Thursday, July 23, 2009

On the Death of Capitalism

It's OK; your money's still good here. Just take a minute to think of some of the other things you could be doing with it.

A simplistic view of the idea of capitalism is that money gravitates to those who produce the best products. An educated consumer class drives the quality spiral ever upwards and those who produce the best reap the rewards. Now that idea creates dependencies. It puts forward the proposition that the buyer will establish which products are the best and support them. That the consumer will continue to support the efforts of inventive and creative entrepreneurs who anticipate and fill the consumers needs.

So what's wrong with this picture? How does the public become acquainted with the new, the inventive and the excellent? Look at most, if not all advertisements in newspapers and other circulations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What do they tell you? Do they describe their goods in earnest, sober tones, with testimonials from decent citizens and the like? Certainly many do. Others are written like mini polemics but at least retain a shred of dignity.

Contrast that with today’s advertising methods. The old expression about “the sizzle, not the steak” palls when compared with the reality of advertising that goes out of its way to avoid mentioning anything about the qualities of the goods they are promoting. Let’s promote a lifestyle, a style, a bastardised ideal. Anything rather then talk about the crazy notion that whatever is being sold might be of any real use to anyone or have any intrinsic quality beyond its invented social status.

The second idea was the educated consumer, ever looking for the best things his or her money can buy and equipped with the sensibility to identify it and the desire to promote it to others. I guess that phenomenon disappeared with most other ideas about an ever improving standard of education being the right of the people.

“The public gets what the public wants but I don’t get what this society wants” to quote a songwriter from the 80’s. We have not so much created a monster as by our inaction allowed a monster to come into existence. Maybe it’s too late to change this but, for the sake of my children’s children, I hope not.

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