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This article can be found in Issue 5 of Vhcle Magazine.
2011: The VAT & Sales Tax Debacle...
 design fashion film music art photography global notes life
The concept of ‘I am’ adding value is a nice concept to get around simply paying for the Sales Tax rises. So rather than entering the shop and thinking, “I’m gonna pick up that DVD or cheaper electrical good”, an alternative exists. Research the film and explore competing digital narratives. The free media offerings available via Apple TV and Google TV channels compel us to explore alternative programs and ensure we skill set ourselves to deftly navigate a world where more content ensures we are open to ‘new’ experiences. The solution becomes one where we live to ‘set ourselves free’ and explore the world instead of living from one purchase to next with the sting of added sales taxes making us that little bit poorer. If we adapt faster than the rises on Sales Taxes, then we break free from our compunctious relationship with the cheap DVDs, electricals and reduced technical goods of this world.
The above method avoids the madness of continually paying more for the same goods. And to further embrace austerity, to further re-author our lives, we can make decisions that ensure we deliver more assertive approaches to every day living. We should look to Diogenes Laertius and his understanding of Epicurus, and we should be internalising into our methods of shopping an assertive way of living/thinking. So embrace your creative inklings. Crucially, don’t presume that this is a mere coping strategy whilst you wait for the good times to come back. If you do, you’ll revert to type and start paying those Sales Taxes more frequently.  
Whilst VAT doesn’t apply to foods, the same line of thinking does. Take bread as an example. Slice the bread at alternative angles and add value to the meal by mixing olive oil, mustard and white wine vinegar as an improvement to the bread. The mundane becomes the artisanal. This is nothing new. Indeed, this is a time tested strategy. Look to Florence, Italy in the 1600s for inspiration – to embrace austerity with gusto and a sense that my actions are improving even the most humble plate of bread and oil. Simple actions like this embody a change of culture and a time-honored response to changes by the State. These reactions by our ancestors also pay credence to the idea that we, of ourselves, can add value to the way we live.
Buy the rice and add value to it – sprinkle sesame seeds; add in a cinnamon stick. Short term (i.e. immediately the price at purchase) is higher; longer term (over 2-3 weeks) you yourself are adding value to the food you consume. You are in effect acting as the author of the goods you consume and are creating the aesthetic, health, well-being and knowledge deployment strategies needed for a modern globalised world. Of course, you could alternatively jump back on the escalator of conventional consumption and keep paying that additional cost for your ‘staple’ goods. But do you really want to revert to type? The type we have already seen to be, I dunno, so 2006. The coming technologies of online, integrated TV ensure that informed, self choosing choice is more possible and, for the modern society, a preference to just acting in a recurring modernist world. As the possibility of a more joined-up and interconnected world emerges, we should be among the first adapters. From my own experience, Chinese based Taobao, a more collaborative and dynamic version of eBay, helps facilitate my own movement towards informed and nudged thinking.
To embrace the ‘I am’ adding value concept, look at any shop and substitute the adjectives they use to market and differentiate their product and in the place of these adjectives put your mind to work and ‘add-verbalise’ the way you shop. Make your own sauces; marinade over night; improve the basic foodstuffs you consume by simply applying the techniques you were previously buying as pre-made and highly priced goods. You are then authoring your consumption and adding the value instead of relying upon either the market mechanism or indeed State legislation.
This approach to the valued added discussion allows you to float and drift around the punitive impact of rising Sales Tax increases whilst ensuring you are equipped to refine the foods you eat, irrespective of income or, more crucially, surroundings/geography. ‘Nudged thinking’ requires a strong sense of imagination which can easily be stoked by all manner of Google TV channels and quick ideas taken from Posterous, Mashable and even lighthearted offerings like
Think less of the Sales Tax as a punishment for consuming staple goods and more as a nudge towards adapting your habits. But do it now before everyone else gets ahead of you on the austerity as cool curve!
