- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Via this story about the celebrity-backed “Red campaign” to fight AIDS in Africa, I came across a website called BuyLessCrap.org. It’s a shot across the bow of consumption-driven charity, and encourages you to donate directly to a variety of charitable organizations rather than making a pitstop in the cash registers of corporate sponsors like GAP. Don’t feel good while you shop; just feel good.

While it always pleases me to hear any news that pricks the bubble of Bono’s self-regard, I can’t help but suspect that the animating spirit of “Buy Less Crap” isn’t just about the efficacy of charitable fundraising. (The salad-dressing conduit seems to work discreetly well for Paul Newman’s philanthropic efforts, for one thing.) I’m guessing BuyLessCrap-niks are critical of consumer culture generally. No shame in that — one can find fellow-travelers on the right for that sort of thing.

But in this case, at least, it feels like a policy preference in search of a convenient cultural peg. It’s a little like opposition to the Bush tax cuts a few years ago. It came cloaked in practical arguments about how we can’t afford tax cuts during wartime, and how in the past Americans were asked to sacrifice for the greater good. Defensible arguments, sure. It’s just that these were the same people who opposed tax cuts on September 10, 2001.

By all means, donate more to charity and buy fewer of whatever wares Bono happens to behawking. Just don’t tell me “Shopping Isn’t a Solution” — because it depends on what the problem is.

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