Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meditations on Capitalism

This whole financial crisis has got me thinking. Capitalism is very dependent on consumerism. When the Chinese box making industry hits hard times when we stop buying enough HDTVs I have to ask myself where this global society is going. Say what you will about globalization. If those box making jobs were in America, then the American box making industry would be suffering. The point is the economy runs on us buying lots of stuff. When people stop buying things, our economy collapses.

This troubles me. I don't like materialism. I'm no Buddhist but that religion teaches us that we should not seek out shallow happiness in material possessions. What if America were a Buddhist nation? Would we have a president that told us to shop more as a response to 9/11?

"It is not correct to say that each society gets the men it deserves. Rather, each society produces the men it needs." - Peter Berger, Invitation to Sociology

The men capitalism needs to survive and flourish are rabid consumerists. All their possessions are disposable and replaceable. What's your first inclination when something breaks? Buy a new one. It's more profitable for companies to sell you a new product than repair your old one. Think about this the next time you use a disposable utensil at a restaurant. Its better for our economy if that restaurant pays a plastic utensil company to manufacture new sporks and straws on a regular basis. Yeah, it creates more jobs and pumps money into the economy but it really offends my pretentious environmentalist side. Think about the resources and chemicals it takes to create the plastics for those sporks. Then imagine the diesel it takes to ship those sporks across america to the restaurant chains. Now look at yourself, using the spork once, then throwing it out.

I'm not sure if capitalism deserves anything, but certainly the American society could do with more responsible citizens. If we are all content with more modest living perhaps we can weather this recession a bit easier. But that's just me. What do you think?

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