Quotations on Consumerism/Overconsumption

Do not let your "eye" be drawn by the false "beacon lamps" —of wealth, or position, or fame, or possessions. Be vigilant over your will and desires, for these are the corrupt forces that dwell within, and keep you from living free.
John of the Cross (1542-1591), Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book 1, Chapter 3

The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throw-away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.                                              

…the tragedy of consumerism: one acquires more and more things without taking the time to ever see and know them, and thus one never truly enjoys them. One has without truly having. The consumer is right—there is pleasure to be had in good things, a sacred and almost unspeakable pleasure, but the consumer wrongly thinks that one finds this pleasure by having more and more possessions instead of possessing them more truly through grateful contemplation. And here we are, living in an economy that perpetuates this tragedy.

Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 2004

 In North America, we like to believe we have transcended the false idols of ideology. But the Market is our god. Data surveillance and techniques that classify, segment, and isolate the population are already here. Soon each consumer will be segmented into a specific "target" audience; each of us will become increasingly isolated in our separate technological enclosure or cell. The result is the Virtual Panopticon - a new instrument of social control. Computerized corporate "wardens" can observe every detail of every life from the central tower. Their precisely calibrated interactive feedback can induce consumers to willingly follow patterns generated by psycho-demographic profiles. More efficient than naked military power, this arrangement offers a better way of extracting money from consumers through the tactics of computer-targeted micro (rather than mass) marketing.

Rick Crawford, Invisible Crises, 1994

'Tis a gift to be simple
'Tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight
When the true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shall not be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning we come round right

Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker hymn, 1848

American culture is no longer created by the people... A free, authentic life is no longer possible in AmericaTM today. We are being manipulated in the most insidious way. Our emotions, personalities and core values are under siege from media and cultural forces too complex to decode. A continuous product message has woven itself into the very fabric of our existence. Most North Americans now live designer lives—sleep, eat, sit in car, work, shop, watch TV, sleep again. I doubt there's more than a handful of free, spontaneous minutes anywhere in that cycle. We ourselves have been branded.

Kalle Lasn, Culture Jam: The Uncooling of AmericaTM, 1999

With respect to physical existence, one needs little, and to the degree that one needs less, the more perfect one is.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 1990

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 28:20 NIV Bible

A large percentage of those living in developed societies are told what brand of soda they should drink, what cigarettes they should smoke, what clothes and shoes they should wear, what they should eat and what brand of food they should buy. Their political ideas are supplied in the same way. Every year a trillion dollars is spent on advertising. This rain pours on the helpless masses that are totally deprived of the necessary elements of judgment to formulate an opinion and the knowledge required for mediating and discerning. This has never happened before in the history of humanity. Primitive humans enjoyed greater freedom of thought.

Fidel Castro, Interview with Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former director of UNESCO, Jan 2000

A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, 1854  

A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much, and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy, sick.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), Letter in The Washington Post, 28 Jan 60

A vital difference between the professional man and a man of business is that money making to the professional man should, by virtue of his assumption, be incidental; to the businessman it is primary. Money has its limitations; while it may buy quantity, there is something beyond it and that is quality.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture: Selected Writings 1894-1940,
ed. Frederick Albert Gutheim, 1941

Advertisers regularly con us into believing that we genuinely need one luxury after another. We are convinced that we must keep up with or even go one better than our neighbors. So we buy another dress, sports jacket or sports car and thereby force up the standard of living. The ever more affluent standard of living is the god of twentieth century North America and the adman is its prophet.

Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, 1977

Advertising is in the business of making people helpfully dissatisfied with what they have in favor of something better. The old factors of wear and tear can no longer be depended on to create a demand. They are too slow.

Floyd Allen
cited in Harvey Salgo, “The Obsolescence of Growth,” Review of Radical Political Economics, Fall 73

Advertising signs: they con you into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on all around you

Bob Dylan, It's Alright Ma, 1965

Advertising tries to stimulate our sensuous desires, converting luxuries into necessities, but it only intensifies man's inner misery. The business world is bent on creating hungers which its wares never satisfy, and thus it adds to the frustrations and broken minds of our times.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979), Lift Up Your Heart, 1942

All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 6:7 NRSV Bible

All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are 'enlightened' all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our 'enlightenment,' demands that the robbery shall continue.

George Orwell (1903-1950), Essay on Rudyard Kipling, 1942
cited in Wendell Berry's What Are People For? 1989

All of us experience the sad effects of blind submission to consumerism. In the first place it represents crass materialism. At the same time it represents a radical dissatisfaction because one quickly learns that the more one possesses, the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled.

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) excerpts from public statements
compiled by the Christian Society of the Green Cross, 1996

All plenty which is not my God is poverty to me.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430), The Confessions, Bk VIII, ch 8 c. 397

All the wants which disturb human life, which make us uneasy to ourselves, quarrelsome with others, and unthankful to God, which weary us in vain labors and foolish anxieties, which carry us from project to project, from place to place in a poor pursuit of we don't know what, are the wants which neither God, nor nature, nor reason hath subjected us to, but are solely infused into us by pride, envy, ambition, and covetousness.

William Law (1686-1761), A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 1728 

And I encourage you all to go shopping more

George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President, News Conference, 20 Dec 2006

And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

Jesus as quoted in Luke 12:15 NRSV Bible

And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop...
these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Jesus as quoted in Mark 4:7,18-19 NASV Bible

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), Old Man in What Is Man?, 1906  

As businessmen caught a glimpse of the potentialities inherent in endlessly expanding the wants of people under consumerism, forced draft or otherwise, many began to see blue skies... What was needed was strategies that would make Americans in large numbers into voracious, wasteful, compulsive consumers—and strategies that would provide products assuring such wastefulness. Even where wastefulness was not involved, additional strategies were needed that would induce the public to consume at ever-higher levels.

Vance Packard (1914-1996), The Waste Makers, 1959

As riches grow, care follows, and a thirst For more and more.

Horace (65 BC - 8 BC), Odes, 19 BC

At a certain fork in the road of automatization, Europeans chose to have more time, and they work far less than we do and get much longer vacations. We chose to have more stuff, the stuff sold to us through those beckoning adjectives—bigger, better, faster: Jet Skis, extra cars, second homes, motor homes, towering slab TVs, if not the time to enjoy them or to enjoy less commodified pleasures.

Rebecca Solnit, “Finding Time,” Orion, Sep-Oct 07

Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend ... when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, 1995

But prosperity without a soul is like a corpse whose heart has stopped beating. There is no life, only consumption.

Cal Thomas, Who Lost America, speech in Oklahoma City, 11 March 1999

But the instinct of hoarding, like all other instincts, tends to become hypertrophied and perverted; and with the institution of private property comes another institution—that of plunder and brigandage. In private life, no motive of action is at present so powerful and so persistent as acquisitiveness, which unlike most other desires, knows no satiety. The average man is rich enough when he has a little more than he has got, and not till then.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954), “Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays, 1920

But the meaning of life is not . . . explained by one's business life, nor is the deep desire of the human heart answered by a bank account.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), Man and His Symbols, 1964  

Can it be seriously denied that, to the mass mind of today, the good life has become inseparable from the maximum possible consumption of things! Poverty has been promoted to be the chief evil of human existence... Men can no longer be judged to be poor by what they consume, but by what they think they should consume and do not... Even though their bellies be bursting with chicken, the vast majority of people would still be poor if a minority of bellies were bursting with turkey.

D.R. Davies (1889-1958), The Sin of Our Age, 1947  

Can we reasonably expect happiness from an insatiable appetite which, no matter how it stuffs its belly, is still psychologically like Oliver Twist in the poorhouse, holding up an empty bowl and begging, "I want some more"? Isn't it possible that our dream of the good society contained, from the beginning, a hidden violation of the Tenth Commandment¿"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods"?

Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain, 1953

Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right, 'cause we are
Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Peter Brown and Robert Rans, Material Girl, 1984
popularized by Madonna on Like a Virgin, 1985

Christmas is a school for consumerism - in it we learn to equate delight with materialism. We celebrate the birth of One who told us to give everything to the poor by giving each other motorized tie racks.

Bill McKibben, Christianity Today, December 1996

Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), Daily News, 21 Feb 1902

Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), More Maxims of Mark, 1927

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.  Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

James (d. c. AD 62), the epistle of James 5:1-6 NRSV Bible

Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever that he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), Commonwealth, 1933

Consume more than you need
This is the dream
Make you pauper
Or make you queen
I won't die lonely
I'll have it all prearranged
A grave that's deep and wide enough
For me and all my mountains o'things

Tracy Chapman, Mountains of Things ©1987 SBK April Music/Purple Rabbit Music 

Consumer sales depend on the habits and behaviors of consumers, and those who manipulate consumer markets cannot but address behavior and attitude. That is presumably the object of the multibillion-dollar global advertising industry. Tea drinkers are improbable prospects for Coke sales. Long-lunch traditions obstruct the development of fast-food franchises and successful fast-food franchises inevitably undermine Mediterranean home-at-noon-for-dinner rituals—whether intentionally or not hardly matters. Highly developed public transportation systems lessen the opportunity for automobile sales and depress steel, rubber, and petroleum production. Agricultural lifestyles (rise at daylight, work all day, to bed at dusk) are inhospitable to television watching. People uninterested in sports buy fewer athletic shoes. Health campaigns hurt tobacco sales. The moral logic of austerity contradicts the economic logic of consumption. Can responsible corporate managers then afford to be anything other than immoral advocates of sybaritism?

Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld, 1995

Consumer wants can have bizarre, frivolous, or even immoral origins, and an admirable case can still be made for a society that seeks to satisfy them. But the case cannot stand if it is the process of satisfying wants that create the wants.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006), The Affluent Society, 1958

Consumption is presented as our right, even as a patriotic act. We celebrate stores filled with goods. But once the novelty of my purchases wears off, I often feel more burdened and dissatisfied. In my heart I know that most of the things I buy will end up in the trash or a Salvation Army sales rack - adding to the huge surplus that is the inevitable, although hidden, part of our society's unprecedented wealth.

Paul Boyer, "My quest: to live with less," Christian Science Monitor, 30 Oct 2003

Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only in so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it.

Adam Smith (1723-1790), The Wealth of Nations, 1776

Contentment is natural wealth; luxury, artificial poverty.

Socrates (B.C. 469-399) attributed 

Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), “Conclusion,” Walden, 1854

Cupidity...takes created things for ends in themselves, which they are not. The will that seeks rest in creatures for their own sake stops on the way to its true end, terminates in a value which does not exist, and thus frustrates all its deepest capacities for happiness and peace.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) in Introduction to
Augustine (354-430), The City of God, tr. Marcus Dods, 2001

Day by day night after night
Blinded by the neon lights
Hurry here, hustlin' there
No one's got the time to spare
Money's tight, nothin' free
Won't somebody come and rescue me?
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stranded, caught in the crossfire!
Tooth for tooth, eye for an eye
Sell your soul just to buy, buy, buy
Beggin' a dollar stealin' a dime
Come on can't you see that I
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire

Stevie Ray Vaughn (1954-1990), Crossfire
with Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Reese Wynans, B. Carter, Ruth Ellsworth

Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.

