24 April 2011

How does one define "stuff we don't need" ?

This chart comes from an article in the Wall Street Journal, which cites Commerce Department data on consumer spending -
A non-scientific study of Commerce Department data suggests that in February, U.S. consumers spent an annualized $1.2 trillion on non-essential stuff including pleasure boats, jewelry, booze, gambling and candy. That’s 11.2% of total consumer spending, up from 9.3% a decade earlier and only 4% in 1959, adjusted for inflation. In February, spending on non-essential stuff was up an inflation-adjusted 3.3% from a year earlier, compared to 2.4% for essential stuff such as food, housing and medicine.
So, is the guidebook to North American caterpillars I recently bought a nonessential item?   There must be a lot of subjective components to this non-scientific study, but perhaps if they use the same criteria every year, then the year-over-year trend may be meaningful.


  1. But it was on sale - I just had to buy 10! I might need them some day. Oh, but the packaging. What a pain. Had to use four tools and it filled up a gargage bag!

    Althought probably nonessential, I don't personally think your caterpillar guide was an example of the rampant wasteful consumerism that is overfilling landfills, using up resources and contributing to global pollution - but most 'stuff we don't need' is. It's a disease. And we had better find the cure for it soon.

  2. It's a blurry line. Maybe I don't need candy, but how about cake? With a big family, cake is one method I use to make sure everyone gets enough to eat for dinner without cooking massive amounts of what will Likely become leftovers.

    Or is it cake "mix" that I don't need, as I should make one from scratch?

  3. Here's how you calculate "stuff we don't need". Take minimum wage for a year and multiply it by the population of America. Whatever's left, we don't really need. Then repeat the exercise with the average wage from India. 15% my ass.

  4. Next time you visit a mall take note. 80% of the stores sell stuff you don't need.

  5. Really, everything above what is the minimum amount required to live - let's say protein, certain minerals, water, shelter, etc-is 'nonessential'. Everything else becomes enjoyment and personal preference,

    Calling something nonessential is really meaningless isn't it? Everything above basic sustenance and survival comes down to personal preference. Even people on minimum wage have a significant choice in how to spend their earnings.

    The great thing about the world we live is now is that we, even including the poorest among us, have a choice as to how we actually enjoy this world... Rather than merely survive in it.

    You really want to live in a world pre-industrial revolution?


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