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LQD: We are all Imelda Now... Consumption/Happiness

by DeAnander Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 10:25:42 PM EST

The numbers are astonishing. Apparel is easily the second-biggest consumer sector after food. We're spending $282 billion on new clothes annually, up from $162 billion in 1992, based on U.S. Census figures.

Importantly, the steady upward march of clothing expenditures doesn't fully reflect the increase in the actual quantities being made and bought, because the same-size spending spree can bring in more garb with every year that goes by.

The government says apparel prices in the United States dropped by about 25 percent from 1992 to 2002, and we responded like the good consumers we are, increasing our buying by 75 percent. The population increased only 13 percent in that decade, so the average annual shopping haul, which stood at about 50 new articles of clothing per person per year in 1992, had grown to 75 or more items per person by 2002. It has only gone up since then.

And to clear out closet space for the new purchases, the average American discards 68 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.



The lower prices can be attributed to lower domestic wages, greater mechanization and the Wal-Mart-led corporate drive for cheaper everything. But most crucial has been the deluge of cheap imports. No. 1 among the world's top 10 apparel importers, the United States brings in more than the other nine nations combined.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says per-person consumption of textile fiber in the United States is double that of Spain, four times that of China, and almost seven times India's. Currently, Americans buy 40 T-shirts per household annually, 94 percent of them imported. In 2003, four new pairs of shoes were imported for each American.

footnote

Foie gras consumerism:  the public must absorb more and more and more each year of the glut of Product churned out by the ever more "efficient" industrial system as it chews its way through the biosphere converting living systems to dead trash.

For those who link consumerism to happiness these numbers are troubling.  Are we twice as happy as the Spanish?

I'd invent a poll, but my brain is tired.

Meanwhile, what of the misery and damage on which this glut of cheap clothing is founded?

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the allure of fashion is to paper over the gnawing inadequacy most people feel as they contemplate their chances at the last chance casino of globalism.

make-over as soul renewal, new nose cartilage, new destiny...

consumerism is a mirage, today's latest is tomorrow's not-worth-fixing, happiness is a carrot on a stick, we are the clueless donkeys chasing it.

what is left after the tears for man's folly are shed?

a burning desire...

to check out....

oops, i meant to achieve a tiny smidgeon of knowledge worthy of sharing, to help raise the little threads of the tapestry we each hold in our hands, while idiot tyrant jackbooted morons are gleefully jumping on and stomping the shit out of it...

and we cast around for the Great Idea that's going to ripple across the interconnected intelligentsia and reform the psychopathic policies that hasten our near-inevitable downfall and possible expiry as the evolutionary wild card, rogue life-form, magnificently tragic experiment we have 'chosen' to be a part of.

there's not much further to fall, from the low position i gingerly inhabit, but i'm very concerned about how this is panning out, both for the rich who have no idea what's coming to them, and the poor, who might have to continue to suck it up until we in the middle find.....

that

 Great Idea?

3 stages-

wake up,

look the situation squarely in the eye

run like hell, oops try to do something positive, no matter how small or apparently insignificant as you gather speed towards the Great Inevitable, or as the chinese call it, the 'White Luck'?

find a hole to shelter in while the titans collide, to avoid becoming collateral damage in all that friendly fire?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 07:48:29 AM EST
Meanwhile, what of the misery and damage on which this glut of cheap clothing is founded?

Surely you mean the hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians that have 'been lifted out of poverty'?

Cheap clothing is leading people to treat clothes in a qualitatively different way. Clothes are becoming throwaway consumption items.

Imports now make up more than half of the value of the domestic market in apparel in the US, and that means over 75% of the volume. I'd doubt that factors like 'higher mechanisation' and 'lower domestic wages' figure into the equation of lower prices as more than mere statistical blips.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 08:59:05 AM EST
From someone living in a developing nation, I've been pondering on this a bit.

I saw a figure that in 2003 the hourly wage in China was less than 1 dollar: about $0.78 Who in the world can compete with that? So the zero sum game is well in place.

But it now gets worse as also Chinese companies are mushrooming: the South African textile industry, a relatively thriving part of the economy, has been virtually destroyed within three years by Chinese imports. So China is not only taking on developing countries, it's defeating them too. Result: bankruptcies, higher unemployment and an even graver outlook for the poor. Economic growth is still high in SA, but one wonders what would happen if China would take on SA's core industries.

But why were the South African companies destroyed: simply because the South Africans abandoned to purchase local products and went for the cheapest available. Simple as that. I've observed before: the African Dream is not too different from the American Dream. And they want it now, so it has to be done on the cheap - which ultimately is destroying their own economy.

On the short term: it means that people from townships can afford nice looking clothes without little costs - and wearing nice clothes is definitely a part of empowerment. On the long term: this "winner takes all" trend is insidiously damaging for developing nations. I don't see how it can be stopped, short of China going through a cycle of developing unions blocs, higher hourly wages, responsible external costs and an equal wealth distribution. Which may take generations - at best.

by Nomad on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 10:36:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Chinese are starting to feel the squeeze of their growth in many industrial activities as they struggle to find enough qualified workers. So I don't know if you need to be that worried about SA's 'core industries'.

The thing with clothing is, you don't need your workers to be qualified for the labour-intensive steps in the production process (= the final assembly). I've seen estimates that there are more than a hundred million low-skill Chinese left to be integrated into the labour market. This means that China can continue to compete on labour costs in clothing with the poorest developing countries for another decade or more.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 12:12:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is this French comic book author, Guy Delisle, who is also working in animation production. Ten years ago his animated cartoons were being produced in China, as he wrote Shenzen ; five year later he wrote Pyong Yang.

Even the Chinese can feel the crunch of economics dumping.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 at 04:23:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pyongyang is amazing. I'm still trying to get it out of my system.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 at 05:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For those who link consumerism to happiness these numbers are troubling.  Are we twice as happy as the Spanish?

Huh?

You really haven't read my diary. Salient fact: 48% of Spain's energy footprint (or 2+ global hectares per person) comes from (mostly imported) "consumer goods". And in the comments you'll find that Spain is nearly tied with the US on a "sustainability index" ranking from 2002.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 at 05:24:55 AM EST


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