When I was an undergraduate studying economics, our political economy teacher used to ask us just how many different types of deodorant society needed.
The answer generally used to be: "could you just consider one type of deodorant, sir?"
But his point stayed with me.
A political scientist who questioned whether the consumer society was really the best way to allocate resources, he continually asked us to question whether 17 different types of orange juice or nine different types of detergent were really necessary for modern society.
In a new book published this week, Diane Coyle makes a similar argument in “The Economics of Enough.”
“The world's leading economies are facing not just one but many crises," Coyle said.
"The financial meltdown may not be over, climate change threatens major global disruption, economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century, and government and business are widely distrusted.”
There is a reckless disregard for the future in the way the economy is run, she argued.
“The top priority must be ensuring that we get a true picture of long-term economic prospects, with the development of official statistics on national wealth in its broadest sense, including natural and human resources,” Coyle said.
“Saving and investment will need to be encouraged over current consumption," she said.
"Above all, governments will need to engage citizens in a process of debate about the difficult choices that lie ahead and rebuild a shared commitment to the future of our societies.”