Perhaps giving consumers more responsibility makes them more creative. Or put differently, perhaps the reason that consumers act like consumers is because they lack any responsibility in the economy itself, beyond their position in it.
What if you could give consumers responsibility, to turn them into creators? Would this work? I’m so curious to understand if it’s possible.
Perhaps the manifestations of “product” and “consumer” are mutually reinforcing relationships, wherein, people lose track of the fact that within the economy, they are part of much bigger processes, and that there are political and social implications for economic decisions. If I buy a banana picked by slaves, I effectively find slavery. If I buy from a international corporation that is crippling local businesses, I cripple local businesses through my purchasing decisions. Further in the latter example, this could have a further knock-on effect for me as a citizen of that town, as the town could be more impoverished in the long run.
Someone could interject here and say “but one person’s purchasing decisions are unlikely to affect a whole town!”, to which I would reply that this is predicated on actors acting from an individual stance; if they were able to pool their purchasing power, the economic game would have different results. 1 person’s purchasing decisions might not be able to affect a whole town – so they don’t do it because they hold this logic – but if that person banded together with 1000, 10,000 others, they would change their behaviour, because they were part of an alliance which could collectively shape the landscape of that town.
Instead of looking at things in terms of “products”, we may do better to look at things in terms of “processes”, or dynamic games, in which players can make economic decisions together, and shape the dynamic game to achieve their optimum outcome. I.e. buying the vegetables from the corporation might be cheaper, but it would be more expensive in the long run, since it would (in this example), put local people out of business, make the town poorer, diminish its resources, and create a downward spiral of poverty. Buying the same vegetables from local people is creating a different outcome. And so, purchasing decisions are not only purchasing decisions, they are small aspects of a much wider economic game. Here, you are 1) buying vegetables, 2) keeping local people in business 3) keeping your town prosperous 4) + minimising all the holistic effects where poverty can lead to nasty things, I.e. crime, poor community relations, brain drain, etc, etc.
Buying a product is instantaneous. But this kind of economic game, it is a long term play. But what if we were able to write these buying decisions into much longer term plays? What if every person in the supermarket was buying as part of a collective, playing their part in an economic game which would help their city in the long run?
To do this, we might need autonomous economic agents to make these kinds of decisions for us. It’s hard to say exactly, as I’m not well versed in this technology. But what I really want to pull out in this, is that buying and selling, are smaller parts of larger dynamic games which hold effects which come back to the buyer and the seller in interesting and often unpredictable ways. Often times, buying behaviour is counterproductive towards being effective with one’s finances. And that the role that consumers play is much bigger than they think. It’s just that the economic organisation has not been sufficient such that any kind of coordinated effort could come to past against the “buy what you want for yourself” narrative of individuality and materialism combined.
But if consumers were able to realise their position within the wider dynamic game, then purchasing decisions would differ dramatically to that which is commonplace today.
In short, how to help consumers become creators? By giving them more responsibility. How to give them more responsibility? By helping them to realise their position within a dynamic economic game, with all the potential rewards that come with it.
This has been focused as a large amount towards common supermarket purchases and clothing purchases. It has not been looking at the mentality difference between consuming and creating, and all the underlying realisations and shifts that build that. Although I think that giving more responsibility to any kind of consumer, whether through heightened awareness or by actual responsibility for contributing something, this changes the mindset from one of “what can this thing do for me?”, to “what can I do for this thing?”. And this is a turning point or catharsis.