Thoughts about our supersized society, too many Beanie Babies, diminishing marginal utility, and a single stick of candy that needs to lasts throughout the year.
“Dream a Little Dream: Bill McKibben on Reforming Our Supersized Society,”
Alexis Adams Interview with Bill McKibben, The Sun, October 2006
“[In the Laura Ingalls Wilder books,] there are poignant descriptions of [children] trying to decide whether to eat [their single stick of candy] all at once or stretch it out for months. In that kind of world, it’s easy to see why people wanted more.
I was in China last summer and spent a day in a factory where young people were making shower curtains. It was not Dickensian; most of the workers I talked to thought of the job as a step up. I toured the female workers’ dormitories and noticed that a lot of them had stuffed animals on their beds.
I remember making small talk with one woman and asking whether she had a stuffed animal. Her eyes welled up with tears, and she told me no; she really liked stuffed animals, but she sent every penny she earned back home to put her brother through engineering school. Needless to say, I went out and bought her the largest stuffed animal I could find in that corner of China. This made her incredibly happy.
My daughter likes stuffed animals, too, and must have seventy-five little Beanie Babies in her room. Though she’s perfectly happy to get one more, it has what economists would call ‘low marginal utility.’ One more, in her case, is a remarkably small gift.
Like her, we’re long past the point where more is doing us any good. …”