Proverb 27:20 NIV Bible

Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world—and stop being its apologist.

Bono of U2, quoted in an interview with Anthony DeCurtis, 20 Feb 2001

Do not let your "eye" be drawn by the false "beacon lamps"—of wealth, or position, or fame, or possessions. Be vigilant over your will and desires, for these are the corrupt forces that dwell within, and keep you from living free.

John of the Cross (1542-1591), Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book 1, Chapter 3

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus quoted in the Gospel according to Matthew
Matthew 6:19-21 NRSV Bible

Economists use the word consume to mean “utilize economic goods,” but the Shorter Oxford Dictionary’s definition is more appropriate to ecologists: “To make away with or destroy; to waste or to squander; to use up.”  The economies that cater to the global consumer society are responsible for the lion’s share of the damage that humans have inflicted on common global resources.  

Alan Durning, How Much Is Enough?, 1992

Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments; any enlargement of wishes is therefore equally destructive to happiness with the diminution of possession, and he that teaches another to long for what he never shall obtain is no less an enemy to his quiet than if he had robbed him of part of his patrimony

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), The Rambler #163, 8 Oct 1751

First, ...our culture invites us to locate the sum total of human happiness here and now and in the consumption of the fruits of the technological economy; and second, ...we have not been tricked into this, but that we actually chose this path several hundred years ago and continue to choose it on a more-or-less daily basis.

Craig M. Gay, "Sensualists without Heart,"
The Consuming Passion, ed. Rodney Clapp 1998

For they (capitalists) hold as their chief heresy, in a coarser form, the fundamental falsehood that things are not made to be used but made to be sold. All the collapse of their commercial system in their own time has been due to that fallacy of forcing things on a market where there was no market; of continually increasing the power of supply without increasing the power of demand; of briefly, of always considering the man who sells the potato and never considering the man who eats it.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), As I Was Saying, 1936

For why, my brothers and sisters, would you rejoice in silver? Either your silver will perish, or you will, and no one knows which will perish first. For neither can you remain here always, nor can silver remain here always; so also with gold, wardrobes, houses, money, real estate—and in the end, even the light by which we enjoy all these things. So do not be willing then to rejoice in such things as these. Rejoice instead in the light that has no setting; rejoice in the dawn which no yesterday precedes, and no tomorrow follows.

Augustine (354-430), Exposition on Psalm 85:6  

From the 1890s on, American corporate business, in league with key institutions, began the transformation of American society into a society preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this. American consumer capitalism produced a culture almost violently hostile to the past and tradition, a future-oriented culture of desire that confused the good life with goods. It was a culture that first appeared as an alternative culture—or as one moving largely against the grain of earlier traditions of republicanism and Christian virtue—and then unfolded to become the reigning culture of the United States.

William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993

Give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty,
I should fall away and say,
"Yahweh - who is Yahweh?"
or else in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.

the Sayings of Agur, Proverbs 30:8-9, Jerusalem Bible

Give the public the 'image' of what it thinks it ought to be, or what television commercials or glossy magazine ads have convinced us we ought to be, and we will buy more of the product, become closer to the image, and further from reality.

Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007), A Circle of Quiet, 1972

Greed usually signifies an inordinate attachment to money and things. We think of the miser counting his money and storing it in the bank, or we picture the person reveling in her possessions, obsessed with stuffing her big house or houses with more things. But this view of greed does not really capture the spirit of our consumer economy. Most people are not overly attached to things, and most are not obsessed with hoarding riches. Indeed, the United States has one of the lowest savings rates of any wealthy country, and we are the most indebted society in history. What really characterizes consumer culture is not attachment to things but detachment. People do not hoard money; they spend it. People do not cling to things; they discard them and buy other things.

William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008

He who accepts his poverty unhurt I'd say is rich although he lacked a shirt.
But truly poor are they who whine and fret and covet what they cannot hope to get.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400), “The Wife of Bath's Tale",
The Canterbury Tales, late 14th century, tr. Nevill Coghill

He who multiplies riches multiplies cares.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1732-1758  

Heaven help a timid child in a trendy tide
He really doesn't know
That his heart's being taken for a ride
Doing what the world lays down
As a steadfast rule
And changing when the world says to change
Like a steadfast fool
Heaven, heaven help me
I'm one of the dominoes
Chain reaction coming
Blow by blow

Mark Heard (1952-1992), One Of The Dominoes, 1981

High thinking is inconsistent with a complicated material life based on high speed and imposed on us by mammon worship.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)
The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 1968

How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Apostle John (c. A.D. 100)
1 John 3:17-18 NRSV Bible

However destructive may be the policies of the government and the methods and products of the corporations, the root of the problem is always found to be found in private life. We must learn to see that every problem that concerns us as conservationists always leads straight to the question of how we live. The world is being destroyed, no doubt about it, by the greed of the rich and powerful. It is also being destroyed by popular demand.

Wendell Berry, "Conservation Is Good Work," Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, 1991

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudum, 55,
Rome, 24 Nov 2013

I’m continually reminded that creating one’s life can be far more of an adventure than just buying it.                      

David Wann, Simple Prosperity, 2007

If we were built, what were we built for? ...Why do we have this amazing collection of sinews, senses, and sensibilities? Were we really designed in order to recline on the couch, extending our wrists perpendicular to the floor so we can flick through the television's offerings? Were we really designed in order to shop some more so the economy can grow some more? Or were we designed to experience the great epiphanies that come from contact with each other and with the natural world? Were we designed to witness the goodness all around us, and to protect and nourish it? Just as "the environment" is a context, not an issue, so is "consumption." It defines at the moment who we are - and who we aren't.

Bill McKibben, Christianity Today, December 1996  

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

Ivan Illich (1926-2002), Tools for Conviviality, 1973

In a consumer society, expectations dare not plateau, because a growing economy depends on rising expectations... The more we let our level of contentment be determined by outside factors—a new car, fashionable clothes, a prestigious career, social status—the more we relinquish control over our own happiness.

Paul Brand & Philip Yancey, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, 1993

In fast-moving, progress-conscious America, the consumer expects to be dizzied by progress. If he could completely understand advertising jargon he would be badly disappointed. The half-intelligibility which we expect, or even hope, to find in the latest product language personally reassures each of us that progress is being made: that the pace exceeds our ability to follow.

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004), The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, 1962

In the last twenty-five years alone, new inventions and improvements have utterly transformed the way we live. Personal computers and fax machines, cordless phones and wireless speakers, e-mail and other hi-tech labor-saving conveniences have revolutionized our work and home life. Yet have they brought us the peace and freedom they seemed to promise? Without realizing it, we have become dulled, if not brainwashed, in our eagerness to embrace technology. We have become slaves to a system that presses us to spend money on new gadgets, and we have accepted without question the argument that, by working harder, we will have more time to do more important things. It is a perverse logic.

Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace, 1998

In the name of economy a thousand wasteful devices would be invented; and in the name of efficiency new forms of mechanical time-wasting would be devised: both processes gained speed through the nineteenth century and have come close to the limit of extravagant futility in our own time. But labor-saving devices could only achieve their end—that of freeing mankind for higher functions—if the standard of living remained stable. The dogma of increasing wants nullified every real economy and set the community in a collective squirrel-cage…The mechanical expansion of human appetites, the appetite for goods, the appetite for power, the appetite for sensation, has no relation whatever to the ordering of the means of existence for the satisfaction of human needs.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), The Condition of Man, 1944

In this state of total consumerism—which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves—all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand. Most of us are not directly responsible for strip mining and extractive agriculture and other forms of environmental abuse. But we are guilty nevertheless, for we connive in them by our ignorance. We are ignorantly dependent upon them. We do not know enough about them; we do not have a particular enough sense of their danger. Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way—we don’t know how to produce any kind in any way. Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato.

Wendell Berry, “Think Little,” The Art of the Commonplace, 2002

Irresponsible spending is the scandal of Christian America, in the face of the world's need. The American standard of living has risen to unprecedented heights, although a large portion of the world exists on a sub-human level. Philanthropy, as we practice it, is not enough—although the word philanthropy actually means brotherhood. Our stewardship of God's goods requires that we administer in God's name—that is, with full awareness that the world is His and that His love is directed toward us no more fully than toward every man.

Rachel Henderlite, A Call to Faith, 1955

It boggled my mind to think of the seventy-five million people who hurried to work at roughly the same time every morning, clogging highways, trains and buses—somewhat like cholesterol in our arteries.  Very few of us had any real sense of what we were building—and more ominously, what we were tearing apart.  It felt like we were converting the planet’s richest and finest resources into products of dubious quality, busily drilling holes in the environment and living systems to do it.  What was the point of all the commuting and consuming?  What was the economy for?  We were burning up our time and our lives pursuing happiness, but it seemed like we were happier before the pursuit began.       

David Wann, Simple Prosperity, 2007

Man today is fascinated by the possibility of buying, more, better, and especially, new things. He is consumption hungry… To buy the latest gadget, the latest model of anything that is on the market, is the dream of everybody, in comparison to which the real pleasure in use is quite secondary. Modern man, if the dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world… He would wander around open-mouthed in this heaven of gadgets an commodities, provided only that there were ever more and new things to buy, and perhaps, that his neighbors were just a little less privileged than he.

Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Sane Society, 1955

Many of our miseries are merely comparative: we are often made unhappy, not by the presence of any real evil, but by the absence of some fictitious good; of something which is not required by any real want of nature, which has not in itself any power of gratification, and which neither reason nor fancy would have prompted us to wish, did we not see it in the possession of others.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Adventurer #111, 27 Nov 1753

Marketing constantly seeks to meet, create, and stoke new desires, often by highlighting a sense of dissatisfaction with what one presently has and is. In a consumer culture, we recognize the validity of Augustine’s insight: particular material things cannot satisfy. Rather than causing us to turn away from material things and towards God, however, in consumer culture we plunge ever more deeply into the world of things. Dissatisfaction and fulfillment cease to be opposites, for pleasure is not in possessing objects but in their pursuit. Possession kills eros; familiarity breeds contempt. This is why shopping itself has taken on the honored status of an addiction in Western society. It is not the desire for any thing in particular, but the pleasure of stoking desire itself that makes malls into the new cathedrals of Western culture.

