Emma and I attended 'Constraining Consumption' at the RSA this evening. It was nice to hear someone telling it like it is. Here, very briefly, is one part of the argument as I understood it!
From the end of the second world war onwards Government's in the Western world had to work out how to deal with the fact that they had a production system that produced far more goods and services than people actually wanted. Too many resources and too few consumers. The business of public relations was ushered in and set about convincing people they did need more stuff. In the process they ensured that demand matched supply and that a lot of producers got rich. This story is told most succintly in Adam Curtis' Century of the Self. The result was rapid and spectacular economic growth. Today in Asia the problem faced by the governments in Beijing, Delhi, Manilla and so on is the exact opposite. Too few resources, too many people. In Consumptionomics Chandran Nair argues that they are apparently blind to this reality and instead obssesively follow the consumer capitalist model of the West. It is an absolutely insane thing to do. At exactly the time when governments should be working out how to constrain consumption they are out there, all over the world, actively encouraging us to buy, buy, buy.