Oscar Torrealba | March 21, 2016
In social networks has shared a message from the ex- president Pepe Mujica in relation to the working time that we use to consume. His message conveys the idea that when we consume, beyond employing money, what we use is the time we spend in order to get that money. Therefore, according to his words, superfluous consumption is the result of paying with our lives a loss of our freedom.
This is associated with the idea that the consumption of capitalism, as we know it today, would be a process of loss of freedom, since we paid everything with the time we spent working to get our money.
The former President Mujica says:
We invent a mountain of superfluous consumption, and we must throw and live buying and pulling. And what we are spending is life time. Because when I buy something, or you, do not buy it with silver, you buy it with the life time you had to spend to have that money. But with this difference, the only thing you can not buy is life. Life is spent, and it is miserable to spend life to lose freedom.
In the first place, the concept of superfluous consumption must be attacked. This classification is understood as consumption unnecessary for human life. This is based on the collectivist reasoning , each person should consume only what is necessary to decrease essentially basic needs, with everything else superfluous. An example of this is represented by clothing; Although we need to cover our body, we do not need to have several changes of clothes, because with one of them we satisfy the aforementioned need. However, this reasoning ignores that the needs are subjective, infinite, repetitive and evolutionary.
Talking about needs implies taking into account that they are evolving as our quality of life improves, they are repetitive insofar as the satisfaction of one of them does not eliminate the possibility of being felt again, and they are infinite because The human being is always in the quest to satisfy their needs, otherwise, it would simply not act, we would be inactive beings. Let us remember that our actions seek our mobility from situations less satisfactory to others more satisfactory, to deny this implies to ignore the reason why the man acts.
So ultimately, superfluous consumption is a concept that suffers from knowledge about human action, aims to standardize consumption to “what is necessary” that everyone “should have,” that is, talking about the superfluous is not to recognize that the Needs and value are subjective.
To refute the argument that the time of life wears out at the moment of consumption, it is necessary to resort to the Austrian theory. The market is a process of social cooperation that has evolved as capital goods have been incorporated into the production process. This incorporation requires voluntary savings and job specialization, since the productive processes must be known to know how to improve them by implementing capital goods.
The process of social cooperation allows millions of people to access goods and services that the people themselves can not obtain for themselves and if they could, they would not have enough time to prepare all the things that currently consume time. An example of this is the consumption of a cup of coffee: to drink coffee without the existence of the market, we must elaborate all the instruments involved.
Drink coffee without the market
We must begin by obtaining water; Since there is no social co-operation (unless everyone has developed their own channeling system) we must go directly to a river and get our own fresh water. Then we must collect the water with a container made by ourselves, heat the water with a pot melted and molded by us, weave the mesh with which we slosh the coffee and make our own tool to serve. Previously we had to get the seeds and sow the coffee, which requires a technique and expect to obtain the fruit of the sowing after 3 to 5 years.
The process of social cooperation prevents us from going through all these processes and taking only a short time to obtain this and other products of which we ignore its elaboration. 99.99% of the things we consume today are made by other people and we do not know each one of the processes. Without the market, we would have to devote much of the time to the production of products over which we do not have the expertise and knowledge necessary to produce them.
In addition to the above, we must keep in mind the existence of money as a medium of exchange; Assuming that money does not exist, but the division of labor and thus the market, we would have to spend much of the time finding a double coincidence of needs, that is, two people who want what the other has. This process is not immediate, since if a person is engaged in milk production and needs to consume grains, he should look for that producer of grains that wants to obtain liters of milk, otherwise the exchange can not be made . That is why, thanks to the existence of money, we can make exchanges with the lowest transaction costs possible, which frees us from life time.
The conjugation of the market and the money allows us to save a great deal of time in relation to the quantity of things we consume and that translate into reductions of deficiencies. Thanks to the market, former president Mujica was able to have time to reflect, write the script and make his video, otherwise, that time had to have dedicated him to the production, possibly inefficient, of products that would help him to satisfy his needs. Thanks to the market, which is no more than that process of social cooperation that derives from the distribution of labor, we have enough time to procure goods and services that, in other circumstances, we could not imagine. In fact, the reduction of working time has been possible in societies where specialization becomes evident.
In short, the market and the obtaining of money allow a saving of time of life and, therefore, the argument of the ex- president Mujica loses validity. Although it is true that it takes time to get “that money”, with the required time and with the money obtained we can satisfy a greater amount of needs and obtain a saving of time that would be impossible in a world without market, without capitalism .