The Lie At The Heart Of Consumer Society

We know that consumer goods degrade, but the place they come from supposedly doesn’t
7 min readMay 17


Let them order Amazon (with creepy AI hands)

Consumer goods are always wearing down, becoming outdated, and need to be replaced. You constantly need to buy new clothes, new vehicles, new things. Consumer society, however, is presumed to be infinite. We can keep doing this forever, indeed, this society can keep growing. This is a lie.

The lie at the heart of consumer society is that all of this stuff comes out of nowhere and gets dumped nowhere. Don’t worry about it. The resources that make goods are infinite and the waste is off the books. That is to say, entropy applies to the individual, but not the system. But this is just physically impossible. You can run the experiment yourself. Just unbox something.

You can feel the relentless process of entropy when you open a package. An organized box becomes a mess of cardboard, foam, cables, and devices exploding across your room. Just compare the tree on Christmas Eve with the carnage of Christmas morning. It’s the definition of entropy. Things fall apart, hot goes cold, new becomes old. You have to buy again. Consumer goods are in fact engineered this way, even more than they have to be.

The lie is that this entropic process we can observe on a personal level, does not apply to the system, ie the planet. The consumer goods you buy are known to degrade and become less useful, but the mines that produce them never will. While mainstream economics does acknowledge that factories and machinery degrade (depreciation) there is no similar concept for anything on the environmental level.

Economics just stops at macroeconomics and everything bigger than that is just half-assed assumptions. Assuming that we can keep digging stuff out of the ground, throwing into a whirring entropy machine, and expecting that overall entropy in the system won’t increase. It’s madness of course, and this is mainstream economics. This is what we’re drowning in. As Earl Cook wrote the year I was born:

“the concept of limits to growth threatens vested interests and power structures; even worse, it threatens value structures in which lives have been invested. . . . Abandonment of belief in perpetual motion was a major



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at