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The Domesticated Consumer

| July 08, 2018
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There are over 12,000 wild wolves roaming North America. There are over 89 million dogs. So the question is, why are there so many dogs, and so few wolves? I ask this question, because I'm wondering who domesticated who? Did we domesticate wolves and make them dogs, or did the wolves domesticate us so that we walk behind them with baggies. Do you really own a dog if you are its personal sanitation department, or does the dog own you? Perhaps this is a chicken and the egg quandary, but it made me think about a few other things.

My wife once won a very fancy watch for being the top person in her company. I thought to myself, "Wow, she owns a fancy watch, what a treat!" I was later to find out that every year, you must spend anywhere from $200 to $700 in maintaining and cleaning that watch because of its delicate and exquisite construction.

Also what made me think of this is I find so many retirees are proud that they have paid off their home. They don't owe the bank a thing, and their home is theirs--free and clear. While that's true, it's also a little bit of a misnomer. You see, here in Central Florida, when your air conditioning runs out, you soon discover that you need $7,000 to $12,000 to replace it. Also, you don't live rent free, or mortgage free in your own home. You are renting your home from the state or county that you live in. You see, you owe taxes on your property. Somebody has to pay for roads, schools and sunshine. If you think you own your home outright, stop paying taxes and find out how long they will forebear your civil disobedience. Another thing, you have to insure your home from catastrophic damage. And therein lies another fee that you must pay every year, which is homeowner's insurance. Not exactly free and clear.

Now before you get discouraged by this blog, I simply want to make one point; everything that you own, also owns you. Everything that you take possession of, takes possession of you. And that's why you must look at your conspicuous consumption and change it into circumspect consumption.

Constant improvement and innovation has created a demand for more stuff. The advertisements entice us with bigger, faster and stronger products that create a wealthier life. That's the strength of capitalism. It's also its weakness.

The weakness part of capitalism is that we become blinded by the nature of our wealth. As I said before:

  • what you possess, possesses you,
  • what you domesticate, domesticates you,
  • what you own, owns you.

Your house owns you, your fancy watch owns you, your car owns you. Everything that you have is simultaneously a luxury, and a responsibility.

Take a look at the things in your life, things that you thought you had to have. Typically, these are things that you purchase out of a sense of bolstering your self-worth, out of a sense of nostalgia or out of a sense of peer pressure. Now make a list of the things that you own that are the tools that you must have in life. Ask yourself do they actually provide you with more than they cost? It's much like investing. When you buy a watch, ask yourself is it providing me enough accuracy and time telling, fashionable flash and social status to be worth it.

If you really ask yourself, you may realize how ridiculous your purchases, your possessions are. I have found that I have become domesticated by what I own. John MacAfee has been said to be one of the richest men in the world. When he first came into all his money from his MacAfee Virus software, he went out and bought multiple homes as an investment and for his enjoyment. What he found is that he now had a second job as a property manager, constantly flying to each property to check on his staff to make sure that they were taking care of his possessions, and he realized he had not become more free and he had not become happier, he had become possessed by his possessions. He was unable to do what he really wanted to do.

Here's a few things you can do:

  1. Make a list of all that you own, all that you possess, and decide do you really need to keep it. Ask yourself, is it worth the cost of ownership, be it time, talent or money.
  2. Consider renting, consider leasing, consider borrowing, consider hiring rather than owning because that way, you can test drive a possession before it can possess you.
  3. And then finally when you realize you have to have this or you have to have that, enjoy it. Enjoy it fully. Drive that car until the wheels fall off, enjoy the condominium at the beach with reckless abandon because you earned it.You deserve it. You possess it and it does not possess you.

Finally, if you have a fancy watch you'd like to sell, call me. Just kidding. But if you'd like to discuss this topic, click here.

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