Does Consumerism Undermine Sustainable Government?

So as I watch the meltdown in DC, it’s an oddly destructive course.  Looking at it distantly, it appears to be people elected to assist people undermining the very system they are to sustain and indeed that sustains them.  It is, frankly, insane.

So I’ve wondered just what are the various people who backed the shutdown expecting?  What do their backers – both the voters and their donors – expect?  What of the media people who appear to back this insanity, the talking heads and talking mouths?

Of course threatening the financial stability of the government – and with the debt ceiling, the country and world – is insane.  Yet there seems to be less panic than I would expect, and it doesn’t seem to be bluff.  I feel, at least intuitively, that far too many people are passive over this, or even flippant – and that’s honestly how some people feel.

Now I could probably analyze the various factors about this forever.  Indeed, I expect some historians, scholars, and writers will get weeks, months, or years of work out of this.  But the flip attitudes keep making me think – because they seem familiar.

They remind me of the people who would complain endlessly about free services and websites they contributed nothing too, as if they themselves were capable of making them.

They remind me of people who write off disasters that “don’t affect them” and then wonder why prices on something have gone up or why their vacation is ruined.

They remind me of people who figure we can change the environment with no repercussions.

They, in short, are people who seem to act like there’s always an option.

So it struck me that a lot of this is a “consumerist” attitude.  That you can always buy more, that people’s work is only to please you, that there’s always options.  It’s a lack of sense of what is necessary to create that thing you like, or the society you enjoy and the government you’re part of.  It’s the idea you can always go to the store and buy a new one.

Government that functions long-term can’t be consumerist.  It requires a plan and it has to be long-term.  It has to be realistic.  It is to an extent an act of caution, like an insurance policy.  Government can’t function on the idea of discardable and purchasable.  When it gets away from these things it has trouble.

(Not that the U.S. government hasn’t had trouble with some of these things for awhile, but that’s another story.)

So, no, this isn’t exactly a well-formed thought, but it’s made me think that one of our problems with the U.S. government is it’s treated as something we can wad up, toss away, or purchase anew with ease.

This isn’t the case, as we’re finding out.  Hopefully, enough people find out fast enough.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at