Americans are obsessed with the mass accumulation of stuff. The bigger the heap of stuff they have, the happier they are. And nothing, not even loved ones, dare get in their way of amassing more stuff. People abandon their families for higher paying jobs and divorce their spouses because of avoidable money issues. Americans have reached a gloomy social frontier as they prioritize over-priced handbags over a genuine relationship. Of course we could point fingers at the advertisers and marketers for mind-fucking the younger generation.
However, a flickering banner ad is not enough to bring a whole country in a delusional mind-set. The real culprit lays in the structure our economy is built on – capitalism. America isn’t completely capitalistic – it does provide some social programs like Medicare and Medicaid, but it mostly relies on private decision-making and economic freedom. The free markets take charge in America and the free markets always know best. The idea that the markets will guide us toward what we collectively desire is not a novel one. This wisdom has been around for centuries, but only recently do we see its negative social repercussions.
The fact is capitalism thrives on dissatisfaction. It’s true that the free market allows individuals to choose their optimum consumption bundles at a fair price, but what else is going on? Let’s scope in on the consumer’s mind-set when going through the decision process in “maximizing their utility.” Imagine a consumer strolling down the labyrinth of aisles at his local Costco. He gazes at an ocean of stuff as he decides what he should buy. He pictures the stuff he already owns as he passes by newer and more expensive substitutes. He would only have incentive to purchase a new substitute if he is dissatisfied with the one he already has.
As he passes by more stuff he may realize he will be dissatisfied if he doesn’t buy that stuff. A potential emotional roller coaster is, fortunately, quelled by his ability to purchase said stuff. Dissatisfaction is the fuel behind consumer spending and consumer spending is the crux behind GDP. And believe me, America cares about GDP growing every year (probably because of their dissatisfaction with the current state of the economy).
A recession is defined as negative economic growth for two or more successive quarters of a year. Just mentioning the word “recession” makes the market sentiment haywire (I apologize). With the government’s and market’s incentive for growing GDP, they make sure Americans spend their achy-breaky hearts out.
Pressured to spend, Americans adapt obediently as dissatisfaction becomes engrained in the culture. American’s discontent now extends beyond their aspiration for consumables. If you are dissatisfied with your family or girlfriend there supposedly exists a ‘free market‘ out there for you to choose a better one. Things aren’t working out between you and your wife? A friend is pissing you off? Don’t worry, just return the current one and get a new one that fits you better! Commoditizing intimate relationships has never been this easy!
Americans have lost the ability to be “happy with what they have” when it comes to consumables and relationships. By chronically being dissatisfied, they lose their happiness in the free market abyss.
Of course, constantly settling for less is just as bad as always being dissatisfied; there needs to be a balance.
After all, capitalism is a neutral force; it is ultimately our irrational impulses that allow capitalism wreck its havoc. The responsibility is on us to figure out when limiting our options benefits rather than hurts us. If enough people take up this responsibility, marketers may stop creating unnecessary demands and, therefore, further stop the spread of dissatisfaction.
LIOR GOTESMAN thinks we should accept and be content with the fact that we can’t fulfill all our desires. Don’t let the marketers make you think otherwise! Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.