Re: MD HELP - Consumerism, homogonisation and the degregation of quality

Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 13:06:45 BST

Hi David, Platt, Rasheed, Joel, Andrea and a half dozen others now.....

Please take this feedback with a grain of salt, your initial post expressed a
lot of sincerity and intelligence. I hope I can add rather than subtract to

If I could be so bold, the problems you observe aren't with americana or
consumerism. They aren't deviously controlled by advertisers or nefarious
"factory managers." The thing you are revolting against is to be subservient
to social values. You see beyond the social values of beauty, wealth,
position, power, fitting-in, being cool and sexy, etc.

In your writing you frequently allude to influential manipulators that
somehow ruined the pure, happy, level-headed pre-industrialists with
capitalist, consumerist values. I suggest you are missing that people really
are that shallow. Oh sure, advertisers, teachers, parents, the media and
politicians play to our weakenesses, but they aren't creating it out of thin
air. The truth is that people do want and need to be
sexy/beautiful/powerful/wealthy/respected. Americana didn't create those
values, it EMPOWERED them. The shallow, social-focused values are a
reflection of what many of the people around us pursue. But not all. Many --
perhaps even most -- of those that pursue social value don't JUST pursue
shallow quality.

By the way, I agree that the free enterprise system is currently ill-equipped
to manage non-repleneshable resources.

Free enterprise does not have to be a zero-sum game. We do not have to (as
Rasheed says) 'step on whoever you need to step on to get there." Granted
some people play it that way, but they miss that the value of free enterprise
is in the synergy. More can be created out of specialization, competition of
ideas, expertise, trade, cooperation etc than is put in. Those that play
capitalism in a harmful way (ie in a strictly win/lose fashion) only detract
from total value. But I repeat, it can be played to mutual benefit, and it
is when it is that the world becomes better.

The reference to Adam Smith's invisible "finger" as the source of our evils
is interesting. On the one hand, you refer to free enterprise as doing
nothing for those engaged in it, but then you blame it for "reducing the
chance of anyone outside that 6% to have any piece of that wealth." I
repeat, wealth is a positive sum process (as are societal and intellectual
values in general). The invisible hand is people voluntarily agreeing to
work with/for/beside each other to accomplish more apart than separately. A
lone individual can pick fruit, a team can catch rabbits, and several
hundred million together can build a 747. Capitalism did not create the
other 94%, it inherited it. And so far, only free enterprise (and the
intellectual values that blossom off this level) has offered any hope.
Please don't blame the medicine for the disease.


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