Buy Nothing Christmas

Rachel Cunliffe is toying with the idea of a buynothingchristmas.

First, let me say that I am all in favor of taking extreme steps to reduce the commercialization of Christmas and keep our focus on remembering the birth of Christ. I plan on a very low-cost Christmas. I am going to suggest that people who wish to give me something would either (1) not give me anything but maybe a card, or (2) donate money to a charity instead. At the very most, give me a mathom. But I will maintain an extensive Amazon wish list for the stubborn ones – if I’m going to get a gift, it might as well be something I’ll love rather than a shiny new piece of junk, right?

So I am generally in favor of voluntary simplicity, and of reducing the commercialization in our world, and especially around Christmas.

But as I perused buynothingchristmas.org, I noticed some things that I wanted to point out.

From Why Buy Nothing?:

In the case of the Mennonite church in Canada, the majority of its members, including me, has benefited from the current economic arrangement (free market capitalism). But our affluence has come with some expense to others. Participating in a Buy Nothing Christmas is one way for me to continue looking at peace and justice issues in terms of global economics. It gets kind of heavy.

Being affluent in a free market does not come “with some expense to others”. It’s not a zero-sum game. I remember at college, a professor tried to tell me that by going to that university (a pretty expensive private one), I was oppressing the (minority) cleaning staff! Oppressing them? I was giving them a job! Without my tuition dollars they would be unemployed.

I would want to work at ways of reducing systemic poverty. …
I wish to address how our society is structured and how it tends to favour the rich over the poor.

I can’t speak for the Canadian economic system, but I can speak for free market capitalism. Capitalism does not favor the rich over the poor. It favors the bold, the talented, and the diligent over the timid, talentless, and lazy. (That’s not to say that all the rich people are bold, talented, and diligent and all the poor ones are timid, talentless, and lazy, of course. Sometimes there are other factors, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.)

If you want to end systematic poverty, get rich. Invest your money. Start your own business. Buy things. Your money will directly or indirectly translate into expanded businesses (perhaps even one that you open!) that will hire more people. That will end systematic poverty. How many common people has Sam Walton enriched?

You cannot get a job from a poor man. You can get a job from a rich man much easier. Companies that are losing money have a tendency to lay off workers and close plants. Companies that are making lots of money tend to hire more workers and build more facilities (which creates lots of construction jobs too). And when lots of companies are making lots of money, wages skyrocket. Which system – companies losing money and laying off workers, or companies making money and expanding – is more likely to reduce poverty?

If you, like me, simply want to keep Christmas simple and spiritual and non-commercial, then great. But don’t knock capitalism. Capitalism works. It has been proven over and over again. Support capitalism.

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4 Responses to Buy Nothing Christmas

  1. R.W. says:

    Good stuff. I’m no starry-eyed Young Republican, but as I’ve said before, nothing about capitalism *requires* that you be a dirty money-grubbing bastard. As you correctly point out, the economy is not a zero-sum game. Wealth has to come from somewhere, and the more there is of it, the more that can be spent. Of course, as a Christian I believe there are right ways to spend it and wrong ways to spend it, just as there are right ways and wrong ways to earn it. Somewhere in the New Testament St. Paul presents something akin to this as the best reason for earning money–so that one may have something to give. Mammon is not to be our master. And detachment from worldly goods is spiritually healthy. But that does not mean the church should adopt a Manichean attitude that is contemptuous of all commerce.

  2. amy says:

    I’m always amazed by people who are anti-capitolist. Hello? Where have they been the past hundred years?

  3. Robert says:

    Hello? Where have they been the past hundred years?

    In Europe and Canada. :-)

  4. damian says:

    Most conservative christians ARE anti-capiolist. this is why they hate the media. the media sells things. this is why they attack sex on television. but, sexy commercials sell more product. they endlessly talk out of both sides of their mouths.

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