Saturday, October 24, 2009

"right size it"

In yesterday's blog, I posed the question; If having fewer material goods is not "a lower standard living," how do we more accurately describe it?

An answer struck me. I remember that during the recession of the early 1990s, I was working for a computer company (ie, private industry). Many of our business associates were laying people off and shrinking their businesses. They insisted that they were not, let me repeat not, "down-sizing." They were "right sizing." I remember it being a faux pas even to say "downsizing."

Well, that was all rather ridiculous, but I think the term "right sizing" is in fact apt to describe a move to simpler existence. What do you think?


Kari said...

"Right sizing" -- I like it. "Downsizing" has a negative connotation. Though your company didn't use it kindly, "right sizing" sounds so positive ... speaks of where we should be. :)

Diane said...

Hi Kari,

Glad you like "right sizing."

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

I think the problem here is that the concept of a “right size” of consumption misses the point.

The ruin of the earth is the big problem here — the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems, the desertization of soils, and the build-up of greenhouse gases.

And this ruin is not caused by high per-capita consumption alone. It’s caused by the product of population times per-capita consumption plus destruction by society as a whole. Or as a mathematical formula: R = PC + D.

So low consumption doesn’t resolve the problem if population is too high, or if societal destruction is too high. No size of consumption is the right size unless it is in the proper relationship with population and destruction — but any size can be the right size if the overall relationship is right.

Diane said...


I hear what you are saying, and I agree that we have some big problems on our hands. I am thinking, however, that an impediment to change is the notion that any shrinking of consumption is automatically a "lower standard of living" to be fought at all costs. That's where we are now, imho. If we can find different ways to frame a more balanced, sustainable lifestyle, so that people perceive it as a positive force, which it is, not a negative, it will be easier for us to change. Our whole notion of standard of living, with the judgments implicit in it, is a form of blindness. Language, of course, doesn't solve problems, but it does influence them.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I do think we need to gear ourselves more toward simplicity. I'm thinking that the U.S. economy is run too much on what people don't need, and with that comes the cost of debt along with waste and just a poor use of money.

Even though I don't have much hope for society at large, short of some great economic depression or downturn, I do hope that we as God's people in Jesus will learn to more and more exemplify those who live in this world, using it, but not engrossed in it. But living with our mission in Jesus and the kingdom of God in Jesus and the gospel, as primary and everything else lived out in its place, but secondary to that.

Hystery said...

It sounds like what you are talking about is "voluntary simplicity" which is a phrase indicating a social movement and individually chosen lifestyles of economic and ecological sustainability.

Diane said...

Ted and Hystery,

Ted, I agree with you.

Hystery, it is voluntary simplicity I'm talking about but I'm trying to get away from the term simplicity as I think that can get confusing or romanticized.