Harry Geels: ‘It's the Taylor Swift Economy, Stupid’

Harry Geels: ‘It's the Taylor Swift Economy, Stupid’

Harry Geels (foto credits Cor Salverius)

This column was originally written in Dutch. This is an English translation.

By Harry Geels

This year the record for the number of live concerts and festivals will be broken. It illustrates one of the 'inconvenient truths' for the climate transition: in today's experience economy, the climate is of secondary importance.

In March, Taylor Swift started her Eras Tour, which will become the largest concert series ever in terms of ticket and merchandise sales worldwide. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has already described the concert series as one of the most expensive and most technically advanced of the 21st century. It's not just sales for the pop star (more than $ 1 billion!). In every city that Swift visits, the turnover of shops and restaurants is increasing. Reuters spoke of Swiftflation: the contribution to inflation due to the spending spree of many concertgoers.

This year is going to break records in all respects. Most aircraft movements ever in one day, in one summer, in one year. But also the number of (mega) concerts and festivals. For example, Beyoncé is doing her Renaissance World Tour this year – which resulted in her being accused of Beyonce-flation by Reuters. And Coldplay has been on their Music of the Spheres World Tour for a while now. Unlike Swift, Coldplay still tries to be somewhat sustainable by using recycled material and green energy as much as possible and spending part of the ticket revenue on sustainable projects.

But despite all of Coldplay's good intentions, unfortunately, fans from all over the world are flying in. And if you really want to be sustainable, you obviously don't set off fireworks at the end of a concert. It proves how contradictory – let's avoid the term hypocritical – the perceived necessity of the climate transition is. The urge to consume and experience – especially among young people, after being locked up in their room because of COVID-19 for a year and a half – however understandable, clashes with the planetary boundaries.

Consumers, companies, government

Three groups are active in the economy: consumers, companies and government. Consumers buy, companies produce and the government sets the framework. As Frank Kalshoven rightly pointed out in De Volkskrant last Saturday, with regard to environmental problems in today's society, the arrows are too easily aimed at producers. The business community, with Tata Steel and Shell as the most striking examples, is the evil genius. But the consumer who points with one finger is pointing three at himself.

Kalshoven states that the government is the party to shape the climate transition: 'It is first and foremost up to the government to combat those external effects. CO2 levies, CO2 taxes, flight taxes. Possibly: commandments and prohibitions. It is not for nothing that the Corendon CEO says: '...as long as we are allowed to fly, we will go.' Agreed, but that does not absolve the business community and especially the consumers of their own responsibility. After all, 'It's the Taylor Swift Economy, Stupid' also applies.

Also, 'It's the Kardashians Economy, stupid'

Furthermore, one of the greatest aberrations of today's society is the glorification of the Kardashians and other 'beauty influencers' on social media and the propagation of 'improvement' of appearance. Filling up your buttocks and lips and brushing away wrinkles is a life ideal that is at odds with the seriousness of the climate transition. Bizarrely enough, the recent growth in plastic surgery, which consumes money and raw materials, is mainly due to younger generations.

The Kardashians Economy is even worse than the Taylor Swift Economy because the former increases inequality. Those who have the money can make themselves (even) more beautiful. Research shows that prettier people earn more, as this study has shown for bank employees. Perhaps, given all the social problems, we should also learn to moderate ourselves and learn that removing wrinkles not only costs unnecessary money, but also polishes away our soul. Because: 'Wrinkles remind the soul where it has been and where it hasn't yet.'

This article contains a personal opinion of Harry Geels