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History of Consumerism

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in an elevated amount. Consumerism as an ideology first appeared in Western Europe roughly three hundred years ago. It gave a rise in consumer’s need and importance to the display of material items. It promoted economic progress, a rise in small shops, an increase in the growth of cities, and an incline in individualism. A shift in the market hit right before the Industrial Revolution. Capitalist development and the industrial revolution focused on infrastructure and production and manipulation of fossil fuels. In 1919 consumerism began to sweep over the American population when General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) was established. The General Motors Acceptance Corporation mission was to issue loans to customers who had purchased a vehicle. Americans started the notion of “Keeping up with the joneses” which is the idea that Americans compare themselves to their neighbors, defining each stance in socio-cultural inferiority. With this new need for status with possessions was thought to be the beginning of the American consumer culture.
Soon after The Great Depression and World War broke out. When the war-ceased consumers went wild, credit cards issued first for convince took off quickly to show status through the products each individual had. Consumerism gathered strength in the United States through internal trade growing, expansion of railroads and national markets. People began purchasing goods and materials in excess of their basic needs. With the rise of consumerism the standard of living increased. People began to move from small rural towns into cities. Fast forward to the twentieth century and now shopping centers began to develop. By the 1970s Americans surpassed Europeans nearly four times in the number of hours spent shopping.
Consumption and consumerism has been the leading factor behind the United States economy, new consumer products were created such as autos, and watches which grew the sense of individualism. Today individuals care more about procuring the latest iPhone and various other electronic gadgets, and feeling a sense of belonging and culture with each new purchase. Consumerism can be a positive factor for the well being of society with the high standard of living, but can also be negative in respects to consuming unnecessarily massive amounts of products.
Statement of Purpose Consumerism in America has affected business, government and society in both an advantage and disadvantage. Businesses are interested in fulfilling the interest of society and government by producing massive consumption of products and services, in doing so they face constricted regulations and laws for the production. Government has been influenced drastically in boosting the economy with employment, and rising Gross Domestic Products and on the side in heavily regulating business with several federal agencies. Society has been given the opportunity to acquire any product or services that are available to satisfy their needs and wants, but eventually this can lead to a materialism society that will be damaging in the short and long run.
Consumerism affects Business

Many business in America, depend greatly on consumerism, for it generates, requests a high demand of products, therefore creating profits that continues the cycle of business. Consumerism leads people constantly spending money to shop what they want is pumping billions of dollars back to business. Consumerism demand industry’s products for a cheaper price and better quality, causing competition amongst firms. Since there is increased demand and competition, business have to hire more employees in order to increase production of their goods and services. By increasing production of their goods and services, they are able to lower the price of their production of goods and services. For example many car companies such as Ford and Toyota are complying with demands from government and society to generate Eco friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles to clean up environmental issues. These vehicles produce energy security, tax benefits, low fuel costs, less greenhouse gas emissions, faster commuting times, and power efficiency. At the moment fuel efficient vehicles are more expensive, in the near future with more consumption, prices will decrease and will beneficial to the environment. With that, business can look for future substantial need for creating Eco friendly fuel-efficient vehicles.

On the opposing side, many business face regulations and laws imposed by government and society for protecting consumerism can affect the productivity of producing the products and services. Also, this can be costly to implement and if companies are found to violate laws and regulations fines are of vast amounts. The regulations and laws are enforced and implemented federal agencies created by Congress. These agencies are the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to protect children and families from unreasonable risks and injuries associated with consumer products. According to John and George Steiner (2012), “ It enforces 15 major statutes giving it power to: • Set mandatory or encourage voluntary safety standards for more than 15,000 consumer products.