William T. Cavanaugh, “Consumption, the Market, and the Eucharist
TheOtherJournal.com, 4 Apr 2005

Modern capitalism has created a world totally different from anything known before. Previous ages have assumed that resources are limited and that economics - housekeeping - is about how to distribute them fairly, Since Adam Smith, we have learned to assume that exponential growth is the basic law of economics and that no limits can be set to it. The result is that increased production has become an end to itself; products are designed to become rapidly obsolete so as to make room for more production; a minority is ceaselessly urged to multiply its wants in order to keep the process going while the majority lacks the basic necessities for existence; and the whole ecosystem upon which human life depends is threatened with destruction. Growth is for the sake of growth and is not determined by any overarching social purpose. And that, of course, is an exact account of the phenomenon which, when it occurs in the human body, is called cancer.

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), Foolishness to the Greeks, 1986

Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980), The Art of Loving, 1957

Plenty is the original cause of many of our needs; and even the poverty, which is so frequent and distressful in civilized nations, proceeds often from that change of manners which opulence has produced. Nature makes us poor only when we want necessaries; but custom gives the name of poverty to the want of superfluities.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Idler #37, 30 Dec 1758

Roughly two billion people participate in the money economy, with less than half of those living in the wealthy countries of the developed world. These affluent 800 million, however, account for more than 75 percent of the world’s energy and resource consumption, and also create the bulk of its industrial, toxic, and consumer waste.

Stuart L. Hart, Capitalism at the Crossroads, 2007

So here we are in a country with more wheat and corn and more money in the bank, more cotton, more everything in the world—there's not a product that you can name that we haven't got more of than any other country ever had on the face of the earth—and yet we've got people starving. We'll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile.

Will Rogers (1879-1935), 18 Oct 1931, 
Radio Broadcasts of Will Rogers, ed. Steven K. Gragert, 1983

Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy. We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day's supply of food and raiment; the surplus gives us the care of storing it, and the anxiety of watching against a thief. One staff aids a traveller, but a bundle of staves is a heavy burden. Enough is not only as good as a feast, but is all that the greatest glutton can truly enjoy. This is all that we should expect; a craving for more than this is ungrateful. When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), Morning and Evening, 1866

Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday. In spite of its religious form (giving thanks to God for a good harvest), its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers’ holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982), The Ayn Rand Letter, 1979

That the happiness of man may still remain imperfect, as wants in this place are easily supplied, new wants likewise are easily created; every man, in surveying the shops of London, sees numberless instruments and conveniencies, of which, while he did not know them, he never felt the need; and yet, when use has made them familiar, wonders how life could be supported without them. Thus it comes to pass, that our desires always increase with our possessions; the knowledge that something remains yet unenjoyed, impairs our enjoyment of the good before us.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Adventurer #67, 10 Mar 1753

The devil was piqu'd such sainthood to behold,
And longed to tempt him like good Job of old;
But Satan now is wiser than of yore
And tempts by making rich, not making poor.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Moral Essays, 1731-1735

The effect of the post-Enlightenment project for human society is that all human activity is absorbed into labor. It becomes an unending cycle of production for the sake of consumption. The modern concept of "built-in obsolescence" makes this clear. The cycle of production and consumption has to be kept going, and the work of the artist or craftsman who aims to create something enduring becomes marginal to the economic order. Likewise, the world of action, of politics, is reduced to a conflict of views about how to keep the cycle of production and consumption going. Questions of ultimate purpose are excluded from the public world.

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), Foolishness to the Greeks, 1986

The good news is that curing the pandemic of overconsumption at both the personal and cultural scale is not about giving up the good life but getting it back.

David Wann, Simple Prosperity, 2007

The happy people are those who are producing something;
the bored people are those who are consuming much and producing nothing.

William R. Inge (1860-1954), Personal Religion and the Life of Devotion, 1924

The money economy thus leaves a large ecological footprint, defined as the amount of land and resources required to meet a typical consumer’s needs.  For example, with only about 4% of the world’s population, the United States, the largest money economy, consumes in excess of one-quarter of the world’s energy and materials and generates in excess of 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Stuart L. Hart, Capitalism at the Crossroads, 2007

The sage does not accumulate for himself.
The more he uses for others, the more he has himself.
The more he gives to others, the more he possesses of his own.
The Way of Heaven is to benefit others and not to injure.
The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.

Lao-Tzu (c. B.C. 550) The Natural Way of Lao-Tsu
as cited in Wing-Tsit Cahn, Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, 2002

The whole attempt to advance the kind of consumer society that depends for its growth on the ceaseless stimulation of unlimited covetousness among the rich, while the poor majority rot in their poverty—this is surely something against which a Christian should be a nonconformist.

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), Journey Into Joy, 1972

There would not be a market for all the goods that are produced in an industrialized economy if consumers were content with the things they bought. Consumer desire must be constantly on the move. We must continually desire new things in order for consumption to keep pace with production. The “extreme makeover” is an ongoing process in the search for novelty, for bigger and better, for “new and improved,” and for different experiences… How can we be content with a mere two [shaving] blades when the current standard is five? How can we be content with an iPod that downloads two hundred songs when someone else has one that downloads a thousand? The economy as it is currently structured would grind to a halt if we ever looked at our stuff and simply declared, “It is enough. I am happy with what I have.”

William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008 

To me, an economy that sees the life of a community or a place as expendable, and reckons its value only in terms of money, is not acceptable because it is not realistic. I am thinking as I believe we must think if we wish to discuss the best uses of people, places, and things, and if we wish to give affection some standing in our thoughts.

Wendell Berry, What Are People For?, 1990

To the extent that we consume, in our present circumstances, we are guilty. To the extent that we guilty consumers are conservationists, we are absurd. But what can we do? Must we go on writing letters to politicians and donating to conservation organizations until the majority of our fellow citizens agree with us? Or can we do something directly to solve our share of the problem? I am a conservationist. I believe wholeheartedly in putting pressure on the politicians and in maintaining the conservation organizations… That I live every hour of every day in an environmental crisis I know from all my senses. Why then is not my first duty to reduce, so far as I can, my own consumption?

Wendell Berry, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer"
What Are People For?, 1990

To the ideal of high consumption and the downgrading of spiritual values corresponds a conception of injustice that centers exclusively on the problem of consumption; and equality in consumption cannot be achieved except by violence.

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), Violence, 1969

To the primitive man, the hunt for food embodied the will to live, to survive. To the modern man, the pursuit of material wealth…embodies the will to self-affirmation, to excess, to glory, as well as the will to survive. This vast distinction between primitive man and his modern descendant transforms the contemporary obsession with things from a physical necessity into a moral affirmation, It is this transformation which bedevils our entire economic activity.

D. R. Davies, The Sin of Our Age, 1947

Too many commercials, too many lies Too many celebrities I don't recognize Too many brand names, too many magazines I got so much sensation, I can't feel a thing Simple living Got to get to simple living Simple living Simple... simply living Too many things we just throw away If we put it in the garbage, we're gonna eat it someday We turn on the lights and a river dies We turn the TV on to see an eagle fly

Fred Small, Simple Living, Everything Possible, 1993

Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) attributed

Too much of the world’s happiness depends on taking from one to satisfy another. To increase my standard of living, someone in another part of the world must lower his. The worldwide crisis of hunger that we face today is a result of that method of pursuing happiness. Industrialized nations acquire appetites for more and more luxuries and higher and higher standards of living, and increasing numbers of people are made poor and hungry. It doesn’t have to be that way… But we have a greed problem: if I don’t grab mine while I can, I might not be happy. The hunger problem is not going to be solved by government or by industry, but in church, among Christians who learn a different way to pursue happiness.

Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 1980

True happiness flows from the possession of wisdom and virtue and not from the possession of external goods.

Aristotle (B.C. 384-322), Politics

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Psalm 119:36-37 NIV Bible

Two opposing gospels are fighting one another for the soul of our nation and, increasingly, the world: the gospel of consumption and the gospel of peace.

Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, 1999  

Under private property ...Each tries to establish over the other an alien power, so as thereby to find satisfaction of his own selfish need. The increase in the quantity of objects is therefore accompanied by an extension of the realm of the alien powers to which man is subjected, and every new product represents a new potentiality of mutual swindling and mutual plundering.

Karl Marx (1818-1883), Human Requirements and Division of Labour, 1844

Until recent years, British and American resource corporations, with the full backing of their home governments, roamed the world…plundering the raw materials of the people of Africa, Asia, and America. Raw materials were extracted with little or no compensation to the people or governments in those areas. To secure control of these raw materials, a series of institutions were imposed on the people to foster dependency on the transnational corporations and their home governments. The raw materials became particularly important to the exploiting corporations and governments because of the high profits earned due to cheap labor and minimal royalties and taxes. In a sense, these resources fueled the industrial growth of the United States and Western Europe.

Richard Nafziger, “Transnational Energy Corporations and American Indian Development,” 
American Indian Energy Resources and Development, University of New Mexico, 1980

Water and petrol both come from the earth, and though they seem to be alike and even the same, they are in nature and purpose exact opposites, for the one extinguishes fire and the other adds fuel to it. So also the world and its treasures, the heart and its thirst for God are alike His creation. Now the result of the attempt to satisfy the heart with the wealth and pride and honours of this world is the same as if one tried to put out a fire with petrol, for the heart can only find ease and satisfaction in Him who created both it and the longing desire of which it is conscious.

Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929), At the Master’s Feet, 1922

We Americans think we are pretty good! We want to build a house, we cut down some trees. We want to build a fire, we dig a little coal. But when we run out of all these things, then we will find out just how good we really are.

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
quoted in Francesca Lyman, The Greeenhouse Trap, 1990

We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008),
The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956 : an experiment in literary investigation, 1974-1979

We are a material-mad race of people. Build, increase, expand, pile up, hoard! More and more and more. “If we can just make enough money to—to— !” Jesus said: “Sell what ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.”

Eugenia Price (1916-1996), Discoveries, 1953

We are being made aware that the organization of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), Christianity and Culture, 1939

We are determined not to take as the aim of our life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying.  We are committed to living simply and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, 2005

We are developing new types of destitutes—the automobileless, the yachtless, the Newportcottageless. The subtlest luxuries of today reaches very high in the social scale… The end of it all is vexation of spirit.

Walter Weyl (1874-1917), The New Democracy, 1912

We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire—a crackpot machine—that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate. We are, most of us, dependent employees.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989), Down the River, 1982

We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Lecture, Cleveland, Ohio, 3 Feb 1932 
from Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James

We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), The Hollow Men, 1925

We can be content with simplicity because the deepest most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. Buying things contributes absolutely nothing to the heart's capacity for joy.

John Piper, Desiring God, 1989

We consume, as we produce, without any concrete relatedness to the objects with which we deal; We live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or to consume them.

Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Sane Society, 1955

We did not choose to believe that personal choice is the highest human virtue. Rather, we were taught, formed, forced to believe nothing is important in life other than that which we have personally chosen. The irony is that the belief that nothing is important in life other than that which we have personally chosen is a belief that we have not personally chosen! The supermarket and shopping mall have been our school.

William H. Willimon & Stanley Hauerwas, Lord Teach Us, 1996

We do this ecological evil because we believe it to be spiritually good. We do this because, looking at it from a carefully constructed social and economic perspective, we find fundamental spiritual meaning and satisfaction in it; it is our symbol of being "number one" and blessed by God.

William H. Becker in "Ecological Sin," Theology Today, 1992

We eat when we're not hungry, drink when we're not thirsty. We buy what we don't need and throw away everything that's useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn't need! Pretend he's got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn. It's wrong! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Allie Fox, father in the movie The Mosquito Coast
from screenplay based on Paul Theroux's 1982 novel by the same name

We had learned how to invent things, and the question of why we invent things receded in importance. The idea that if something could be done it should be done was born in the nineteenth century. And along with it, there developed a profound belief in all the principles through which invention succeeds: objectivity, efficiency, expertise, standardization, measurement, and progress. It also came to be believed that the engine of technological progress worked most efficiently when people are conceived of not as children of God or even as citizens but as consumers—that is to say, as markets.

Neil Postman (1931-2003), Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 1992

We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudum, 55,
Rome, 24 Nov 2013

We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Candida, Act I, 1898

We must surely appear to the world as exactly what we are: a nation that organizes its economy around consuming twice as much oil as it produces, and around the profligate wastefulness of the wars and campaigns required to defend such consumption. In recent years we have defined our national interest largely in terms of the oil fields and pipelines we need to procure fuel.

Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder, 2002 

We used to say I don't care if I never have any money
As long as I have my sweet honey and a shack in the woodland
Now we say I don't care if I don't have money, but it's not true
We can't live without money, no, because we don't want to
We want one of those and two of those, and oh that one looks neat, wrap it up
Put it on my MasterCard.
Put it on my Visa
And I sing it now, hey hey, hey hey, who woulda thunk it
Hey hey, hey hey, who woulda thunk it

Greg Brown, “Who Woulda Thunk It” from In the Dark With You, © Red House Records 1989

We’re prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity—thus capitalism can lead to a practical materialism that is as pernicious as the materialism taught by communism.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), Stride Toward Freedom, 1958

We, all of us in the First World, have participated in something of a binge, a half century of unbelievable prosperity and ease. We may have had some intuition that it was a binge and the earth couldn't support it, but aside from the easy things (biodegradable detergent, slightly smaller cars) we didn't do much. We didn't turn our lives around to prevent it. Our sadness is almost an aesthetic response - appropriate because we have marred a great, mad, profligate work of art, taken a hammer to the most perfectly proportioned of sculptures.

Bill McKibben, The End of Nature, 1989

Well, I see something and I want it
Bam! Right now!
No questions asked
Don't worry how much it costs me now or later
I want it and I want it fast
I'll go to any length
Sacrifice all that I already have
And all that I might get
Just to get
Something more that I don't need
And Lord, please don't ask me what for
The lust, the flesh
The eyes
And the pride of life
Drain the life Right out of me

Mike Roe of the Seventy Sevens, "The Lust, the Flesh, the Pride of Life"

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on...those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:29,31 NIV Bible

What can become of him if he is in such bondage to the habit of satisfying the innumerable desires he has created for himself? He is isolated, and what concern has he with the rest of humanity? They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less.

Feodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), The Brothers Karamazov, 1880 ch 41

What does a person need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all – in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

Sterling Hayden (1916-1986), Wanderer, 1963

What is a man if he is not a thief who openly charges as much as he can for the goods he sells?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948), Non-Violence in Peace and War, 1949

What is the chief end of man?–to get rich.
In what way?–dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.
Who is God, the one and only true? Money is God.
Gold and Greenbacks and Stock–father, son, and ghosts of same, three persons in one;
These are the true and only God, mighty and supreme.

Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910), "The Revised Catechism" 1871
as cited in Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays 1852-1890, 1992

What we're talking about is the endless, gullible elevation of necessary levels of comfort and status and everything else at the complete expense of all around us. It's going to take us a long time to learn how to climb down a little bit from the heights on which we have put ourselves.

Bill McKibben, The Comforting Whirlwind: God and the Environmental Crisis,
Sermon, Carlisle, Massachusetts, 18 Mar 2001

What will you do if your product still further increases next year? You should then destroy again the warehouses which you are now preparing to build, and build bigger. For the reason why God has given you fruitful harvests is that He might either overcome your avarice or condemn it; wherefore you can have no excuse. But you keep for yourself what He wished to be produced through you for the benefit of many -- nay, rather, you rob even yourself of it, since you would better preserve it for yourself if you distributed it to others.

Ambrose (339-397), Patrologia Latina, Vol 14:731

What worries some people about consumption (and I confess at the outset to be one of these ambivalent creatures, fat but troubled in paradise) is that the affluent, technologically advanced West seems more and more focused not on consuming to live but living to consume. The problem with consumption, and the consumer capitalism that has pushed it to feverish historical extremes, is that it has become so all-consuming.

Rodney Clapp, “The Theology of Consumption & the Consumption of Theology,” 
The Consuming Passion, ed. Rodney Clapp, 1998

When I lost my faith in people
I put my trust in things
To avoid the disappointment
Trusting people brings…
I tried to do it all myself then
Surrounded by my stuff
All I found were limitations
I could not rise above
There are gadgets and contraptions
Immaculate machines
There’s a program you can download now
That will even dream your dreams
It’ll even dream you dreams
For a monthly fee
Clear up your complexion
You get a hundred hours free
Possessions cannot save you
The way some body can
When I learned to care for others
Then the boy became a man

John Gorka, When I Lost My Faith ©2001

When I walk into a grocery store and look at all the products you can choose, I say, “My God!” No king ever had anything like I have in my grocery store today.

Bill Gates as quoted in Parade Magazine, 14 Jul 2002

When I'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey, hey, hey, that's what I say
I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no
When I'm watchin' my TV
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me
I can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey, hey, hey, that's what I say

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Satisfaction, Rolling Stones, 1965

When advertisers fill our consciousness with images of beautiful, happy, one-dimensional people, they feed the illusion that our innate dissatisfaction can be relieved by material acquisition. By stuff. A cool camel smokes a cigarette; a couple in chinos sit on a sun-reddened mesa; buff teens run around on a beach knocking back soft drinks. These ads work on our unconscious by showing us a model of completion: "lack"-less people whose lives are not ruled or even touched by anxiety or desire.

Richard Wainwright, "Our Empty Desires," Adbusters, June/July 2000

When humans act like animals, they become the most dangerous of animals to themselves and other humans, and this is because of another critical difference between humans and animals: Whereas animals are usually restrained by the limits of physical appetites, humans have mental appetites that can be far more gross and capacious than physical ones. Only humans squander and hoard, murder and pillage because of notions.

Wendell Berry, "Getting Along With Nature," Home Economics, 1982

Where there no objectively desirable ends, and the individual is told to choose his or her own ends, then choice itself becomes the only thing that is inherently good. When there is a recession, we are told to buy things to get the economy moving; what we buy makes no difference. All desires, good and bad, melt into one overriding imperative to consume, and we all stand under the one sacred canopy of consumption for its own sake.

William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008

Whether we intend to or not, when we consume, we communicate several things about ourselves: our wealth, our personality, our affinities, and even our intelligence. Whether it is Levis or Diesel, McCafe or Starbucks, Mercedes or Chevy, Nike or Converse, every consumptive decision makes a statement. Consumption and identity have dangerously coalesced.

Timothy Willard & Jason Locy, Veneer, 2011

Whither thou goest, America, in thy shiny car in the night?

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), On the Road, 1957

Who is the covetous man? One for whom plenty is not enough.

Basil the Great (329-380), The Rich Fool, Sermon XLI

Whoever has the power to project a vision of the good life and make it prevail has the most decisive power of all. In its sheer quest to produce and sell goods cheaply in constantly growing volume and at higher profit levels, American business, after 1890, acquired such power and has kept it ever since.

William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993

Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase, so do those who consume them

Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 NIV Bible

Why do we, in fact, almost all of us, desire to increase our incomes? It may seem, at first sight, as though material goods were what we desire. But, in fact, we desire these mainly in order to impress our neighbors. When a man moves into a larger house in a more genteel quarter, he reflects that "better" people will call on his wife, and some unprosperous cronies of former days can be dropped. When he sends his son to a good school or an expensive university, he consoles himself for the heavy fees by thoughts of the social kudos to be gained. In every big city, whether of Europe or of America, houses in some districts are more expensive than equally good houses in other districts, merely because they are more fashionable. One of the most powerful of all our passions is the desire to be admired and respected. As things stand, admirations and respect are given to the man who seems to be rich. This is the chief reason why people wish to be rich. The actual goods purchased by their money play quite a secondary role.

John Russell (1792-1878), Sceptical Essays, 1928

With breathtaking rapidity, we are destroying all that was lovely to look at and turning America into a prison house of the spirit. The affluent society, with relentless single-minded energy, is turning our cities, most of suburbia and most of our roadways into the most affluent slum on earth.

Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) attributed

You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)

You do not consider, money never stays with me: it would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find a way into my heart.

John Wesley (1703-1791), Letters, Letter to Mrs. Hall, 6 Oct 1768

You have found that you were more secure before you accumulated so much. See what greed has imposed on you: You have filled your house and now you fear burglars. You have hoarded money and lost sleep. See what greed has commanded you: "Do this!" And you did it.

Augustine (354-430), Tenth Homily on the First Letter of St. John

You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Exodus 20:17 NIV Bible

You, O money, are the cause of a restless life! Because of you we journey toward a premature death; you provide cruel nourishment for the evils of men; the seed of our cares sprouts from your head.

