Part 1 is here.
I recall my sister musing that, with all the modest lifestyles among her relatives, she might be the only one on either side of her extended family who was paying enough taxes to support the basic services relied upon by said family. Services like roads and schools.
She implied that we were all being selfish.
To avoid being selfish, then, we should all go out and earn more income (to pay more income tax) and buy more goods (to pay more sales tax).
That way there would be more money for schools to teach our children how to clean up the environmental messes we created while earning more income, buying more goods, and driving more often because we'd have such wonderful roads.
I guess it's clear that I don't think we're being selfish by living modestly. My point of view should come as no surprise.
Still, I wonder where the line is. I want to live in a society that maintains sufficient technological and industrial capacity to have dentists, steel roofs, and maybe even satellite imagery. I find it difficult to believe that I must eat takeout pizza rather than homegrown food in order to maintain that society, but I don't know where the balance point might be.
Obviously there won't be a simple answer. Yet as I think about it, I wonder if the answer at the individual level really is fairly simple. There are those who want us all to trust in economic growth as the answer, and they keep pointing out how effectively market forces balance supply and demand. If that's the case, then all an individual needs to worry about is choosing to demand the things that are really needed for life, and refusing to demand things that aren't. The market will take care of the rest.