• Ban the sale of products that expose consumers to unreasonable risks. • Require manufactures to recall dangerous products. • Investigate the extent and causes of deaths and inquires from consumer products” (p.529).
Consumer Product Safety Commissions recently found in 2009, Fisher-Price faced the largest toy recall, recalling over 11-million products, including trikes, infant toys, high chairs, toy cars and ramp ways. In the end result, the company faced heavy fines and loss of money.
Consumerism Affects Government Henry David Thoreau wrote, “That government is best which governs least.” in agreement with this statement, yet with all the freedoms that Americans have, there are times the government needs to step in and have laws and regulations be put in place that citizens and businesses need to follow for many reasons. A main reason why the government needs to set certain laws and a regulation is consumerism. Consumerism has two meaning: First, it’s a movement to promote the rights and powers of consumers in relation to and secondly; it’s a powerful ideology in which the pursuit of material goods beyond subsistence shapes social conduct. Thus, consumerism has a great affect on the government, which can be positive or negative. There are many regulations and laws in the government that are put in place to protect consumer’s interest. In following paragraphs will discuss the pro and cons effects that the government has on consumerism.
Consumerism affects governement postiviely by raising the gross domestic product. A higher gross domestic product shows that an economy is flurishing and has prosperity. The higher the country’s gross domestic product, the higher the economic health. This is an indicaitor of the market value within a country of all goods and services it has produced in one fiscal year. With a higher rate of consumerism and a higher gross domestic product the standard of living is also rasied. With the more products and services citizens purchase, the better the country does fiscally.
Consumerism is a protective movement which has lead to expasion of government power to regulate business. More than fifty government agencies monitor numerous consumer interests and regulate fair trade. There is a lenghty list of federal agencies that handle issues and public policy that affect consumer rights, to protect citizens right to consumerism. Agenices range from the federal level to the local and state level, all play a vital role in depicting an issue or monitoring the progress. Such agencys as the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) which dutuies include monitoring and issuing penalities for limiting monolopies, investagating adveritsing claims, and price-fixing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) main purpose is to protect consumers from drugs, food, and cosmetics that could be potentially hamfull and to make sure proper packaging with warnings are issued. When consumerism is at an all time high the governement agencies can hire and work more hours to adequtely protect our consumer needs. There are numerous agencies devoted to this task, the EPA or Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for developing and enfourcing standards to protect the environment through pollution, garbage, and hazardous waste disposal. These are only a few of the agencies that deal with protection of comsumer rights. The more goods and servies purchased, the more agencies and employees the government needs to adequtely protect us.
Consumerism has led to expansion of government power to regulate business and expansion of legal doctrines designed to protect consumers from fraud and injury. Since the rise of consumerism in the Industrial Revolution government’s practices and duties have increased tremendously. Consumerism began as an ideology that swept across America and the world, but transformed into a notion of a larger government. Now government must monitor and regulate businesses down to the nail from their product liability to their negligence. Product liability is a doctrine in the law that covers injuries and harm caused by defective products, government must now regulate and hinder future outbreaks. Negligence is the manufacturers and sellers duty to perform as a sensible person exercising ordinary care.
Consumerism has had a lot of positive effects on the government, but just like everything else there are negative effects as well. One of the affects consumerism had on the government was the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has had many positive effects for the United States, but it also has some negative effects. One of the negatives of the FDA is that the FDA approves all foods that are sold in the market today. It is has a negative affect because the FDA is the only department that has the power to approve and disapprove food and drugs put in the market for consumers to buy. When conducting research into the FDA, attempts were made to ban or limit the amount of in food that Americans would be mad about. Trans Fat! Yes, the FDA is attempting and close to making some serious changes on food with Trans Fat. What does that mean? It mean that trans fat which is a “‘partially hydrogenated oils’ (PHOs) on ingredient labels, can be found in desserts, microwave popcorn, commercially baked goods, frying oils, frozen pizzas, margarines, canned frostings, chewy candies, and coffee creamers (Sesana, 2013). You might be puzzled as to why this is a negative, but it is. Banning trans fat is a negative for a lot of food businesses in the United States because it will eliminate a lot of foods that are found in American diets today. It will also affect small businesses that will have to change their recipes or have to completely eliminate foods that contain trans fat in their food. This leads to profit losses or completely eliminating the business as a whole. The FDA shouldn’t ban or limit trans fat from foods, but instead educate Americans in why trans fat is bad for you. Once Americans are educated about trans fat, they can decide and make businesses make changes as to how much trans fat is used in their recipes. If the FDA is able to approve this ban or limitation of trans fat, it will change or eliminate many foods that are found in kitchens across the country and therefore would show that the FDA has too much power over what foods that can be eaten or cannot be eaten. This is a negative that the government brings to consumers; the fact that they want to take away a freedom of enjoying some food filled with trans fats.

