Douglas Carswell

28 NOV 2015

Cheer up, its Christmas shopping time! In defence of mass consumption

Self-righteous British media types love to hate so-called Black Friday – the start of the Christmas shopping season. They can't bear the "consumerism": millions of people freely choosing products they want at prices they can afford. The horror!

"Britain doesn't have Thanksgiving. Black Friday as a US import designed to make folk spend after Thanksgiving and before Christmas," the chattering classes moan. "Why are we importing such vulgar American materialism?"

I don't think there is anything vulgar about consumer choice. I happen to believe it is rather wonderful.

I grew up in a country where people were denied free choice.  In Uganda under Idi Amin, rulers stole what they could, while restricting and regulating what folk could buy and sell. You needed permits for everything in an economy that produced little.

Perhaps those pundits who sneer at consumerism simply do not know what its like for a society to not have much to consume?

Instead of sneering at Black Friday, we should be asking why there are so many people in the world who are still denied the right to choose how to live their lives. And why in so many areas of our lives – schools, hospitals, public transport, energy providers – we have so little choice. Usually it has something to do with a remote bureaucratic cartel deciding how resources should be allocated, instead of letting people decide for themselves.

American elites whine about Black Friday contradicting the spirit of Thanksgiving. In fact, they have more in common than you might think. They're both about choice.

Thanksgiving began with a group of people who left Europe to live without fear of religious persecution. They founded a society based on the right to choose. That ideal of freedom is the root of American prosperity today.

We may not have a formal Thanksgiving in Britain. But that shouldn't turn us into miserable pessimists. On the contrary: on a day like Black Friday, we should be grateful for the choice and prosperity we enjoy.

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