Thanks to @saverqueen (blog) for inspiring this discussion.Recently, I bought some used video games. I love buying used, as it saves me money and keeps perfectly fine games out of landfills, not to mention preventing more from having to be printed in the first place. These days, at least half of the video games I buy are used. Similar goes for me and movies.
With this particular purchase, however, some mixed feelings were brought forth. You see, these games were purchased as a gift. It seems almost instinctual that one doesn't give used games, movies, books, etc. as gifts. To do so is almost as bad a sin as playing with a toy before gifting it, or wearing clothes intended for someone else. At least, that's what the societal norm seems to be. Love is buying new things, goes the chorus.
I think we must, however, take a step back and ask if that is really the kind of ethical norm that we wish to adopt as our own. Why should our love for one another be expressed by continuing a destructive consumeristic cycle, where newness is its own reward? It is not even consumerism itself that I find so objectionable as the pointlessness of making consumerism the goal rather than the means. The philosophy of buying new for its own sake seems dangerously close to the vapid philosophy once espoused by a classmate of mine: "the meaning of life is to have kids!"
This is why my family has made a decision: used gifts are just fine with us! That decision affords me new opportunities to find unexpected gifts, such as classic video games for my brother that he wouldn't have found on his own, or out-of-print novels for my parents. Occasionally, yes, I do buy new things as gifts, even within the family, but when I do, I'd like to think it's because it's my decision to and not because I have let my sense of ethics become poisoned by the obsession with a growth-based economy. I give gifts to loved ones to bring them happiness; isn't that enough?