Last Updated May 3, 2011 3:56 PM EDT
Turns out this mindless quest to acquire is a good thing, and that marketing that makes us aspire to buy things we don't want or need is providing a valuable service to the economy, opines Duke economist Dan Ariely in the May issue of Harvard Business Review.
Noting that this sentiment goes counter to recent calls for companies to make profits from products that make the world better rather than from useless junk, Ariely admits he risks "touching the third rail."
But to his way of thinking, marketing things people want, no matter how useless, motivates consumers to work harder to earn money to purchase them.
"Consider for a moment a world without marketing hype," Ariely writes in The Upside of Useless Stuff. "One in which there's nothing you really desire beyond what you need to live. There's nothing your kids want; they don't bug you every time you're in the supermarket. How hard would you work in such a world? What would motivate you to work harder?"
Thus, iPads, garden gnomes and designer water are nothing less than "thousands of motivational speakers hovering around us," which can fuel productivity and improve the economy.
I feel better already. Now what did I put that Sharper Image catalog?
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