Lexus & Acura; both have new vehicles that for the most part, are worse in almost every way than their last generation equivalents).

Quality over Quantity, bitches. Cry once.

Buy that which you need or truly relates to a core, deep passion.

Stay away from the great debt race (don't become a Stanley Johnson of Capital One infamy, up to his eyeballs in debt with his shiny new shit).

This change in fundamental mindset would recalibrate our entire social and economic system for the better, and everyone BUT the fractional fiat monopolistic parasites would be happier, wealthier and wiser.

Sofa King Confused's picture

To the writer:

Paddy is a slang word for an Irishman.  So eating a three paddy cheeseburger sounds a bit wierd.


Perhaps you meant patty



W74's picture

Most Americans are what I call "borderline" hoarders.  I know, one of my parents is a borderline hoarder (though I think just crosses the line) and my best friend's family is (well, only one of the adults) a super mega hoarder of epic proportions.  So I've seen it.  I've dealt with it, I've tossed things out.  I've coached and been able to make a bit of a mental dent in efforts to help the above persons out.

Get rid of the junk, toss it out.  You'll be happier for it and your house will look cleaner.  You'll actually be around things you use on a daily basis and you won't be afraid to have people over for social interaction which improves your life.

Think of how many billions the storage industry makes off hoarders.  Sure buy that plastic box with lid for $12 and stick it under your bed or in the attic or back room and hardly, if ever, look up on.  And if that weren't bad enough think of all the big box storage stores you see cropping up.  Would you like to pay $75 every month for a 5x5 closet to put you crap in?

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

So true, I'm always amazed how much junk Americans pile up in their garages to the point they can't even park their cars. It's quiet revealing to travel and see most in the rest of the world living a more minimalist life and are happy. Associations with friends and families are more important than things. It's a never ending theme now. Stuff your body with mountains of junk food until you resemble Jabba the Hut and surround yourself in piles of Chinese made merchandise until you can no longer move. Then, take antidepressants for " depression or anxiety" instead of investigating why they are necessary.


bunzbunzbunz's picture

They're busy deleveraging and buying a few bitcoins. Get some free while you can:

bunzbunzbunz's picture

pfft. I'll buy for $10 per coin thanks. Give it another year.

W74's picture

I'm glad that the internet, blogs, and forums are exposing the sham for what it is.  Has found the right contractor to build in the kill switch?

Steaming_Wookie_Doo's picture

If the kill switch is as bad as the Obamacare website, it'll never kill anything (except perhaps itself). I'm almost hopeful!

alien-IQ's picture

Is there any holiday left which americans do not celebrate by buying shit they don't need with money they ain't got?

Say What Again's picture

The irony of that succinct, yet humorous comment is priceless.

I'd give you a +10, if only I could.

Say What Again's picture

Is Re-Gifting the same as rehypothecation?

CrimsonAvenger's picture

It is if you get it once and can give it over and over and over. Like syphillis.

W74's picture

Pretty sure I've bought a few Shaniquas and Lakieshas a couple hundred EBT cards over the years.  It's the gift that keeps on stealing, and stealing and stealing....Paid a lot of other people's rent too.

bunzbunzbunz's picture

I'd be curious to calculate what you or most people who complain about welfare pay in taxes minus the your benefits from the government you or your children use. You know - schools, roads, subsidized goods, etc. Are you old enough to expect to receive social security? Would you deny the check knowing that it takes the taxes of 6 workers to pay the bill of one social security collector?

Ben Dover's picture

to complete the list, check with an tax day accountant. They are way on top of the deductions everyone gets. We all get to see what we can get for free come tax day


Blano's picture

Sweetest Day in the upper Midwest.

ForTheWorld's picture

New Years Day - Spending a great deal of money on food, drugs and alcohol, only to regret it the next day.

Valentines Day - Spending money to either make up for yours or someone elses lack of ability to convince someone you actually care for them, or making up for something you've done that you feel guilty about.

Easter Sunday - Spending a great deal of money on chocolate (and now gifts).

St Patricks Day - Spending a great deal of money getting drunk, because apparently that's what St Patrick was all about.

kralizec's picture

Screw Black Friday, I like Gold Gold Everyday!  ;)

bnbdnb's picture

Already there buddy.

Say What Again's picture

Where do I apply for a job as Santa at the mall?

Say What Again's picture

Thank you, but my iShit-Phone can't make the translation... 

Maybe santa can give me a real map for christmass.

W74's picture

Just make sure you don't have any spring in your gait, or poke around where you don't belong.  I avoid children. I have a lot to offer younger generations (hell my new GF is 24 and a teacher, fucking weird), but you won't find me in a school or a summer camp or working as a coach.  Now I will never do anything wrong, but accusations alone will ruin a man for life, and there's too much room for accusations.

Oh well, the more that honest, fair, good and responsible men are shunned away from society the more and more chances losers, criminals, perverts, and queers will creep their way into the fort.

FieldingMellish's picture

Big Bad Ben has said that Main Street has been helped thanks to the Fed. They made it easier for you to get into debt. Simples.


Happy Debtmas everyone!

TruthInSunshine's picture

Debtmas has the kind of ring to it that would warm the heart of even the Scrooge-iest Rothschild.

Those Rothschilds, they JUST LOVE Christmas, you know...

...because of the Baby Jesus?


Conax's picture

If you have a line to them, tell the Rothschilds (Bauer family) I have been calling it Kissmyassmas.

It's an annual butt-boink.

GolfHatesMe's picture

it doesn't matter, Sales will include all items people Thought of purchasing

Blano's picture

It only needs to make it to the cart.

Gallopin Gold's picture

I'm doing some shopping on Black Friday-- There is a sale at Emergency Essentials, the food storage place.  I stopped by and asked about sales and they said that Black Friday would be the day to find deals.  I'm low on comfort foods ;o)


youngman's picture

They are selling a freeze dried Thanksgiving Dinner right now....complete with

starman's picture

Gov: if you cant afford the already overpriced housing , rejoyce

you can now afford that new 35k Chevy and 10k Dig TV ! 

have fun paying it back with your 24% skymiles card! 

TBT or not TBT's picture

Why can't I get the skymall catalog delivered at home. WTF is that?

ebworthen's picture

Yes, by all means, boycott.

It's going to feel like being a Ron Paul voter, but do it anyways.

The Red Team/Blue Team zombies will be out in full force; stay off the roads!

Sit back and watch a "Thin Man" movie when writing was witty and America still made stuff.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I have a friend who plans on deploying a fleet of dozens of food trucks to Best Buy & Wal-Mart parking lots during the peak of the Black Friday sheeple lines - he'll make a killing selling overpriced hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza & tacos to the retards waiting in line for 3 days to buy a $98 Chinese LCD HDTV. For every dollar they save buying useless shit, he expects them to spend at least 50% of that (or more) on convenience food.