Seen through our own paradigm, we are the perfect society, because we use our own gauges in determining exactly what the best society is. Likewise in the Soviet Union the Communist Party saw their society as superior, because they could more or less feed their people and everyone was more or less equal. Our perception of freedom here is the ability to own a Harley Davidson, at least in my neck of the woods. It represents to many the lure of the open road as well as their ability to own something they truly love. But the image is a finely crafted one and the poor saps who own one often work 6-7 days a week at a job they hate in order to have their little chunk of paradise. I think owning stuff is a very good thing, up to a point. But beyond that point it becomes a sort of fetishism, a mass hysteria and a very limited view of what makes life worth living. I see our society as one that is unhealthy and that is hurtling along like a runaway train towards an inevitable crash. We have divorced ourselves from every ethical belief of the past so that now we consider greed to be a good, discipline bad, and caring for others as a weakness. We view age as a sickness rather than a part of the life-cycle, and few of us ever really continue to grow emotionally past the teenage years. Middle-aged men pop Viagra when perhaps they should accept the calming of their urges in order to fulfill the much needed role of guiding figures rather that randy old men. A quarter of our society takes psychotropic drugs in order to cope with their existence rather than take the journey towards making their lives meaningful, Almost everyone is suffering under crippling debt, as is their local, state, and federal government. And if you look at it fairly, you could make a good case that each of these problems has at the root of it our consumer culture to blame.
I don't believe in a perfect system, just a workable one. A consumer society is one that tells us we shouldn't wait to save money for something we should buy it now. It is a society in which we don't actually ask if we need something, but rather base our purchases on an emotional rather than a rational decision making process. I don't blame the consumers so much as those who propagate such a system, who believe that their sole purpose in life is to make a profit and if we all just do our job of selling and consuming we will achieve the best possible of worlds. We are inundated with countless messages from every source of media, all of them trying to sell us something. Even churches have let in televisions, giving to them an elevated place. Count how many times today you are prompted to buy something, be it from Facebook, television, your phone, radio, or billboards. Then think of how often you are prompted to quiet introspection, work in the garden, or visit an aging relative. I don't think any society in the world has ever been asked to view life on a purely economic level as we are, except perhaps the Soviet Union. And the Soviet Union could not dream of the propaganda machine we have created.
I would like to see a workable system that maximizes human happiness. I know happiness is something hard to define, but so is freedom and nobody is afraid to mention that as a necessary goal. I think we can both agree that it is not a fear of starvation that drives a Warren Buffet or a Donald Trump, so why do we think the best way to motivate people is to work or die? Yes, it motivates, but it is the motivation of the stick rather than the carrot. It is the kind of motivation that causes some to become drug dealers or thieves, corporate or otherwise. The market, like fire,is a wonderful invention but we should treat it as a tool to be used rather than a mysterious force too powerful to control. To suggest that the market should be responsible for society is to suggest that we are not active agents in the process, it is a way of surrendering our humanity to outside forces. In primitive cultures, when a man mistreated his worker or his slave he was apt to be kept up all night with the cries of anguish. In other words, employer and employee had a closer association and the actions of either were more closely felt by the other. Nowadays we have distanced owner from employee so that a worker in Thailand can be beaten and worked 12 hours a day without the person who gets the stock dividend even being aware of how they earned their money. We need to maintain our humanity in our business practices rather than seeing humans as merely numbers on a spreadsheet. Man is an inherently tribal and social creature: if we isolate ourselves from one another and from the community we live in, we will become dysfunctional. I'm not saying the solution to our alienation from our own humanness has an easy solution, but if we do not accept the reality of the situation, it will be impossible. We cannot expect what is a simplistic economic theory to solve the complexity that is the human situation. Government is a tool, and in the hands of an educated electorate, a pretty efficient and powerful tool. To simply abandon it would not only mean that we would not benefit from it, it would mean that others would pick it up and use it as they saw fit.