Consumerism is often derided by leftists. It’s viewed as an outgrowth of capitalism and markets more generally. There is truth in the notion that commercialism is a product of markets, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. As Ellen Willis stated:
First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong with consumption. Shopping and consuming are enjoyable human activities and the marketplace has been a center of social life for thousands of years.
There is much enjoyment to be found in consuming the products of human beings and nature. My personal favorites include books, food, and computer games.
The alternative to consumerism is often considered to be a gift economy. What difference does it make whether you consume what you receive as a gift or what you purchase with money? No discernible one. What is really at work in opposition to consumerism is objection to commerce per se. People who can’t stand markets tend not to be able to handle commerce at all.
We have to consume to survive in this world. A human being who never ate or drank would quickly die off. Life would also be exceedingly boring without the products of human productivity to consume and otherwise make use of. Where would we be without the consumption of entertaining television programs, movies, and books? Not in a very happy place.
One has to consume pretty continuously to remain functional. There is a constant need for food and water. Not to mention the nourishment of the mind through intellectual activities. There can be no happy human existence without the above. Those who denigrate consumption are essentially attacking human life. The veneration of human life requires respect for what it requires to last.
In the final analysis; consumption is an essential part of markets. Market freedom includes both the liberty to produce as one pleases and freedom to consume as one wishes. There can be no justifiable constraints coercively imposed upon this. Both are important for the liberty of individuals. Economic freedom is an important part of the larger conception of liberty to which we left-libertarians subscribe.
Let us work towards a world of economic abundance where unabashed materialism can exist alongside mutual aid or social support. It would be the best of both worlds. The untrammeled pursuit of material welfare coupled with the empathy of social support. A humane and rational alternative to egotism or self-abnegation. Liberty requires we realize this vision.