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Challenge Match: curiousrb vs Druid42: Is consumerism taught, or a natural human desire?

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posted on Dec, 12 2012 @ 02:56 AM
Thank you to Druid42 very much for giving me the opportunity to have my first debate, and I believe I will learn a lot from this.
But I'll get straight into it.

What is consumerism?

The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

In today's modern society, people borrow money they can't pay back, to buy things they don't need. Many of the items we as a human race purchase are purely a want. Not a necessity to our survival at all. We spend money to buy products that make our lives more comfortable. We love seeing great deals, and jump at the chance to take advantage of them.

But how do we pick up this will to consume? Is it taught, or is it naturally built into us?

I believe one indication to distinguish how we pick up this obsession to spend, is by looking at cultural differences.

Take New Zealand for example. A country that has had a significant increase in consumer spending, as shown by this graph

New Zealand is a country which is an example of a capitalist system, where consumerism is greatly shown.

However, lets take a look at another country. Bahrain. A country with very low consumer spending and a population 3 million less than New Zealand. As shown here, it is clear there is a cultural difference.

Bahrain isn't the only country though


These are just three examples of low consumer spending.

If we are naturally driven to consume, why are there still countries with low consumer spending?
Shouldn't all countries have high consumer spending?

An interesting point is the fact these countries aren't as subjected to advertisements and media portraying consuming goods. This would indicate, the fact that people are brought up in countries with already high consumer spending, would indicate those people pick up that trait, rather than born with the desire to spend and consume.

Another comparison that I made shows an indication or a link between higher consumer spending and the bank lending rate.
I found that countries with a high consumer spending typically have a higher bank lending rate. This means there are certain demographics of consumers in different countries. We can tell from these statistics that certain people in certain countries will spend and borrow money, in order for them to consume more. Other individuals in other countries will be able to control their spending as they have less influence to spend and consume.

We can make a comparison between Russia and New Zealand in this instance.

Russia has a relatively low spending rate compared to New Zealand, and a relatively low bank lending rate as in comparison to New Zealand.
This is shown by this nice picture.

New Zealand Bank lending rate
Russia bank lending rate

New Zealand consumer spending
Russian consumer spending

So there is an obvious trend. Consumerism is a taught trait as shown by the comparisons I have made. There is a clear indication or geographical location and consumer spending. This would indicate consumer spending is affected by environmental factors. One factor being exposure to media advertisements.

With that I conclude my first post and look forward to Druid's reply.

posted on Dec, 12 2012 @ 07:32 PM
I would like to open by thanking curiousrb for the opportunity to discuss this topic, and I'm sure we'll be able to provide the readers and judges with an informative and interesting debate.

I'll use my opponent's definition of consumerism, and expound upon it.

The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

It is truly a fitting definition, but I'd like to posit that it does not only include modern society, but stems from a natural desire based upon mankind's need to survive.

I'll digress backwards in time to find the basis of the desire, and can locate a point in human history, about the time archaic writing systems were being developed, when humankind was making the ever-so-important transition from hunter-gatherers, to farmers. Before this point there was no real organization or methods of commerce, just a simple "you get your butt out to pick berries today while "UG" and the other male members of the tribe hunts for bison, or you go hungry tonight". If "UG" and company came home empty handed, well, it was berries and grubs for dinner. It was all a matter of survival back then. Hunger is a completely natural aspect of survival, and a primary motivating factor. We'll call this the Stone Age. People lived in nomadic tribes, and wandered around for food. They desired to do better.

So one of those darned berries pickers decided to plant a bunch of bushes in a row, and called it a farm, and made a tool called a hoe to keep the ground cultivated, and "UG" saw that it was good. Instead of picking up the tribe and moving miles to a new location, they stayed in one spot, began to make more farms, and build houses, and created the first village. The idea caught on rather quickly, as it was rather efficient, and soon there were many villages with different crops.

Naturally, if you had 300 pounds of potatoes, and the neighboring village had 300 pounds of carrots, you'd want to trade. Variety is one important aspect consumerism, born of the desire in the late Stone Age to have a varied diet. Commerce set the stage for the Iron Age, and gave mankind it's greatest leap forward.

The period lasted roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 4500 BC and 2000 BC with the advent of metalworking

It's here that I find a conundrum, and for that I'll refer back to the definition:

The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

Society, ever since it's inception, has been preoccupied with the acquisition of goods, whether it be food, tools, new technology, or "bling". A tomato is a consumer good, and so is the latest "KE$HA" CD.

It would be human desire, however that determines whether to make a BLT with that tomato, or buy the CD. If you're not hungry, you'll likely buy the CD, but if you have bacon in the fridge, and a head of lettuce, the tomato would be the obvious choice. Decisions, decisions.

Those decisions are prompted, and executed, by completely natural human desires. It's how much money you have, and what you want at the time.