Sextus Propertius (c. 15 B.C.), Elegies

[Capitalism is] that commercial system in which supply immediately answers to demand, and in which everybody seems to be thoroughly dissatisfied and unable to get anything he wants.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), "How to Write a Detective Story,"
G.K.'s Weekly, 17 Oct 1925

[The] illusion that mechanical progress means human improvement . . . alienates us from our own being and our own reality. It is precisely because we are convinced that our life, as such, is better if we have a better car, a better TV set, better toothpaste, etc., that we condemn and destroy our own reality and the reality of our natural resources. Technology was made for man, not man for technology. In losing touch with being and thus with God, we have fallen into a senseless idolatry of production and consumption for their own sakes. We have renounced the act of being and plunged ourself into process for its own sake.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Mystics and Zen Masters, 1967

they showed it to you
and you laid your money down
well it looked like what you wanted
but it laid you in the ground

Peter Himmelmann, You Bought It from Gematria, 1987

Based on technological research and the transformation of nature, industrialization constantly goes forward, giving proof of incessant creativity. While certain enterprises develop and are concentrated, others die or change their location. Thus new social problems are created: professional or regional unemployment, redeployment and mobility of persons, permanent adaptation of workers and disparity of conditions in the different branches of industry. Unlimited competition utilizing the modern means of publicity incessantly launches new products and tries to attract the consumer, while earlier industrial installations which are still capable of functioning become useless. While very large areas of the population are unable to satisfy their primary needs, superfluous needs are ingeniously created. It can thus rightly be asked if, in spite of all his conquests, man is not turning back against himself the results of his activity. Having rationally endeavored to control nature, is he not now becoming the slave of the objects which he makes?
Pope Paul VI (1897-1978), Octogesima Adveniens, Vatican, 14 May 1971
Before our eyes we have the results of ideologies such as Marxism, Nazism and fascism, and also of myths like racial superiority, nationalism and ethnic exclusivism. No less pernicious, though not always as obvious, are the effects of materialistic consumerism, in which the exaltation of the individual and the selfish satisfaction of personal aspirations become the ultimate goal of life. In this outlook, the negative effects on others are considered completely irrelevant. Instead it must be said again that no affront to human dignity can be ignored, whatever its source, whatever actual form it takes and wherever it occurs.
Pope John Paul II (1920-2005), "Respect for Human Rights," 1 Jan 1999
Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.
John Ruskin (1819–1900)
Everything in excess is opposed to nature.
Hippocrates (B.C. 460-370)
Great wealth and content seldom live together.
Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), 1906
He has much who needs least. Do not create necessities for yourself.
Jose Escrivá (1902-1975)
He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.
Socrates (B.C. 469 – 399)
He who knows that enough is enough will have enough.
Lao-tzu (fl. B.C. 600)
He who seeks more than he needs hinders himself from enjoying what he has.
Hebrew Proverb
How far, O rich, do you extend your senseless avarice? Do you intend to be the sole inhabitants of the earth? Why do you drive out the fellow sharers of nature, and claim it all for yourselves? The earth was made for all, rich and poor, in common. Why do you rich claim it as your exclusive right?
Ambrose (339-397) Bishop of Milan
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
the Apostle Paul (c.A.D. 5-67)
Letter to the Philippians 4:11-13 NIV Bible
I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume - a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies.
Ivan Illich (1926-2002), Deschooling Society, 1973
I have also learned why people work so hard to succeed: it is because they envy the things their neighbors have. But it is useless. It is like chasing the wind. They say that a man would be a fool to fold his hands and let himself starve to death. Maybe so, but it is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind.
Ecclesiastes 4:4-6, Today's English Version Bible
I have discovered that many of the things I thought were priceless are as cheap as costume jewelry, and much of what I labeled worthless was, all the time, filled with the kind of beauty that directly nourishes my soul… Now I think that the vast majority of us “normal” people spend our lives trashing our treasures and treasuring our trash. We bustle around trying to create the impression that we are hip, imperturbable, omniscient, in perfect control, when in fact we are awkward and scared and bewildered.
Martha Beck, Expecting Adam, 1999
I like to go to Marshall Field’s in Chicago just to see how many things there are in the world that I do not want.
Mother Mary Madeleva CSC, My First Seventy Years, 1959
I saw that a humble man, with the blessing of the Lord, might live on a little; and that where the heart is set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving, but that commonly with an increase of wealth, the desire of wealth increased.
John Woolman (1720-1772)
I think of the old slavery, and of the way The Economy has now improved upon it. The new slavery has improved upon the old by giving the new slaves the illusion that they are free. The Economy does not take people's freedom by force, which would be against its principles, for it is very humane. It buys their freedom, pays for it, and then persuades its money back again with shoddy goods and the promise of freedom. "Buy a car," it says, "and be free. Buy a boat and be free." Is this not the raw material of bad dreams? Or is it maybe the very nightmare itself?
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, 2000
I understand that it's the music that keeps me alive…That's my lifeblood. And to give that up for, like, the TV, the cars, the houses – that's not the American dream. That's the booby prize, in the end. Those are the booby prizes. And if you fall for them – if, when you achieve them, you believe that this is the end in and of itself – then you've been suckered in. Because those are the consolation prizes, if you're not careful, for selling yourself out, or letting the best of yourself slip away. So you gotta be vigilant. You gotta carry the idea you began with further. And you gotta hope that you're headed for higher ground.
Bruce Springsteen quoted by Barry Schwartz in The Costs of Living, 1994
I want a change, and a radical change.  I want a change from an acquisitive society to a functional society, from a society of go-getters to a society of go-givers.
Peter Maurin (1877-1949), “A Radical Change,” Easy Essays
I wish we didn't live in a world where buying and selling things (especially selling) seems to have become almost more important than either producing or using them.
C S Lewis (1898-1963), Letters to an American Lady, ed. Clyde S. Kilby, 1967
If the Christ we follow sent out his disciples with no extra possessions (Luke 9:1-6 and 10:1-12) and warned would-be devotees that he had nowhere to lay his head (see Luke 9:57-62), then we must recognize that it is extremely difficult to live in a Christian way in a consumer culture.
Marva J. Dawn, A Royal "Waste" of Time, 1999
If thou art rich, thou art poor, for like an ass whose back with ingots bows, thou bearest thy heavy riches but a journey, and death unloads thee.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Measure for Measure, Act III
If we do not bear the cross of the Master, we will have to bear the cross of the world, with all its earthly goods. Which cross have you taken up? Pause and consider.
Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929)
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
In the absence of any objective concept of the good, sheer power remains. The prevailing models of business strategy recognize this fact and are unsentimental about it. For example, on the one hand, marketing is communicated to the broader public as the provision of information about products so that consumers may make choices that are both informed and voluntary. Here consumers are depicted as autonomous and rational, perfectly sovereign over their choices of products and ends. On the other hand, marketing is an in-house presentation to its practitioners and clients that is a machine fully capable of creating desire and delivering it to its intended goal. These two aspects of marketing are two sides of the same coin; marketing can manipulate desire successfully in part because of its own success in convincing the broader public of consumers that it is not manipulating their desires.
William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008  
In the current economic situation, the temptation for the more dynamic economies is that of chasing after advantageous alliances that, nevertheless, can have harmful effects for poorer states, prolonging situations of extreme mass poverty of men and women and using up the earth's natural resources, entrusted to man by God the Creator—as Genesis says—that he might cultivate and protect it. Moreover, despite the crisis, in countries that have long been industrialized, lifestyles marked by unsustainable consumption -- which have damaging effects for the environment and the poor -- still continue. It is necessary, then, to point in a truly unified way to a new balance between agriculture, industry and services, so that development be sustainable, and no one go without bread and work, and so that air and water and the other primary resources be preserved as universal goods. To this end, it is essential to cultivate and spread a clear ethic that is up to the task of addressing current challenges: Everyone should educate themselves in more wise and responsible consumption; promote personal responsibility, along with the social dimension of rural activities, which are based on perennial values, such as hospitality, solidarity, and the sharing of the toil of labor.
Pope Benedict XVI, On Agricultural Work, 14 Nov 2010
In the kingdom of consumption the citizen is king. A democratic monarchy: equality before consumption, fraternity in consumption, and freedom through consumption. The dictatorship of consumer goods has finally destroyed the barriers of blood, lineage and race.
Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, 1967  
In the last seven years, a borderless youth culture has emerged. The uniform is Levi's. The drink is Coke. And they are all hard-wired to the same pop media. Outside the United States this phenomena is seen not only as a product of globalization, but as a new form of American colonization. The world is beginning to look like an American strip mall, complete with KFC, Pizza Hut, and the Golden Arches…The destination of McWorld's economic engineering is a global shopping mall where our identity, our common humanity, and even our spirituality are derived from our consumerism… We are not simply dealing with the issues of consumerism that we contended with in the '70s and '80s. In the 21st century, global marketers have taken an entirely new focus that is much more seductive than anything we have seen before.
Tom Sine, " Branded for Life," Sojourners Sep/Oct 2000
It is important to recognize that behind the razzmatazz of consumerism, we all remain dependent on basic natural resources - land, air, water and biodiversity - for every product and service. There can be no free lunch on the environment.
Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program,
" Asia's Dry Lands Crisis too Critical to Ignore,"
Environment News Service 10 Nov 2000
It is more blessed to give than to receive, but then it is also more blessed to be able to do without than to have to have.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Journals and Papers
It is not because food, clothes and property are inherently evil that Christians today must lower their standard of living. It is because others are starving. Creation is good. But the one who gave us this gorgeous token of his affection has asked us to share it with our sisters and brothers.
Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, 1977
It is not earthly riches which make us or our sons happy; for they must either be lost by us in our lifetime, or be possessed when we are dead, by whom we know not, or perhaps by whom we would not.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430), The City of God
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
It is not necessity but abundance which produces greed.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533–1592)
It is partly to avoid consciousness of greed that we prefer to associate with those who are at least as greedy as we ourselves. Those who consume much less are a reproach.
Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), U.S. sociologist
It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), Principles of Social Reconstruction, 1916
It is really not so repulsive to see the poor asking for money as to see the rich asking for more money. And advertisement is the rich asking for more money.
G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936), The New Jerusalem 1920
It is wrong to assume that men of immense wealth are always happy.
John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (1839-1937), quoted in The Age of the Moguls
It was only in the late nineteenth century and then the twentieth century, with the maturation of consumer capitalism, that a shift was made toward the cultivation of unbounded desire. We must appreciate this to realize that late modern consumption, consumption as we now know it, is not fundamentally about materialism or the consumption of physical goods. Affluence and consumer-oriented capitalism have moved us well beyond the undeniable efficiencies and benefits of refrigeration and indoor plumbing. Instead, in a fun-house world of ever-proliferating wants and exquisitely unsatisfied desire, consumption entails most profoundly the cultivation of pleasure, the pursuit of novelty, and the chasing after illusory experiences associated with material goods.
Rodney Clapp, "Why the Devil Takes Visa," Christianity Today,10/96
It was with the Industrial Revolution, as society plunged ever more eagerly into the conquest of material riches and bent all its energies to the accumulation of goods, that material poverty became a major problem. Obviously, this meant abandonment or downgrading of spiritual values, virtue, etc. To share or not to share in the increase of the collective wealth—this was the Number One question. It was the desire to acquire wealth that prompted the poor to start fighting. And the rich were hypocrites when they accused the poor (who were no longer interested in “spiritual values”) of materialism. For the rich had given the example and set society on the acquisitive path. The great business of the whole society and therefore of all its members, was to increase consumption of goods. But obviously, the moment this is the first objective, the ideal, lack of goods, is the principal drama.
Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), Violence, 1969
It would appear that the traditional parliamentary democracies can offer no fundamental opposition to that automatism of technological civilization and the industrial-consumer society, for they too are being dragged helplessly along by it. People are manipulated in ways that are infinitely more subtle and refined than the brutal methods used in post-totalitarian societies. But this static complex of rigid, conceptually sloppy and politically pragmatic mass political parties run by professional apparatuses and releasing the citizen from all forms of concrete and personal responsibility; and these complex foci of capital accumulation engaged in secret manipulations and expansion; the omnipresent dictatorship of consumption, production, advertising, commerce, consumer culture and all that flood of information; all of it , so often analyzed and described, can only with great difficulty be imagined as humanity’s rediscovery of itself.
Václav Havel (b. 1936), The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe, ed. John Keane, 1985
Joy is not in things; it is in us.
Richard Wagner (1813-1883
Let us be bold enough to ask ourselves as Christians whether the Church of the Lord Jesus in the United States has anything to say to our nation and its ideologies of materialism, possessiveness, and the worship of financial security. Are we courageous enough to be a sign of contradiction to consumerism through our living faith in Jesus Christ? Are we committed enough to his gospel to become a countercurrent to the drift? Or have we so accommodated the faith of our fathers to consumption that the question of simplicity of life, sharing of resources, and radical dependence on God's providence no longer seems relevant? How do we build the Kingdom of God on earth if what we incarnate in our lives is the dogma of our culture rather than the revelation of Jesus?
Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, 1988
Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead.
Will Rogers (1879-1935)
Lives based on having are less free than lives based either on doing or on being.
William James (1842-1910), The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902
Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.
Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, 1973
Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
Man has too long forgotten that the earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste.
George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882)
Many Christians, though keenly sensitive to the dangers of greed and discontent that come with an economy of continually increasing consumption, nevertheless feel that it is worth risking if only it can end man's physical miseries. The trouble is that it can't. In a finite world, continually increasing consumption is just not possible.
Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain, 1953  
Materialism sees national well-being hitched to the rising star of the Gross National Product. You may say, "At least we are concerned with human well-being." But we are talking about human dignity, not human well-being. How, for instance, do we go about "improving the well-being of people?" We do so at the expense of their dignity. We subject them to media manipulation so they will buy what we want them to buy, wear what we want them to wear, eat what we want them to eat. Whatever we may profess about believing in human dignity, our actions betray us. We base our commercials on theories that assume people are either laboratory rats or computers. We then proceed to strip them of dignity in order to load them with things.
John White, The Golden Cow, 1979
Materialism, among all nations, is a dangerous disease of the human mind; but it is more especially to be dreaded among a democratic people because it readily amalgamates with that vice which is the most familiar to the heart under such circumstances. Democracy encourages a taste for physical gratification; this taste, if it becomes excessive, soon disposes men to believe that all is matter only; and materialism, in its turn, hurries them on with mad impatience to these same delights; such is the fatal circle within which democratic nations are driven round. It were well that they should see the danger and hold back.
Alex de Tocqueville (1805-1859), Democracy in America, tr. Henry Reeve 1945
McWorld is a product of popular culture driven by expansionist commerce. Its template is American, its form style. Its goods are as much images as matériel, an aesthetic as well as a product line. It is about culture as commodity, apparel as ideology. Its symbols are Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Cadillac motorcars hoisted from the roadways, where they once represented a mode of transportation, to the marquees of global market cafés like Harley-Davidson's and the Hard Rock where they become icons of lifestyle. You don't drive them, you feel their vibes and rock to the images they conjure up from old movies and new celebrities, whose personal appearances are the key to the wildly popular international café chain Planet Hollywood. Music, video, theater, books, and theme parks—the new churches of a commercial civilization in which malls are the public squares and suburbs the neighborless neighborhoods—are all constructed as image exports creating a common world taste around common logos, advertising slogans, stars, songs, brand names, jingles, and trademarks. Hard power yields to soft, while ideology is transmuted into a kind of videology that works through sound bites and film clips.
Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld, 1995
Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem what they call the soul’s progress, namely, the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), "Self Reliance," Essays 1841
Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.
-Ernest Becker (1924-1974)  
Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle. In many parts of the world society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these attitudes cause. Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must become part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the careless habits of a few.
Pope John Paul II excerpts from public statements compiled by the Christian Society of the Green Cross, 1996
Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it; "Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith."
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
More, more, is the cry of a mistaken soul. Less than all will not satisfy man.
William Blake (1757–1827), There is No Natural Religion, 1788
Most persons think that a state in order to be happy ought to be large; but even if they are right, they have no idea of what is a large and what a small state.... To the size of states there is a limit, as there is to other things, plants, animals, implements; for none of these retain their natural power when they are too large or too small, but they either wholly lose their nature, or are spoiled.
Aristotle (B.C. 384-322)
Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd U.S. President
New pressures are causing ever more people to find their main satisfaction in their consumptive role rather than in their productive role. And these pressures are bringing forward such traits as pleasure-mindedness, self-indulgence, materialism, and passivity as conspicuous elements of the American character.
Vance Packard (1914-1996), The Waste Makers 1959
No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)  
No one who had once learned to identify happiness with wealth ever felt that he had wealth enough.
Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain, 1953
Nobody who gets enough food and clothing in a world where most are hungry and cold has any business to talk about 'misery.'
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) Letters to Arthur Greeves, 13 January 1917
Not he who has little, but he who wishes for more, is poor.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)
Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.
John Petit-Senn (1792-1870)
Not what you possess but what you do with what you have, determines your true worth.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)  
Nothing is cheap which is superfluous, for what one does not need, is dear at a penny.
Plutarch (46-120 A.D.)
O America, how you've taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.
Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968), "Paul's Letter to American Christians" 1956
Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.
Margaret Young from The OmniRead Treasuries compiled and edited by Peter Stafford Sumner
One of the weaknesses of our age is inability to distinguish needs from greeds.
Don Robinson
Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
Cree Indian prophecy
Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Our enormously productive economy...demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption...We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate.
Victor Lebow, retailing analyst quoted by Vance Packard in The Waste Makers, 1960
Our grasping arms are being crammed with the produce of an age of abundance, our eagerness to grasp being more than matched by the zeal of the people who shower such produce upon us. Abundance in the West has become a menace threatening to inundate us under mountains of television sets, houses, clothes, flowery toilet paper, cars, snowmobiles, books, furniture. In order that we may avoid being deluged, goods must be "kept moving." Advertising has been carried to lengths never before known. Our mailboxes, telephones, radios and televisions are channels for would-be sellers of merchandise who are hard put to get rid of what the manufacturers produce. There is nothing wrong, of course, with a proper distribution of goods and services. I am not talking about that but about the promotion of superabundance. We need food, clothing and shelter. Even abundance and comfort are gifts of God. But we are no longer his creatures accepting and distributing the goodness he pours upon us but the feverish and slavish worshipers of abundance itself.
John White, The Golden Cow, 1979
Our inequality materializes our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class.
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
Our institutions and values are in jeopardy as the mores of the market pervade all social life in this country. Loyalty, honesty, courage, discipline, patriotism, and commitment to family are being crowded out by the goals and rules of economic rationality -- do whatever makes the most money.
Barry Schwartz
Our present culture, however, specializes in inflaming endless lust for possessions with advertisements that constantly convince us that we need more (particularly to create the ease we have never found). The marketers don't tell us much about their products, but they spend a great deal of energy (and enormous amounts of money) appealing to our fears and dreams. Thus, the idolatry of possessions plays to the deeper idolatry of our selves—and in an endlessly consuming society, persons are always remaking themselves with new belongings.
Marva J. Dawn, A Royal "Waste" of Time, 1999
Our presidents still take oaths upon bibles; our astronauts read us scripture from outer space. But the mark of the beast is upon the appetites and aspirations that most govern our collective conduct: demonic imbalance—endless distraction by unholy infinities of desire: to produce and devour without limit, to build big, kill big, control big. Anything goes—but where anything goes, nothing counts. No natural standard gives discipline. Mephisto's strategy with Faust: to make absence of restraint matter more than presence of purpose; to make liberation nihilism's bait.
Theodore Roszak, "The Human Whole and Justly Proportioned," Sources, 1972
Our world has enough for each person's need, but not for his greed.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)
Ours is a self-centered world which follows the philosophy that human beings are the most significant entity in the universe. And if we believe that, then we look for more for ourselves; more of the material baubles of our age: from cellular phones to laptop computers to prestigious cars, street addresses, clothing labels and so on to give us gratification. More is better. More is beautiful. More is contrary to the Creator's design. The environment is endangered by our "more" mentality. There is enough of everything to go around for those who see themselves as guardians entrusted with preserving what God has made.
Susan Perlman, "Whose Earth Are We Ruining"
Issues: A Messianic Jewish Perspective
Overconsumption is a “cancer eating away at our spiritual vitals.” It cuts the heart right out of our compassion. It distances us from the great masses of broken bleeding humanity. It converts us into materialists. We become less able to ask moral questions. For example, just because we have the economic muscle to buy up vast amounts of the world’s oil, does that give us the right to do so? When the poor farmer of India is unable to buy a gallon of gasoline to run his simple water pump because the world’s demand has priced him out of the market, who is to blame?
Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity, 1981
Overconsumption is the mother of all environmental problems. For the first time in the history of capitalism, consumption itself has become controversial.
Kalle Lasn, founder of the Media Foundation quoted in Time, April 14, 1997
Overpopulation is the problem of the third and fourth World; over-consumption is the problem of the West. The average American child this year will consume as much of the world’s resources as twenty children born in India. Deliberate and calculated waste is the central aspect of the American economy. We over-eat, over-buy, and over-built, spewing out our toxic wastes upon the earth and into the air.
Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity, 1981
Pampered children are the product of pampered parents – parents who insist on getting their own way, and whose lives are structured around the illusion that instant gratification brings happiness. Children are spoiled not only by an overabundance of food, toys, clothing, and other material things. Many parents spoil them simply by giving in to their whims. While they are still in the playpen, this is bad enough, but as they grow older, the problem gets much worse. How many harried mothers spend all of their energy simply trying to keep up with their children’s demands? And how many more give in to their children just to keep them quiet? 
Johann Christoph Arnold, Endangered, 2000
Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it' while really it is finding his place in him.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Screwtape Letters, 1946
