I'm looking for a story I read in the late 1960s or early 70s about a future in which so much stuff is produced (by machines?) that people are obligated to work very hard to wear it all out.

The main character attends a group therapy session which consists of half a dozen analysts and himself. I think he eventually figures out that he can get robots to do his job of using up stuff.

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    I have that in an anthology somewhere. Fred Pohl, maybe. There is at least one more story set in the same universe, though I not sure I have that one. I'll get back to you if I find it. Nov 4, 2011 at 0:59
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    Another hint...the main character's father-in-law is so incredibly successful that he is allowed to have a job, and this is a point of some tension with the protagonist. Grocery shopping was conducted in drive-through stores Nov 4, 2011 at 2:28
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    somewhat similar might be THX1138, where consumption is seen as a prime duty of all citizens (as slogans shouted at the crowds through PA systems state)
    – jwenting
    Nov 4, 2011 at 7:03

2 Answers 2


I knew I had read this story before, and after poking through Asimov's stories (the plot point in the end is that household robots are used to meet the required consumption levels), it turns out dmckee was right about the story being by Frederik Pohl. It's titled "The Midas Plague", and is included in the Midas World anthology, as well as being adapted into an episode of "Out of the Unknown"

In a world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. The lower-class "poor" must spend their lives in frantic consumption, trying to keep up with the robots' extravagant production, while the upper-class "rich" can live lives of simplicity. Property crime is nonexistent, and the government Ration Board enforces the use of ration stamps to ensure that everyone consumes their quotas. The story deals with Morey Fry, who marries a woman from a higher-class family. Raised in a home with only five rooms she is unused to a life of forced consumption in their mansion of 26 rooms, nine automobiles, and five robots, causing arguments. Trained as an engineer, Morey modifies his robots to enjoy helping to consume his family's quota. He fears punishment when his idea is discovered, but the Ration Board—which has been looking for a way to abolish itself—quickly implements Morey's idea across the world.

You can read the full story online here


There is also "The Wizards Of Pung's Corners" by Pohl, which considers adding in the effects of novelty, advertising, recycling and automated factories into this same situation. After a small-scale nuclear exchange, the automated bomb-proof factories of both the USSR and America produce goods non-stop as they can no longer be accessed; selling consumer goods becomes such an important part of the economy to prevent stockpiling, advertising companies become a wing of the US government and are housed in the Pentagon. The story focuses on a small town, Pung's Corners, and the attempts by the government to drag them into the never ending cycle of consumption and recycling of goods. It also satirizes over-support of field troops, and advertising in general.

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