I want folks to eat better and consume less, because doing so will make them healthier and happier. But individual decisions to overconsume don’t just lead to the ruined health and finances of those individuals. In our society we all bear some of the cost. So if more people eat better and consume less, we’ll all be better off.
People who overconsume food or processed unhealthy products will likely ruin their health and shorten and decrease the quality of their lives. Of course they have the freedom to make that choice–to balance the benefits of a longer, healthier, happier life against the short-term gratification of Big Macs, candy bars, beer and cigarettes. But the cost of the decision to overconsume usually isn’t limited to the person who makes the choice. Folks who become sick and unproductive as a result of their lifestyle choices often become a burden on their families. And in our society the cost of their health care must be borne by those members of society who did not ruin their health by refusing to resist the urge for self-gratification through overconsumption. The folks who overconsume then become a weight dragging us all down.
The same is true of overspending. Excessive borrowing and spending has left our economy in shambles. Those who were prudent and stayed out of debt are now having to carry the burden of attempting to repair the damage caused by those who were not.
All across the world people are bearing the economic, political and environmental costs of overconsumption in America. Our overconsumption destroys local economies, enables dictators and slavemasters and destroys nature and environmental balance.
In economics the term “externality” refers to a cost of an economic transaction which is borne by someone other than the producer or consumer; that is, someone who did not agree to the transaction. As overconsumers continue to pile their externalities on the innocent, it’s way past time the truth be told.
This is everyone’s buden.