Remember how many closets you have. They are for storing things you aren't using. In my house, we have six closets, and we'd like to add a coat closet. In addition to our six closets, we also have a basement. And a shed. And a pantry. All pretty full. What is your attitude toward possessions if your closets are bursting with things you don't use while kids starve by the thousands?
John Alexander, Your Money or Your Life 1986  
Side by side with the miseries of underdevelopment...we find ourselves up against a form of superdevelopment, equally inadmissable. This superdevelopment consists in an excessive availability of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups and makes people slaves of "possession" and immediate gratification, with no other horizon than the multiplication or continual replacement of the things already owned with others still better. This is the civilization of consumption, or "consumerism," which involves so much throwing away and waste.
Pope John Paul II excerpts from public statements compiled by the Christian Society of the Green Cross, 1996
Simplicity in its essence demands neither a vow of poverty nor a life of rural homesteading. As an ethic of self-conscious material moderation, it can be practiced in cities and suburbs, townhouses and condominiums. It requires neither a log cabin nor a hairshirt but a deliberate ordering of priorities so as to distinguish between the necessary and superfluous, useful and wasteful, beautiful and vulgar.
David E. Shi, The Simple Life, 1985
So many sins against the poor cry out to high heaven! One of the most deadly sins is to deprive the laborer of his hire. There is another: to instill in him paltry desires so compulsive that he is willing to sell his liberty and his honor to satisfy them. We are all guilty of concupiscence, but newspapers, radios, television, and battalions of advertising men (woe to that generation!) deliberately stimulate our desires, the satisfaction of which so often means the degradation of the family.
Dorothy Day (1897-1980), The Catholic Worker, Apr 1953
Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, 1854
Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
That happiness is to be attained through limitless material acquisition is denied by every religion and philosophy known to mankind, but is preached incessantly by every American television set.
Robert Bellah, The Broken Covenant, 1975
The answers to the human problems of ecology are to be found in economy. And the answers to the problems of economy are to be found in culture and character. To fail to see this is to go on dividing the world falsely between guilty producers and innocent consumers.
Wendell Berry, "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine," What Are People For?, 1989
The average American already consumes so much that the U.S. has a worldwide environmental impact amounting to 4 billion people. The U.S., with only 5 percent of the world's population, consumes 32 percent of the world's petroleum and plastics and produces 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. Its 265 million people produce more waste than the 2 billion people in China and India. Indeed, the cause of environmental destruction is conspicuous consumption - a lifestyle that is unfortunately "migrating" from the U.S. to the Third World.
The Nation (independent), Bangkok, April 16, 1998 quoted in World Press Review, September '98
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) & Frederick Engels (1820-1895), The Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848
The concept of work that is valued because it benefits people is all but lost in the modern marketplace. Work nowadays is largely seen as a commodity we exchange for the fruits of consumption.
Stacy & Paula Rinehart, Living For What Really Matters, 1986
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967
The conversation of most middle-class Americans, we are told, revolves around consumption: what to buy, what was just bought, where to eat, the price of the neighbor's house, what's on sale this week, our clothes or someone else's, the best car on the market this year, where to spend a vacation. Apparently we can't stop eating, shopping, or consuming. Success is measured not in terms of love, wisdom, and maturity but by the size of one's pile of possessions.
Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, 1988
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call 'life' which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)  
The crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Monthly Review, 1949
The cultural propaganda embodied in two liquor advertisements, "Living well is the best revenge" and "Sip it with arrogance," have a curious, perhaps demonic appeal. Consumerism indeed has its own spirituality.
Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, 1988
The danger, then, is that materialism is not only shaping how we live but the way we think as well. It influences our consumer tastes and our preference for high-paying jobs, but it also alters our capacity to pray, the nature of our prayers, and the ways in which religious tutelage instructs our values. It becomes harder for us to hear messages about the suffering of the poor, the need for economic justice, and the desirability of seeing God's handiwork in simple things or in nature. Materialism draws us into its logic not so much by convincing us that material goods are preferable to helping the poor, but by persuading us that we can help them best by buying luxury goods for ourselves (thereby creating jobs). It permits advertisers to sell us more goods, not less, by emphasizing the virtue of high-quality goods that will last, biodegradable goods that will not pollute the environment, and expensive vacations that will give us opportunities to get away and reflect on our values. In fact, materialism becomes so much a way of life that we no longer recognize it as an option, as one value among others that we can decide to choose or to reject. It ceases to raise questions but is taken for granted as an inevitable feature of our society. Without realizing it, Ronald Reagan perhaps said it best when he commented on our obsession with the getting and keeping of wealth: "That is not materialism," he asserted; "that is Americanism."
Robert Wuthnow, Rethinking Materialism, 1995
The economy is still substantially that of the fur trade, still based on the same general kinds of commercial items: technology, weapons, ornaments, novelties, and drugs. The one great difference is that by now the revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water. Air access remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution has imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.
Wendell Berry, “The Unsettling of America,” The Unsettling of America 1977
The environmental problems of the 21st century involve us, not them—individuals, not corporations. This time there aren't any bad guys to hold responsible. This time, we ourselves have to be responsible.
Karen Studders, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner, quoted in "Ventura: Pollution control starts with individuals," St. Paul Pioneer Press 24 April 2001
The goals of development are always and everywhere stated in terms of consumer value packages standardized around the North Atlantic--and therefore always and everywhere imply more privileges for a few... Underdevelopment is the result of a state of mind common to both socialist and capitalist countries. Present development goals are neither desirable nor reasonable. Unfortunately antiimperialism is no antidote. Although exploitation of poor countries is an undeniable reality, current nationalism is merely the affirmation of the right of colonial elites to repeat history and follow the road traveled by the rich toward the universal consumption of internationally marketed packages, a road which can ultimately lead only to universal pollution and universal frustration.
Ivan Illich (1926-2002), Celebrations of Awareness, 1971
The good life has become inseparable from the maximum possible consumption of things…The dogma of the new religion is the dogma of increasing wants.
D.R. Davies (1889-1958), The Sin of Our Age, 1947
The gospel preached during every television show is 'You only go around once in life, so get all the gusto you can.' It is a statement about theology; it is a statement about beer. It's lousy beer and even worse theology.
John Silber, president of Boston University quoted in Time, 25 May 1987
The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life out of them, molding them into money.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941)  
The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 32nd President of the United States  
The horseman serves the horse, The neat-herd serves the neat, The merchant serves the purse, The eater serves his meat; 'Tis the day of the chattel, Web to weave, and corn to grind, Things are in the saddle, And ride mankind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) from "Ode, Inscribed to W.H. Channing," Poems, 1847
The idea is the least labor and capital and resources you put together and the more you accumulate the better capitalist you are. So the suggestion I will make to you is that the idea of constant accumulation, which is what America is about, what consumerism, NAFTA are about, means that you always take more than you need and you don't leave the rest. So I suggest that it is possible from an indigenous world view that capitalism is inherently out of order with natural law.
Winona LaDuke, speech on "Social Justice & Racism," UC Boulder 28 Sep 1993
The idea that the profits of capital are really the rewards of a just society for the foresight and thrift of those who sacrificed the immediate pleasures of spending in order that society might have productive capital, had a certain validity in the early days of capitalism, when productive enterprise was frequently initiated through capital saved out of modest incomes. The idea, as a moral justification of present inequalities of privilege, has become more and more dishonest, since the increased centralization of power and privilege makes it possible for those who make the largest investments in industry to do so without any diminution of even the most luxurious living standards. Since we are living in a world in which there is too much capital for production and too little for consumption, the argument that economic inequality is necessary for the accumulation of capital resources has lost even its economic validity. Yet it is still used by privileged classes to establish a specious connection between virtue or social function and privilege.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), Moral Man and Immoral Society, 1932
The illusion that consumption -- and its correlative, income -- is desirable probably stems from too great preoccupation with what Knight calls "one-use goods," such as food and fuel, where the utilization and consumption of the good are tightly bound together in a single act or event. ... any economy in the consumption of fuel that enables us to maintain warmth or to generate power with lessened consumption again leaves us better off. ... there is no great value in consumption itself. ... Consumption is the death of capital, and the only valid arguments in favor of consumption are arguments in favor of death itself.
Kenneth E. Boulding (1910-1993), " Income or Welfare,"
Review of Economic Studies, 1949-50
The individual is denuded of everything but appetites, desires, and tastes, wrenched from any context of human obligation or commitment. It is a process of mutilation; and once this has been achieved, we are offered the consolation of reconstituting the abbreviated humanity out of the things and the goods around us, and the fantasies and vapors which they emit. A sense of self has to be sought in the parade of images and products; and this culture becomes the main determinant upon morality, beliefs, and purpose, usurping more and more territory that formerly belonged to parents, teachers, community, priests, and politics alike.
Jeremy Seabrook, What Went Wrong? Why Hasn't Having More Made People Happier?, 1978
The lust of avarice has so totally seized upon mankind that their wealth seems rather to possess them than they possess their wealth.
Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.)
The man who dies rich dies disgraced.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), The Gospel of Wealth, 1900  
The measure of those excesses [demand for material things] is seen in the forests and in the natural parts of the Earth. And the people who live there, as we do, are the ones who live with the consequence of supplying the raw material for those excesses.
Guujaaw, leader of the Haida Nation,
quoted by DeNeen L. Brown in
" In Canadian Court, a Native Nation Claims Offshore Rights,"
Washington Post, 26 Mar 2002
The modern child may early in his or her existence have natural inclinations toward spirituality. The child may have imagination, originality, a simple and individual response to reality, and even a tendency to moments of thoughtful silence and absorption. All these tendencies, however, are soon destroyed by the dominant culture. The child becomes a yelling, brash, false little monster, brandishing a toy gun or dressed up like some character he has seen on television. His head is filled with inane slogans, songs, noises, explosions, statistics, brand names, menaces, ribaldries, and cliches. Then, when the child gets to school, he learns to verbalize, rationalize, to pace, to make faces like an advertisement, to need a car and in short, to go through life with an empty head conforming to others, like himself, in togetherness.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968), The Hidden Ground of Love, 1985
The most outstanding characteristic of Eastern civilization is to know contentment, whereas that of Western civilization is not to know contentment. Contented Easterners are satisfied with their simple life and therefore do not seek to increase their material enjoyment... They are satisfied with their present lot and environment and therefore do not want to conquer nature but merely be at home with nature and at peace with their lot.
Hu Shih (1891-1962) La Juenesse Nouvelle, April 1918
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) & Frederick Engels (1820-1895), The Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848
The one who dies with the most toys wins
U.S. bumper sticker
The open frontier, the hardships of homesteading from scratch, the wealth of natural resources, the whole vast challenge of a continent waiting to be exploited, combined to produce a prevailing materialism and an American drive bent as much, if not more, on money, property, and power than was true of the Old World from which we had fled.
Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989), "On Our Birthday—America as Idea," Newsweek 12 July 1976
The organization controlling the material equipment of our everyday life is such that what in itself would enable us to construct it richly plunges us instead into a poverty of abundance, making alienation all the more intolerable as each convenience promises liberation and turns out to be only one more burden. We are condemned to slavery to the means of liberation.
