You don’t live under a rock, right? Then you’ve probably heard, the President of the United States has complained about Nordstrom deciding to no longer carry his daughter’s clothing line based on lagging sales– prompting the question everywhere: wait, isn’t it unethical for the President to attempt to influence businesses for the profit of his family members?
— Aisha Tyler (@aishatyler) February 9, 2017
OK!! SEE YOU THERE!! JUST AS SOON AS I FINISH MY SHOPPING AT NORDSTROM!! https://t.co/OM8NEFWaM4
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 10, 2017
shop nordstrom ! pic.twitter.com/lDwRnkIch9
— ROSIE (@Rosie) February 9, 2017
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) February 8, 2017
In response, many people, including many celebrities, have been tweeting about their gleeful support of Nordstrom. Spend your money where you want, but I don’t think we should pretend that conspicuous consumption is a morally or politically progressive practice.
What is conspicuous consumption? It’s a term that was introduced in 1899 (!) by Thorstein Veblen, describing the phenomena in which consumers buy expensive things for accumulation and optics, rather than need or utility. I get the gleeful shadenfreude at seeing Trump sputter at the thought of his daughter losing income, but at the same time… buying your luxury t-shirts at Nordstrom is not changing the world.
At the end of the day, you may feel better about buying products that are made by a company that aligns with your political values, whatever they are, but buying things is not an inherent good. I think you should absolutely make decisions and can derive satisfaction from knowing your purchase isn’t going toward something horrible (or that it is going toward something good, in the case of certain companies or business partnerships), but it should not be the only way you direct your political activity, money, or time.
P.S. Donate to the ACLU, or my favorite local organization, the Women’s Medical Fund, any other organization you care about and feel like is doing good stuff. That’s putting your money where it will really make a difference.