My opponent believes that there is a trend towards media exposure, and lending rates, that somehow spur obsessive spending in societies, and I'd like for him to expound. To me, consumerism is driven by the basic needs of the members of a society, and once those basic needs are met, excessive expenditures are more related to the personal desires of the participants, directly proportional to the media influence.

Oh, and by the way, I checked. For the price of a KE$HA CD, you can buy a loaf of bread, a pound of bacon, a tomato, a head of lettuce, a jar of mayonnaise, and still have change left over. The average person, including me, will go for the BLT. Nobody had to teach me that.

Further on in this debate I'll present other factors that affect consumerism, one of which may be startling to you, but factual nonetheless.

For now, I yield the debate back to curiousrb, and rest.

posted on Dec, 14 2012 @ 12:32 AM
Thanks for the well thought out reply Druid, and I'll get straight back into it.

I will go into more depth as you asked, but first let me start off in reply to you statements made around the early stages of consumerism and trade.

You already mentioned a great point, and distinguished the fact that we have needs and wants. Obviously food is a need to our survival and using your example, a ''Kesha'' album, would be a want.

I'll go back to the definition of consumerism and would like to stress the term ''preoccupied'.
This is the way I believe we can tell the difference between consumerism, and survival. Two common consumer products are foods and water. These are essential to our survival and are a must to buy, unless you grow you own food, or a very lucky someone who has water available to them without the need of purchasing. Technically, buying and purchasing essential items is consumerism, but we must look at needs and wants in a different perspective of consumerism. I would consider consumerism, involving the purchase of ''want goods'' (excuse the term), self indulgence, and this is what I believe is taught.

Now as you asked, I will expand on my idea in my previous post, as you asked.
To do this, I will go back to using my Russia and New Zealand examples.

I will do this using data from the website NationMaster

I have found an interesting link that backs up my statement on media exposure. And this is the number of media devices (per capita). This is important as New Zealand has a population of around 4.5 million, while Russia has a population 143 million.

So I found media wise

98.1% of New Zealand households have television sets, while 98.03 of Russian households have a television set. A 0.07% difference.
473.7 people per 1000 have a personal computer in New Zealand while only 104.3 people per 1000 have a personal computer in Russia.
502.9 people per 1000 have a television receiver in New Zealand while 410.7 people per 1000 have a television receiver in Russia.
84% of the New Zealand population have a radio while 43% of the Russian population have a radio. This statistic isn't on the website as a percentage. i had to do this myself using the values I was presented with.
One last but very important statistic is that per capita 80.8 per 1000 people in New Zealand compared to 11.1 per 1000 people in Russia have broadband subscriptions. a considerable amount, especially with the fact the internet is full of advertising, through many popular website that have a lot of traffic - and being up there.

I could use many statistics, but this will do for now. You can also find them here

This relates back to what i mentioned in my first post around media exposure.
In comparison Russia has a lower consumer spending and New Zealand has a higher consumer spending. This can be explained by New Zealand citizens being more exposed to advertising media than Russia is. This would indicate an influence plays a part in consumer spending amounts.

I hope that has provided that clarity you were after and perhaps the audience too. I look forward to those startling facts you mentioned in your second post.

posted on Dec, 14 2012 @ 10:14 PM
For my response, I'd like to thank you, curiousrb, for clarifying your position and expounding upon your consumerism theory. Yes, theory. Not proven fact.

There is an inherent flaw in your theory, and that is that you are sampling only 2 disparate economies.

New Zealand is a popular tourist spot, an island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia, and Russia, with a bigger population and larger land area, well, that is about as diverse as you can get when comparing economies, and consumer spending. I think you would agree that spending in those two locations is no way indicative of the overall economy of the world, and I think you would benefit from including a much larger sampling of nations that contribute to the overall spending of the world. A discussion of consumerism should, in reality, include the effects (samplings) of every developed nation in the world.

How can a tiny nation in the Pacific Ocean compare to the GDP of a huge nation such as the Federation of Russia?

Well, the GDP of New Zealand is $142 Billion USD. The GDP of Russia is $1.86 Trillion USD. The GDP of a nation doesn't tell the citizens of that nation to spend more, it simply indicates the strength of the nation's ability to contribute to confidence of spending.

Why then, does Russia rank lower than New Zealand, overall in your statistics?

My answer is tourism. It props up spending. People spend more visiting an island, with beautiful vistas, than they would visiting Russia. Consumerism in your provided examples, are related to tourism, not an overall accurate picture of worldwide spending by individuals.

As promised, there are other factors to consider, when talking about how people spend their money. Every debate has many different angles. This thread,

marketers would be able to check the data and tailor specific campaigns directed at people who have a genetic predisposition for certain behaviors or purchasing certain items.

indicates that perhaps spending is a genetic disposition. It wouldn't be taught to us, just in our genes.