Raoul Vaneigem, “Basic Banalities II,” no. 8, Internationale Situationiste Paris, Jan 1963
The people who have more money and goods than any people in the history of the world spend most of their time worrying about not having enough.
Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion, 1981
The persistent appeal to covetousness is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament as a whole.
William Temple (1881-1944), Archbishop of Canterbury
The philosophers of industrialism, from Bacon to Bentham, from Smith to Marx, insisted that the improvement of man's condition was the highest requirement of morality. But in what did the improvement consist? The answer seemed so obvious to them that they did not bother to justify it: the expansion and fulfillment of the material wants of man, and the spread of these benefits, from the few who had once preempted them, to the many who had so long lived on the scraps Dives had thrown into the gutter. The great dogma of this religion is the dogma of increasing wants. To multiply the powers of production one must likewise multiply the capacities of consumption. What, then, was man's true life? The utilitarian had a ready answer: it consisted in having more wants than could be supplied by the machine, and inventing more ways in which these wants could be varied and expanded. Whereas the traditional religions had sought to curb appetite, this new religion had openly stimulated it.
Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), The Condition of Man, 1944
The poor tread lightest on the earth. The higher our income, the more resources we control and the more havoc we wreak.
Paul Harrison quoted in the London Guardian, May 1, 1992
The possessions God allows us to have are intended for our use, not our enjoyment. Trying to squeeze something out of them that was never in them in the first place is a futile endeavor. A cow's udders, gently pressed, will yield sweet milk, nourishing and refreshing. Applying more and more pressure will not produce greater quantities of milk. We lose the good of material things by expecting too much from them. Those who try hardest to please themselves with earthly goods find the least satisfaction in them.
William Gurnall, Puritan author, The Christian in Complete Armour, 1655
The praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant: the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly - the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape.
William James (1842-1910), Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902
The primary actors in the consumer economy are not people but corporations. Corporations are “fictitious persons,” having all the rights of individuals to own property and transact business. But corporations are not human; they don’t suffer and bleed, they don’t have consciences or souls, they don’t go to jail. They are legal fictions. Nevertheless they act as if they were individuals, individuals possessing immense wealth and power – and tunnel vision. A corporation is governed by a “fiduciary duty,” which requires that every act must have the aim of maximizing profit. Stop, halt, end of story. So by law, ethics and moral responsibility are irrelevant in matters of corporate policy. Profit is all that matters. The corporation is mechanical, a simplistic construct without a human capacity for nuanced choice.
Richard Bruce Anderson, “Resisting the Juggernaut:The Wild Frontier of Ecopsychology,” ed. Linda Buzzell & Craig Chalquist, Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature in Mind, 2009
The problem of our highly technical civilization, with its greatly increased power over Nature, is not how to guarantee the satisfaction of simple needs, but how to guarantee the satisfaction of wants which persist in increasing number, intensity and complexity. This is the ultimate reality behind that seemingly innocent and laudable phrase ""social security." Material needs have been endowed, as they have never been before, with a false infinity, by the values which our society considers to be the supreme values.
D. R. Davies (1889-1958), The Sin of Our Age, 1947
The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket
George Orwell (1903-1950), Keep the Aspidistra Flying, 1936
The reality is that our economy now consists of driving 250 million vehicles around the suburbs and malls and eating fried chicken. We don’t manufacture much. We just burn up ever scarcer petroleum in the ever-expanding suburbs built with mortgage money lent to people who haven’t a clue.
Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting With Jesus, 2007
The religion and the environmentalism of the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something that they do not really wish to destroy. We all live by robbing nature, but our standard of living demands that the robbery shall continue. We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do.
Wendell Berry, "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine," What Are People For?, 1989
The sense that materialism has gotten out of hand is magnified by the pressures facing middle-class American families. Home entertainment centers and camcorders can perhaps be passed by, albeit not without the nagging suspicion that one is needlessly denying oneself (and one's children) the small perks that everyone else in the neighborhood is enjoying already. But other material temptations are much more difficult to withstand. High mortgage payments and property taxes may strap the family budget but seem inescapable, not because the amenities of suburban living are so marvelous, but because the public schools anywhere else are in disarray (if not downright dangerous). A new car that costs fifteen times what a new car cost a generation ago is likely to seem equally essential, not so much for the luxurious pleasure of cruising along exotic coastal highways, but because an older, inexpensive car turns out to be an even worse bargain, given the fact that the local repair-service franchise not only charges ten times the minimum wage for semiskilled labor but also cheats on repair bills and replaces parts unnecessarily. By the same token, frozen dinners, a microwave oven, a dishwasher, and an illegal immigrant hired to clean the house and take one's cat to the vet would have seemed like the epitome of materialism in another time, but now provide the only means available for two-career couples to work hard enough at their jobs to earn the salaries they need to pay for those labor-saving amenities.
Robert Wuthnow, Rethinking Materialism, 1995
The story of media in young people’s lives today is primarily a story of technology facilitating increased consumption. The mobile and online media revolutions have arrived in the lives—and the pockets—of American youth. Try waking a teenager in the morning, and the odds are good that you’ll find a cell phone tucked under their pillow—the last thing they touch before falling asleep and the first thing they reach for upon waking. Television content they once consumed only by sitting in front of a TV set at an appointed hour is now available whenever and wherever they want, not only on TV sets in their bedrooms, but also on their laptops, cell phones and iPods®.
Kaiser Family Foundation,
Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, Jan 2010
The surplus of society overrides all our traditions and shapes all our philosophies.
Walter Weyl (1874-1917), The New Democracy, 1912
The test of our progress is not whether we add more abundance to those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. President
The truly affluent are those who do not want more than they have.
Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
The world has proclaimed the reign of freedom, especially of late, but what do we see in this freedom of theirs? Nothing but slavery and self-destruction! For the world says: "You have desires and so satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the most rich and powerful. Don't be afraid of satisfying them and even multiply your desires." That is the modern doctrine of the world. In that they see freedom. And what follows from this right of multiplication of desires? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, envy and murder; for they have been given rights, but have not been shown the means of satisfying their wants.
Feodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), The Brothers Karamazov, 1880 ch 41
The writing has been on the wall for some years now, but we are a nation illiterate in the language of the wall.  The writing just gets bigger. Something will eventually bring down the charming, infuriating naïveté of Americans that allows us our blithe consumption and cheerful ignorance of the secret ugliness that bring us whatever we want.
Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder, 2002 
Their property held them in chains...chains which shackled their courage and choked their faith and hampered their judgment and throttled their soul...If they stored up their treasure in heaven, they would not now have an enemy and a thief within their own household...They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they rather who are owned: enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves.
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (c. AD 200-258) from the Lapsed, 11-12 quoted in Walsh and Langan, "Parasitic Social Consciousness"
Theirs is an endless road, a hopeless maze, who seeks for goods before they seek God.
Bernard of Clairvaux, (1091-1153) On the Love of God
There are not enough rich and powerful people to consume the whole world; for that, the rich and powerful need the help of countless ordinary people.
Wendell Berry, "Conservation Is Good Work," Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, 1991
There are two ways to be rich - one in the abundance of your possessions and the other in the fewness of your wants.
E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) In Christ, 1961
There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more.  The other is to desire less.
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)  
There is a burden of care in getting riches; fear of keeping them; temptation in using them; guilt in abusing them, sorrow in losing them; and a burden of account at last to be given concerning them.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)  
There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.
Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) 30th U.S. President
There is, indeed, a most dangerous passage in the history of a democratic people. When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education and their experience of free institutions, the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint at the sight of new possessions they are about to obtain. In their intense and exclusive anxiety to make a fortune they lose sight of the close connection that exists between the private fortune of each and the prosperity of all.
Alex de Tocqueville (1805-1859), Democracy in America, tr. Henry Reeve 1945
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Jesus quoted in the Gospel according to Matthew
Matthew 6:25-26 from the New Revised Standard version of the Bible
These temple destroyers, devotees of raging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty dollar.
John Muir (1838-1914) commenting on the proposal to dam Hetch Hetchy, 1908 quoted in Wild Earth, Summer 2000
They want production to be limited to useful things, but they forget that the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.
Karl Marx (1818-1883), Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, 1844
Think not on what you lack as much as on what you have.
Greek proverb  
Thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find—nothing.
Aesop (c. B.C. 555)  
This drive to always want more is based on the misconceptions that having more will make me more happy, more important, and more secure, but all three ideas are untrue. Possessions only provide temporary happiness. Because things do not change, we eventually become bored with them and then want newer, bigger, better versions.
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 2002
This is so rich a country that luxury has developed at the expense of necessities, and even the destitute partake of the luxury. We are the rich country of the world, like Dives at the feast. We must try hard, we must study to be poor like Lazarus at the gate, who was taken into Abraham's bosom.
Dorothy Day (1897-1980), The Catholic Worker, Jul-Aug 1953
This world has nothing for me This world has everything All that I could want And nothing that I need
Aaron Tate, Not Enough, Caedmon's Call, 1994 Cumbee Road Music
To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares; but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not.
Akhenaton? (c. B.C. 1375), Egyptian king of the 18th dynasty
To have what we want is riches, but to be able to do without is power.
George MacDonald (1824-1905), Scottish novelist
To make continuous expansion of material resources the primary aim of social organization is the inevitable consequence of making humanity absolute. Material consumption is thus endowed with a false infinity. The transformation of humanity from a subordinate, created entity into an absolute, self-existing, self-evolving entity makes the exploitation of human power the highest good. From this it is but a step to the identification of the good life with increasing material consumption; which is exactly the step that has been taken by Western civilization, both in its capitalist and socialist phases.
D. R. Davies, The Sin of Our Age, 1947
Today we dare not wait until men in their own good time get around to wanting the things; do we permit this, the machine flies to pieces. The wind blew and so the windmill went around. Under the new order, the windmill goes around and so the wind must blow. It is becoming a matter of general remark that the economic emphasis is changing; it is shifting from how to make things to how to dispose of things that are made so that the machine can be kept in constant operation. The problem before us today is not how to produce the goods, but how to produce the customers. Consumptionism is the science of compelling men to use more and more things. Consumptionism is bringing it about that the American citizen's first importance to his country is no longer that of citizen but that of consumer.
Samuel Strauss (1870-1953), " Things Are in the Saddle,"
Atlantic Monthly, Nov 1924
We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.
Aesop (c. B.C. 555)
Western man at present drifts through life obsessed with the desire to obtain an ever higher 'standard of living,' greater status -- and this applies equally to so-called 'capitalist' as to 'communist' countries. It can offer nothing more inspiring as a guide to living than a sterile form of materialism which promotes at every turn the natural conceit, fear, and acquisitiveness of the ego.
Philip M. Eden
Work. Consume. Be silent. And die.
graffito
You can't have everything... where would you put it?
Stephen Wright