Global advertising spend is about $600 billion annually. We spend about $250 billion on personal luxury goods. In contrast, the UN budget is about $6 billion, WWF spends about $300 million and Gates Foundation Trust endowment is $41 billion.
While its clear we spend too much on advertising & luxury goods, the indirect impact of this spending is not so clear, and often ignored, at our own peril.
Advertising fuels unbridled consumerism, encourages us to buy products & services beyond our needs & means, fires up desires & expectations, frustrates & saddens many who can’t quench such desires. While some advertising is necessary for business & trade, such huge spends are unwarranted and need to be curtailed.
Luxury goods are vices easier to condemn. By definition, they are products & services we don’t really need to survive or live. They cater to our vanities and desires which are deplorable when vast swathes of humanity worldwide live amidst poverty, disease, war & filth.
There are other such industries, like defence for example, which spend more than warranted and are equally condemnable. Such industries, besides indulging in wasteful expenditures, also deplete natural resources, worsen climate change and actively contribute to unsustainable development.
While positive spending by the likes of UN, WWF & Gates Foundation are important, removing negative spends by industries such as advertising & luxury goods are equally, if not more, important.
The question is ‘How to kill such industries?’
The popular method followed by today’s capitalistic & democratic societies is to tighten regulation. However, going by past experience in curtailing the excesses of industries such as oil & tobacco, this method is painfully slow, ineffective, and often fails.
An alternative way is to use the tools of capitalism against itself. A new breed of philianthropists, who are also expert capitalists, can figure out ways to takeover, bankrupt and/or shutdown such industries.