Compulsive spending could also be related to the medications we take. It may be related to excessive intake of Dopamine, from a medication used to treat Parkinson's disease.

3. Addictive Behaviors: Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that usually impairs the patient's movement and speech, among other things. Neurologists have reported seeing drastic changes in the behavior of patients receiving treatment for Parkinson's disease, with some developing sudden addictions, such as gambling problems, elevated sexual interest, or compulsive spending and eating habits. Recently, the largest study ever conducted on the trend has found that more than 13 percent of patients taking dopamine agonists (which are used as treatment for Parkinson's) suffer from at least one of four serious behavioral addictions.

Dopamine is also naturally released through the process of copulation. Yes, Dopamine is a feel good neurotransmitter.

Let me ask you this: If you are on a romantic vacation in New Zealand, and are romantic with your partner, and your libido provides you with a healthy Dopamine dose, you aren't naturally inclined to ease up on your wallet a bit more? Heck, the scenery, the relaxation, watching the sunset, yep, it's all good for a Dopamine fix. You, as a consumer, aren't spending money because you were taught to spend it, you are simply wrapped up in the moment, and your lover has subtly altered your brain chemistry.

Consumerism isn't something that we need to be told to do. We do it naturally, and given the proper motivations, we'll yield our wallets to neurotransmitters affecting our brain chemistry.

In closing out this post, I'll state that the money we spend is directly proportional to the pleasure we receive in spending it.

We spend money not only for our survival necessities, but to give us pleasure with what we want to buy. It's not something we need to be told. We all know what we like. We spend our money because it buys us what we want.

The debate goes back to you, curiousrb, at this point.

posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 08:03 PM
Sorry for the late reply.

I would like to start off by saying, yea they are two different countries. That doesn't change the fact of consumer spending. In your post, I was able to pick up another factor affecting consumerism. Environmental appeal.
For a more clear argument, I will present two countries which are more similar.

I will choose Australia and the USA. Two countries, both of which have a diverse landscape, but differ in population.



There is a very clear and significant difference between the consumer spending of both countries.
Both countries has a considerable tourist appeal, yet differ largely in consumer spending. Can we consider tourism, as necessary to include. Would it alter the results?

Generated $1.9 trillion in economic impact, with $813 billion spent directly by domestic and international travelers that spurred an additional $1.1 trillion in other industries.

More here

This is a 2011 statistic.


The USA ranked first in tourism spending yet have lower consumer spending than Australia who ranked 8th.

Lets go back to New Zealand and Russia to compare tourism.

Russian tourism receipts

New Zealand tourism receipts

It's important to note, Russia has a left skewed distribution, indicating growth and what appears continued growth in tourism. New Zealand has a bi-modal distribution and has always had a solid tourism industry. With that said Russia has a considerably higher amount of tourist spending.

With that I would like to state, I believe tourism plays little amount in consumer spending.
It's interesting and important to point out, New Zealand has a higher consumer spending rate than the USA even though the USA was financially ranked first in tourism!
I believe this would indicate what my second post pointed out and my overall argument.

Consumerism is not a natural occurring trait in humans.

I look forward to your last reply and the final judge verdict. I have enjoyed my first debate a lot and I thank you very much Druid. Sorry for the late reply, but things happen. All the best my friend.
edit on 12/18/12 by Hefficide because: Fixed bad picture link - content was not altered.

posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 10:09 PM

In closing:

I would like to thank my opponent CRB, for his willingness to participate in a formal debate on ATS. I sincerely hope, that regardless of the outcome of this particular debate, he is not swayed from his desire to promote a position he believes in, and that he continues to be an active member of this forum.

A debate doesn't merely entail winning, or losing. It incorporates, and justifies, the arguments of rationality. It's a process, one engaging other minds, presenting positions, and facts, with the end result being able to see your opponent's position, and the ability to analyze the judges ruling.

It's about learning. I have done that throughout all the debates I have been in, and for CRB to issue a challenge to me, well, it only leads me to believe he wishes to learn more. It's only by challenging yourself that you realize your full potential. I know this from experience.

Enough of the formalities, as this is a battle of words. My opponent wishes to state:

Consumerism is not a natural occurring trait in humans.

I have shown repeatedly throughout this debate that the need to survive leads to excessive spending, and that given the "extra money", people will spend. He has not shown to me, nor the readers, a capacity within humanity that tends towards saving money. Money buys goods, but would you rather have goods, or money? I think the majority of us would rather have the comforts in life, a microwave, LCD TV, cellphone, than a bunch of money in the bank that just sits there. We spend money, often on credit, to acquire goods that make our life more comfortable. We WANT to be comfortable, to be comparable to our peers in society.

Then he picks two more countries to compare:

I will choose Australia and the USA. Two countries, both of which have a diverse landscape, but differ in population.

