The problem is that all of these comparative preferences generate competitive consumption. “Keeping up with the Joneses,” in todays world, does not always mean buying a tract home in the suburbs. It means buying a loft downtown, eating at the right restaurants, listening to obscure bands, having a pile of Mountain Equipment Co-op gear and vacationing in Thailand. It doesnt matter how much people spend on these things, what matters is the competitive structure of the consumption. Once too many people get on the bandwagon, it forces the early adopters to get off, in order to preserve their distinction. This is what generates the cycles of obsolescence and waste that we condemn as “consumerism.”
MEC. Check (bought a hat for Oliver there on Friday night). Thailand. Check (February 2002). Right restaurants. Not sure (what’s right? do we have “right” restaurants in Charlottetown?). Obscure bands. Check. Loft downtown. Not really, but pretty close. In general, however, they’ve got me pegged.