There is a criticism that I sometimes hear when talking about the benefits of owning less. And it goes something like this:
“But if everybody did that, the economy would collapse.”
I have three responses to that concern:
1. Just because somebody stops buying unneeded physical possessions doesn’t mean they stop spending money. Minimalists just choose to spend their money on other things. A minimalist economy still churns—it just looks different.
2. What is good for the individual is good for society and the economy. It would be foolish to say, “It is best for society if I take harmful actions against myself.” That model is entirely unsustainable. If owning fewer possessions is better for the individual (and it is), it is also good for society in the long run.
3. But most importantly, just because something makes the world go round doesn’t mean it needs to make your world go round. And I can’t repeat this last point enough.
We are individuals with agency and get to decide for ourselves what will ultimately motivate us in life. Society doesn’t get to make that decision for you.
You don’t have to live your life like everybody else. In fact, you’ll probably be happier if you don’t. (tweet that)
There are a lot of people in this world motivated by economic success, but you don’t have to be one of them.
There are a lot of people in this world motivated by sex, but you don’t have to be one of them.
There are a lot of people in this world motivated by the pursuit of fame or accolades or notoriety, but you don’t have to be one of them.
There are a lot of people chiefly motivated by pleasure, power, competition, control, even revenge… but you don’t have to be one of them.
You get to decide what is going to motivate you as an individual.
Whether it benefits some societal construct like “the economy,” shouldn’t be your greatest obligation.
Just because something makes the world go round, doesn’t mean it needs to make your world go round.
It is up to you to make the very most of the one life you have been given, living it for the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
If owning fewer things allows you to do that (which it probably does), then that is one of the best decisions you can make.
You get to choose your pursuits, your motivation, and your life. The world doesn’t get to decide that for you.