The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index is a measure of consumer confidence and optimism in the economy at a given point in time. Each month, this index is calculated and published based on a survey of 5,000 households. This survey includes a total of five questions related to current business conditions and the consumer’s opinion of business trends over the next six months. Likewise, the consumer is asked about his or her opinion of their current employment conditions and the outlook over the six month horizon. Finally, a consumer is asked about total family income trends in the short term. Over time, this index is instrumental to key decision making related to government policy, and we need a way to raise an awareness of a critical issue which is present in our culture today.
If I could add one more question to this economic survey, I would want to ask consumers how they feel about consumption impact on the earth and our environment. We are all becoming increasingly aware of how consumerism is significantly impacting our overall quality of life. Our insatiable appetite as consumers is destroying the natural resources here on earth including our air, water, forests, mountains, oceans, and even our lands. Our traditional economic measures are not accounting for costs which have been externalized to our environment; and if we do not modify our consumer behavior, we are going to continue on a dangerously unsustainable path.
The addition of this critical question would likely impact this consumer confidence index negatively and immediately. Some would argue that this would unfairly adjust the index which has existed now for some time. But, I would argue that this index has neglected this factor for too long. An immediate negative impact on this index would provide a signal to policy makers that we need stronger change in the consumption cycle. In order to produce and to sustain a positive trend in this adjusted consumer index, we would somehow have to begin to introduce more sustainable practices in our economic growth. If consumers were allowed to include their confidence in government policy related to environmental control, we would be forced to stop externalizing consumption costs into the environment.
The time has now come to start introducing new ways to measure our real growth on earth. As population on earth approaches 10 billion people and other economies grow to match the might of the United States, our earth is going to be in real trouble. The United States today by far is contributing to the greatest negative impact on this earth and the population of our country isn’t even 400 million. What happens when the rest of the world begins to grow and to consume at our ridiculous pace? We are in trouble if we do not become the model for these future economies and generations.