Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Freegonomics: Food for Thought -- and Word Blenders

As you know, I like wordplay. The title of my blog declares it. (Of course, laughorist is a blend of laugh + aphorist.) So, when I read an online piece today about some folks in the San Francisco area who succeeded in complying with their vow not to shop for a year (with some exceptions), I was all set to declare myself as the inventor of the blended neologism "freegonomics."

Read on.

The news story made reference to so-called freegans, people who advocate minimal consumption -- with some going so far as to eat out of Dumpsters. (Please note: the former newspaper copy editor in me warns you that Dumpster is a brand name and should be capitalized when you read it in print or online.) The word freegan itself, of course, is a linguistic blend of free + vegan. (Turns out that some freegans are meagans, because they allow themselves to eat meat.)

Well, I cannot claim to have coined the term freegonomics (the link here to the word is actually a thought-provoking essay by columnist Lucy Siegle in The Observer back in February 2006). A simple search of "freegonomics" indicates that several others already beat me to it, by months if not years.

Even if I did not coin the term, I feel the concept raises issues worth considering. When I was in college, during the Vietnam War, I remember a philosophy professor, John McNeill, challenging our class at LeMoyne College with respect to those who protested the war. He said something like this:

"A Franciscan movement could end this war in 90 days. But you can't do it. If everyone from, say, the ages of 15 to 30 disciplined themselves to the point of buying only necessary goods, you would be able to get anything you want from the government in no time. The economic effect would be huge, and you would be able to stop the war. But you don't have that ability to sacrifice."

Something like that. And I suspected then, and now, he was right.

There's little doubt that consumption (is "overconsumption" a redundancy about redundancies?) in capitalist (well, in all societies) involves abuse, destruction, waste, and greed.

But couldn't the same be said ever since Adam and Eve (easy on those apples, kids)?

I don't disagree that we (we in the U.S. and the so-called developed nations, as well as we who pollute the air and foul the rivers of a booming China) are ravaging the planet. But on a macroeconomic level, if "we" all were to cut back even to a sensible minimum of consumption (a sensible minimum, however you define it), does that impoverish thousands, if not millions, of suddenly jobless people?

I am neither a microeconomist nor a macroeconomist. I tend to be quite frugal (some would say cheapskate). I am not an extravagant buyer. When clothes are given to me as gifts, I feel sheepish (well, that's true for anything made of wool - HAHAHAHA).

I don't know what to conclude about any of this.

Just some food for thought.

And, speaking of word blenders, as opposed to food blenders, even Wikipedia (the source of many definitions above) is a blend of wiki (Hawaiian for fast) + encyclopedia.

You can look it up.

Laugh. Or....



My Heart Runneth Over said...

Thank you... I someone how feel so much smarter... each and every time I read your blog! ~M I laughing already...!

mist1 said...

I have been throwing my money away.

Meloncutter said...

I think these "freegan" people are nuts.

Later Y'all

Glamourpuss said...

I need fancy knickers - I can't function without them. Food is a luxury. Lingerie is not.

Does that make me a pantieconomist?


Dafath said...

tew thoughts for consumption

john mcneill was wrong; we did stop the way

if we gave up consumption
what would food for thought
have to be salvaged from the Dumpsters of old bad threadbare ideas?

Odat said...

I'm just so consumed by it all...

Natalie said...

Since we have moved to a service based economy I think it would be hard on a lot of people jobwise if eeryone stopped buying "luxury" items. By luxury I mean eating out and buying many and expensive clothes/goods, not living out of the Dumpster. It would be interesting to see what kind of economic system would form if people got a little more sensible.

Crankster said...

Something you made me think of is this: if consumption is about identity and choice, then your choice to minimize consumption still leads to the creation of identity.

Moreover, if we, as a species, ever did exactly the same thing, the world would crumble, as the market could not support that level of production in any given sector.

Maybe the key is to consume in a way that you consider moral and productive, while recognizing that the varying levels of consumption are what keeps the market robust and diversified.

Just a thought.

Army said...

Oh Laughorist, I laughed at this post because I was terrified of the "or else" consequences.

I adore wordsmithing as well, and was quite excited to read about the freegan movement. As someone living in a town of hippycrites, I've heard my share of self-satisfied peity. Maybe there is something to it all or perhaps it's just a bunch of pooey. I could barely swallow the jagged pill of Economics 101 and can't navigate a supply and demand graph to save my bank account... so what do I know?

Oh yeah, and I just recently learned about Dumpster being a brand name, and it surprised me. Thanks for passing along the knowledge to your readers.

Now if you don't mind, I need to blow my nose with a Puffs kleenex.