Consumerism Affects Society
The concept or theory of consumerism is mostly centered on personal happiness that is derived from the gaining or purchase of possessions. In essence, it is about consumption, which is something that the western world has become well familiar with over the last century. Consumerism isn’t necessarily about the distinct ability to consume, but rather it is almost a relationship between the consumer and the things that they want to obtain. Can consumerism really be that bad? This discussion will provide some details in which consumerism are a good contributor to modern society and how the advertising industry is a positive influence on it.
I suppose one could argue that there is much in this world to enjoy. Food, drink, entertainment, and merchandise are all things that people like to have in various quantities. These sorts of items make some people “happy”, at least for a time. In addition, the western world has provided people with the opportunity to get many things through credit, even if they do not have the funds. Consumption gives some people a sense of status, as they acquire various items and upgrades throughout their life.
Consumerism has turned our world into a society where through the power of currency one person can decide the fate of a company by choosing to purchase a product or choosing not to. They can also choose to promote the product or tell the world how bad a product is. Before the Internet, consumerism was great for the big guys and not as great for the little guys. If you spent your dollar or didn’t it had no effect on the company’s bottom line, but now with the power of technology and information available in an instant, one consumers the power to break a company. The power of one’s voice can now influence many, and this is very evident in today’s consumer driven society.
Just look at how companies now actively seek out consumer suggestions, comments, ideas, and thoughts. By reaching out to consumers, most companies are acknowledging that you and I control the money in our wallets; money that many companies must now entertain us for if they hope to earn the financial benefits. Consumerism in the 21st century has become an individual experience with so much being tailored to fit the individual, our demands and interests met by an endless line of new products and new ways to spend. Such powerful spending only increases the overall global economy, which is generally seen as a pro for consumerism.
Spending can have other significance, and represents the consumption culture and prominent advantages and a materialistic social evils, and highlights the importance of global business environment. The company must keep their happiness and consumers' development and sales of consumer demand based on the new product. Consumer's needs and the needs of the enterprises however seems to be round for the company to create the consumers and the demand of consumer is also planning to enterprise show that they need an interdependent relationship. When I said, the company creates consumption demand; we can consider the example of the apple iPhone. Apple has successfully created consumers need products; will have a successful integration in the mobile phone and iPod. Of course apple also did some initial investigation to find out consumer demand or demand, and then finally to expand and focus on these consumers need to come up with new products, including the iPhone. A good company is a can provide consumers need initial unclear reality and clear framework. Consumer demand not clear or preliminary clear, because consumer often have some things they want, but not too care about, what they really want to determine the idea. Therefore, through the investigation and with consumers and internal technology or product development consultant of discussion, the company can development based on these preliminary consumption idea and consumer demand and provide fuzzy shape, their future product plans
Another advantage is that shops are full of things. The companies are trying to keep up with the rising demand, so they offer a wide range of products; so shopping is an enjoyable activity for the whole family too. In addition, free market encourages an enterprising spirit, which leads to a higher living standard, as people work harder, to earn more money and eventually get what they want. Moreover, because of the big companies millions of people have jobs, for example, Wal-Mart Stores has 1.9 million employees, so this many people have jobs only because of one company and there are thousands of them. Additionally, with money you can obtain an advanced education that may aid us in the development of genius and extraordinary achievements. Nonetheless, it is the means by which we may fulfill our purpose in a larger and better way. In addition, I believe that the main benefit of consumerism is that it is a spur to a greater development and advancement, both technologically and educationally. Just look how far we went, all the breakthroughs in medicine and science, it‘s just astonishing and what is even better, it‘s not the end.
Another important argument that has surfaced in the on-going debate of whether consumerism is a positive or negative aspect in society is that advertising generates wealth amongst society and its country. The taxes that are paid on goods sold, i.e. GST, assist the government in funding services that are important to society such as the education and public health systems. Furthermore, an impressive amount of jobs are created within the advertising industry, which helps lower unemployment rates. This is due to the demand in growth of the advertising industry in order to promote the plentiful amount of products that are expected to hit stores shelves.
The debate on consumerism being a positive or negative contribution to modern society is everlasting. It is up to us, the consumers to decide for ourselves what we choose to believe in.
In today society, consumerism is often showed to be a negative aspect of people’s lives and obtaining goods, which eventually leads to materialism. Although money is said to be the root of all evil behaviors, many people actually think that they would be happier if they were wealthier. People always want more and never satisfied with what they have. Thus, consumerism has negative impact in every society. It creates more crimes, theft and daylight robberies often increased as people want to possess expensive materials. Personal relationships also get affected, as people are busy trying to earn more money to obtain their wealthier life. People’s living styles have also changed in term they are more wasteful, careless, and full of material luxuries rather than maintaining their traditional value. Consumerism makes each person against themselves for the fulfillment of quantifiable things. Breast enlargement, cosmetic surgery are the examples of how people turn themselves into different one as it is more suitable for the marketplace than living in a healthy stable society. Production and waste of products used in consumerisms can certainly affect the weather, cause air and water pollution, and land contamination, which ultimately result in health problems for the society.

Overall, even though Consumerism has its advantages and disadvantages looking in through a lens in Business, Government and Society perspective. Consumerism can be found to be beneficial in all three aspects. In perspective of a business, they benefit in generating profits in producing massive consumption of products and services. Also, in a government perspective, raising a higher gross domestic product shows that an economy is flurishing and has prosperity. Last, in a sociey perspective opportunity to acquire any product or services that are available to satisfy their needs and wants. Society can purchases these products or services in knowing that federal agencies will monitor to assure safe products.


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Lesana, Laura. (2013, November 12). The FDA trans fat ban, the doughnut and small business. Retrieved from
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