David lives in central London. He enjoys cycling to work. As an ardent foodie, he likes eating something once in a restaurant/deli and then reimagining and preparing the dish at home. Sometimes this works, sometimes... well the neighborhood pets eat well. He enjoys ‘tiki taka’ & ‘up and at ‘em’ approaches to soccer, curating an ever-growing urban garden, and trying to continually use Mandarin Chinese at work. David works for a leading conference provider across the UK, USA and China.
A Creative Reapproach & Espousal of ‘Nudged Thinking’
The VAT & Sales Tax Debacle: A Creative Reapproach & Espousal of ‘Nudged Thinking’,
March 2011 Vhcle Magazine Issue 5, Life
January 4th 2011 signalled a shift in the sand and a defining moment for the UK Government.
Sales Tax, what we here in the UK term Value Added Tax, rose on most goods from 17.5% to 20%. This tax is held up as the central policy instrument underpinning the UK government’s drive to deliver a smaller State and, forgive the play on words, a state of austerity. Mainstream media is markedly on the side of doomsday scenarios and a depiction of consumers as worried, unimaginative masses. Yet we are individuals and we can respond. And we can respond by being creatively austere. Can austerity be cool? Here’s how.
To fully understand the impact of this rise, we need to think with recent history in mind and think of creative strategies to respond and reshape the way we shop. If we don’t, the pain of an extra charge on what we buy is more keenly felt because we are not offering an alternative and are simply accepting our fate.
Sales Tax was lowered to 15% in the UK from December 1 2008 to December 31 2009 as an immediate response to the financial crisis back in 2008. To the unassuming eye, this makes perfect economic sense – stimulate demand within the economy and encourage people to keep the faith at a time of economic volatility.
The alternatives? With Sales Tax discussions, conventional economists fret over stimulating consumption within the economy; yet to cut rates or raise taxes will have a whole host of implications that oftentimes aren’t fully filtered through the economy until 18 months time.
The problem with keeping Sales Tax at a low rate comes by raising expectations that prices should remain consistently low. In the longer term this creates a culture of consumers that hoard/are expectant of low cost goods and buy out of a sense of functional purpose (i.e. I buy digital/technical goods at low cost and therefore regularly buy new headphones or phones irrespective of other factors). Think a scene out of Roman times a la Spartacus: Gods of the Arena over on the Starz network (which if you haven’t yet seen it, is pure saccharine coated gonzo fun and an excellent TV show!).
Incidentally, many of the goods we consume/define as staple digital and technical goods – LCD TVs, new cars, etc. – are becoming increasingly attractive to consumers across urbanised China and India. The process of hoarding is great in pure short-termist economic terms of shifting units and maintaining business lines, but it does very little for consumers. If anything, consumers are left behaving as they have done. Inertia creeps. And it creeps forward at a much slower pace than is desirable because as we keep buying the same things without adjusting our patterns of consumption, ‘staple’ goods become more expensive.
We need to see and think of modern ‘staple’ goods as inherently personal and opt-in goods rather than the items and goods we find in our immediate geography. We can dislocate ourselves from our built environment and the items bought by those we live around. Instead of hoarding, we can buy virally where possible and sidestep the need to own physical goods where digital alternatives are available. The flows of globalisation allow us to irrigate this fertile line of thinking in our own image. What we see in the reflection is made more sustainable when we are able to act with a degree of rationalised decision making rather than passive acceptance of the circumstances we happen to find ourselves in.
What I want to suggest is that, in the end, it is better to be actively thinking less in terms of the price at purchase of a good and more in terms of the thought process encapsulated by the idea ‘I am’ adding value to this good. So rather than collecting and amassing tangible possessions, we put our minds to work and purchase content and goods that adds value to our lives both by skill-setting us and by opening our lives to new possibilities. To be more than an idea, this needs sketching out.
Such a mindset takes time to develop, but is a sure-fire method of creatively sidestepping the problem of rising Sales Taxes because we derive longer-term enjoyment from fewer, more enriching things that we are actively choosing. Here’s how to take those first furtive steps.
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