Well, IMO, he repeated the same mistake by trying to compare New Zealand to Russia. In fact, all FOUR countries have a diverse landscape and (not BUT) differ in population.

Charts and graphs do not a good debate make, when you are trying to prove a point. Present a graph, then present a paragraph of text to support it. I got confused by all the disparate graphs, and felt lost amongst all the data. The facts were nice, but I couldn't relate it to the debate at hand, which is whether we are taught, or have a natural inclination to spend our wealth.

I wish there was a course in HS, or college, that dictated the value of saving money.

Those darn Gerber spams give a good example: You put 10 dollars a month for your grandkid into a savings account. It draws 2% interest yearly. By the time the kid graduates, there's over $20,000 in the account. RIGHT!
Only a small percentage of the population perceives the benefits of saving, even at such low returns. In fact, there is no high yield investment, with the Federal Reserve setting the rates to zero. It's a mess.

Those poor examples only exemplify that if consumerism is taught, then also the opposite, saving, would be taught as well, as a balance. It's not. There's no course in formal education about how to spend your money, save investing. Investments are a form of savings.

Therefore, spending is a natural habit, and saving has to be taught.

It was once said, in a holy scripture, that a "fool and his money are soon parted". Does that indicate to you, as the reader, that consumerism is promoted?

I think not.

I would present to you that people, given money, spend it freely, and that what needs taught is how to save money, make investments, and grow your money, even at today's low interest rates. Spending is a natural human inclination, the acquisition of goods.

No matter where you live, whether the US, Australia, New Zealand or Russia, people spend money. They spend it because they want to. It's because they need the goods, or they want the latest KE$HA CD, but people from all geographic locations have money to spend, and they spend on what they want.

People don't spend money because they are told to.

Money gives people what they want.

Thank you for reading.

posted on Dec, 25 2012 @ 10:00 AM
Judgements are in!

The first judge said:

Druid replies with a counter that I think is directly relevant, noting that there are other factors that can account for the differences, including the natural chemical "dopamine", which I thought was one of the first truly salient points made as to human nature versus nurture.

Druid42 wins the second round. In the closing round, curiousrb responds to the tourism slant of Druid42's by citing two other countries, the United States and Australia, but he completely lost me there, because I don't see a radical difference between the two graphs -- with one is in US dollars and the other in Australian dollars, the raw numbers aren't particularly important, though the percentage change, and overall trend would be, and I just didn't see anything of significance there.

Even so, he's effectively thrown out Druid's point about tourism, but left the rest unanswered. If the debate ended there, I'd have given round three and the match to Druid42. But, with his closing argument, Druid flips the tables, rather well, noting that spending is easy, it's something that we do out of hand -- it's not spending that presents the challenge to humans. While I think that this might be a little bit of an oversimplification, as saving doesn't mean that you don't spend, it just means that you don't spend today, I think that the evidence is in Druid's favour and his closing argument seals the case for his side.

A good match, with a particularly good opening by curiousrb, but I have to give this one to Druid42 on the strength of his well crafted rebuttals and ability to pull his opponent off task.

The second judge said:

Congratulations to curiousrb for starting strong in the debate forum, I hope to see more of him in the forum for 2013, and of course to Druid42 for accepting the challenge and another new member to the forum.

curiousrb starts with a strong case showing that advertizing has a clear link to consumer spending, Druid does a good job of going back, way back in history to prove his points, but just doesn't do enough to make me see his way.

For the second round of posts, I would have to give it to Druid.
He does a good job at refuting CRB's second post and makes some very good points of his own.

For the final posts, I first have to say, that for me CRB's charts and graphs did a job good at explaining his points.
So when I read Druids last reply I was surprised to see him say that charts and graph are useless in a debate, for me quite the opposite is true.

More so in a debate of this nature, and so after reading each members final post one last time...

winner curiousrb

Which meant I had to go to the well for a tie breaker!

Both opening statements are interesting. Curiousrb backs his points with charts while Druid42 backs his stance with common sense. I appreciated both point of views and leave this round at a tie.

In the second round, Curiousrb expands on showing that the media has an influence over consumerism. There is no denying that it does but showing us that it has an influence is a given and by no means proves that we are taught to consume. Druid42 comes out swinging in the second round, showing that worldwide consumerism cannot be generalized over the analysis of two countries only. His overall description of how one wants and feels the need to spend is clear and to the point. Druid42 takes this round.

In the third and final post, Curiousrb falls into the trap to prove that tourism has no impact instead of focusing on the topic at hand that is "we are taught vs natural human desire". Druid42 closes with strong rebuttals, once again and this sentence closed the deal for me:

Therefore, spending is a natural habit, and saving has to be taught.

To which I agree, 100%. Druid42 wins the closing statements round and therefore, the debate.

Thank you to both debaters for an interesting match.

So the winner, in a hotly contested and close debate is Druid42!

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