More Money, More Problems. People should be more aware of the dangers posed by the consumerist culture of our society.



Imagine you have $2 million. What would you do with it? Would you save it? Donate it? Spend it? If you’re Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, then you’d spend $2 million on the Wu-Tang Clan CD, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” Shkreli bought the album in December, but said he has no plans to actually play the album.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.57.30 AMTo most, this may not seem like much of a problem, since it’s Shkreli’s money being spent. However, Shkreli earned his money in questionable ways by increasing the cost of the AIDS-treating drug, Daraprim, from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet. More importantly, Shkreli, like many consumers today, seems to be overly comfortable with spending mass amounts of money on physical goods, falling victim to consumerism.

I must admit, however, I am not guiltless. For example, I own a $3,000 saxophone, a $175 Coach bag, a $549 iPhone 6 and a $300 pair of Adidas shoes. I am surrounded by these expensive material objects, but like many consumers, I’m still not satisfied.

That’s the issue that comes with today’s consumerist culture. There’s always a desire to have more, to own the next best thing. While we’re doing this, we don’t see the huge amounts of money we’re spending. Even if it’s small, any purchase can lead to a spiral of debt.

According  to research done by Merrill Edge, a brokerage service,  nearly half of millennials say they would dig into savings to pay for a big purchase they cannot afford. This is a recipe for financial issues, but the truth is that the dollar doesn’t seem like much anymore. We’re so focused on owning more that we don’t see the debt we’re putting on ourselves until it’s too late.

In addition to financial risks, consumerism can also lead to psychological damage. Consumerism utilizes the insecurities of a consumer to sell them a product that will “change their life.” There’s a product you can buy for any dissatisfaction you feel, and once your previous dissatisfactions have been met, consumerism manages to find more. Even slightly troublesome items can expand into huge problems because there’s always that notion that anything can be fixed with just “three easy payments of $19.99.”

The sudden onslaught of “problems” can cause life to seem a lot worse than it actually is, and consumers quickly develop a reliance on certain products. Items that weren’t needed before are suddenly a necessity, and even though you know you can’t really afford that $600 phone, you feel the need to buy it anyway.

Of course, consumerism isn’t a monster, and buying luxury items won’t blow a hole in your wallet. It’s simply a matter of knowing what you can and cannot afford. Splurging every once in a while is perfectly acceptable and will cause no harm, but it’s not always necessary to make new purchases. As Allen Ginsberg, an American poet who denounced the destructive forces of capitalism after World War II, once said, “You own twice as much rug if you’re twice as aware of the rug.”

And if consumerism is still getting you down, don’t worry; at least you’re not Shkreli yet. Shkreli has been charged with two counts of securities fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. There’s also a civil lawsuit against him from the Securities and Exchange Commission, and he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Despite the money Shkreli earned from his lies, money can’t buy his freedom, and it can’t buy happiness either. Shkreli is a good example of how damaging excessive spending can be and serves as a reminder for consumers to be aware of consumerism and it’s pitfalls. Maybe Shkreli will finally want to play that $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album of his.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Kalea Miao at [email protected]