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Vocabulary: consumer economy 词汇:消费者经济

Artificial scarcity 人为的物品缺乏

Butter, bacon, sugar, tea and meat were rationed in Britain during World War ll

We expect companies selling products to make them as available as possible. But now some of them are bringing back rationing. As you might expect, it's all part of a plan to make us spend more, not less.

Once upon a time, goods were scarce, and hard to get for all but the extremely wealthy. But industrial mass production has changed all of that. Factories all over the world are pumping out bright and beautiful objects.

When everyone has to wait and save up for new things, owning them feels exciting and special. But when lovely things are available every day, they stop being a treat.


Another feature of consumer society is that we aim for social distinction through what we own. But if everyone has lots of stuff, how can we impress anyone with our purchases? All of this takes the fun out of shopping and means there's a limit to how much consumerism can grow.

This is deeply worrying to companies, and some of them have started to fight it, by creating artificial scarcity. For example, in Singapore, a small cafe called Liberty Coffee only opens on random days. It sometimes stays closed for over a week at a time. Swedish rapper Adam Tensta has limited access to his latest track. Only one person at a time can access it, and fans must take their place in a digital queue.

This trend means we can again own something rare. But the risk for these companies is that in a world of so much stuff, if they make their products too hard to get, we'll just buy from someone else instead.

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