The Economics of ‘Enough’
‘Enough’ is anti-consumerist. For one, it espouses limits. For another, it looks at needs, not wants. And above all, it values long-term societal health over short-term personal gain. It just might save us.
Enough isn’t a sexy doctrine. Far from the life of the party, it’s the rational voice that tells you skip the nightcap and get a good night’s sleep. While everybody knows it’s right to espouse these things, nobody enjoys the reminder.
We’d rather party, and pay the price tomorrow.
Enough looks inward at need, rather than outward at want like consumerism does. Enough pumps the brakes when we are no longer hungry, or cold, or alone. Consumerism floors the accelerator, because there is always someone, somewhere to chase, fueled by consumerist envy.
My father — a top-tier über-consumer — used to read stories about billionaires and critique out loud what he called “abstract levels of wealth”. “How many pairs of pants can they wear at once?! How many cars can they drive?!” In the next breath, he would chuckle about the six bagfuls of suits he just gave away, because his enormous closets were overstuffed, and “it got a bit crazy”.
My father is neither inherently selfish, nor insatiable. In fact, he is more often than not extremely generous. Rather, he is a victim of the “more doctrine” that demands upward mobility, economic growth and trophies.
The interesting part is, I wouldn’t consider my father particularly fulfilled, in spite of his longstanding membership in the rarified 1% Club. He is often happy, but I wouldn’t call him content. More on this distinction later.
Enough is the fastest route to contentment.
Contrary to what we are told, excess is bad for everyone. It’s bad for our bodies, which buckle under the weight of gluttony, while counterintuitively, by the way, they thrive in a climate of famine. It’s bad for the planet, which we destroy to feed our insatiability. It’s bad for our minds, which attempt to convince us not only do we never have enough, we never are enough. Excess makes us impotent in our own lives.