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"Get rich or die trying"

Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by daz, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. astralcars

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 2,014

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Capitalism as a system needs nothing but freedom and a system of property. The world around us simply reflects the desire of the average individual for more stuff. If the average person had no preference for anything beyond shelter and food, it would be no less a capitalist society.

    It’s not obvious what measure we’re using to judge whether the majority of people are working ‘too much’, fuelling an insatiable appetite for shopping and thus ignoring other things of value. The stated desire of rappers and celebrities doesn’t seem a great measure of the population’s feeling as a whole. To say that levels of credit card debt and longer working hours mean people no longer value family and friends seems a very strong conclusion. It gives no heed to the quality of time spent on these things or to the genuine benefits families derive from the goods purchased. I don’t see why the modest individual on £25k p.a who spends his free time watching TV with friends is any better than the CEO who has less free time but is able to send kids to the best schools, afford private medical care for her parents, enjoy family holidays to nice locations and donate money to charity.

    In any case, I reckon wanting money + consumerism get a bad rap. There’s much literature to suggest people are very resilient emotionally. Survey responses used to gauge peoples level of life satisfaction show that those who’ve suffered great losses in the past, e.g. though sudden disability, don’t reveal a lower level of happiness with their lives in the long run. Conversely, lottery winners don’t report a higher level of satisfaction over time. The money and possessions you’ve gained or lost in the past will probably have little impact on your life satisfaction over time. Other less tangible values will be given greater weight.

    That view isn’t incompatible with a desire for more money and more stuff. Things can be worth having even if their impact on long run happiness is zero. If I took away the mobile phones of everyone here, there’d be much inconvenience, but surely you wouldn’t be less happy a person. If I downgraded your cars, it’d be annoying, but you wouldn’t sink into depression. Even though these material things don’t impact overall live satisfaction, we’d all agree they are worth having. These material things make every day tasks easier. They being about temporary feelings of happiness in their use which shouldn’t be dismissed given that we only ever live in the present moment. Our ipods, televisions and computers have genuine value and are far from unnecessary.
     
  2. anarchist

    PermaBanned

    Joined: Dec 2, 2004

    Posts: 9,702

    Location: Midlands

    I really meant capitalism in it's current form, i.e. corporations needing to grow to survive, which obviously needs ever increasing consumption on our part.

    I think it's a manufactured desire - hence the massive advertising budgets that companies have. I'm not saying technological advances aren't sometimes useful, they are, and I'm typing on one now :) I'm just saying that the vast majority are created by companies in order for us to part with our cash.

    Time spent at home with the family I would say is an obvious measure, and one which has clearly declined in recent years.

    I'm sure kids would rather have an extra few hours with their parents, than an extra expensive toy at Christmas.

    That is probably true - but it doesn't stop people wanting more money to buy more stuff (or rather being made to want it), and the above family time type issues above that follow from that.

    And the same for your comment about downgrading cars. Yes people could happily manage with a downgraded car, but the point is they don't, they work more to earn more to buy a more expensive car, and I don't think people should be manipulated in that way.

    Of course I'm including myself in all of the above. I have tried to reduce my consumption in recent years but I'm still very much a "victim" (if that's the word) of the system.
     
  3. astralcars

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 2,014

    Location: Wolverhampton

    I agree that advertising can bolster the desire for goods and services but there must be a latent desire for whatever is being promoted. Had the original computer been developed in a lab somewhere and produced for a select group of friends, of what use would it be to you? You’d have no conception of a computer. The thought of a machine that can carry out calculations and print documents would be alien to you. If they then advertised on TV, could I infer from your subsequent purchase that you had been manipulated into buying it? No; you had a need and you were alerted to a new way of fulfilling it.

    Bear in mind that some people look at our computers, what you’re called a useful technological advance, and call them an unnecessary extravagance. Are they correct, or are we right. That question can’t be answered. We must therefore avoid the temptation to call our level of posessions ‘reasonable’ and criticise everyone else for going over the top and wanting more.

    Unless you’re talking about very young children, it’s not optimal to be around them 24-7. Firstly you forgo money that could be spent on them (things more valuable than Christmas presents) and children themselves don’t value every hour spent around you equally. Less time may be spent with kids, but it’s guesswork to say too little time is devoted to them on average, or that kids would rather sacrifice their parents’ additional wealth. I don’t deny there may be a problem, just don’t think it’s obvious.

    Again, there’s no conflict between accepting that life satisfaction can’t be purchased and the desire to have more stuff anyway. Better cars, better phones, a larger house, a faster computer are all nice things to have irrespective of their impact on our base level of happiness. Yes, some people will sacrifice all for the next-best thing, but I doubt this caricature reflects the average UK citizen.
     
  4. Nat

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 1,174

    Location: On holiday in Cambodia

    Ever heard the 'Disease of Conceit' by Bob Dylan? Its worth a listen...

    There seems to be two major transitions that have amplified the problem more than most:

    Firstly, the transition to settled agricultural society prompted the nature of self-interest to change. Monotheistic religion then took hold with the increased need to curb greed and covetousness.

    Secondly, the disappearance of common land exascerbated the above problems. British society has a particularly clear example in the Inclosure Acts...
     
  5. pyro

    Capodecina

    Joined: Nov 23, 2002

    Posts: 16,167

    Well I want to have enough to support my (future) family, I don't care if we have loads, but I do like quite a few costly things and I would like to be able to do them, without thinking about the cost.

    But I agree that it's a pretty bad way of thinking, and in a way MTV does promotoe it. Look at all the cars and houses these guys have from just singing, hell look how much money footballers make just by kicking a ball around or showing their faces on some comercial.

    As long as you have enough to provide your family with a bit more than the nesecarry, then it's all good.

    I don't think so buddy, ever since we lived in a society there where always greedy people who wanted more, it's not a new thing at all, it's just hitting the young population even more now.
     
  6. phykell

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 4,410

    rm
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2007
  7. anarchist

    PermaBanned

    Joined: Dec 2, 2004

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    Location: Midlands

    We can't generalise really. Your computer example is a good example of a product that is very useful and while we can do the tasks on paper, the computer obviously makes the task much easier and so is a "good" invention.

    At the other end of the spectrum are processed food products, bad-science make-up and shampoo products, endless "latest thing" children's toys - most (or all) of which are not needed at all and the desire for those is entirely manufactured. I'm not saying some of those things aren't nice things to have once we have them, but there is no latent desire there I'm sure.

    The other problem with advertising is that it's invariably fake, to a lesser or greater degree. Glossy images and false life-changing promises and the like. If we really had a desire for the product in the first place then a simple fact based advert would do the trick - but that isn't the case.

    I'm not suggesting 24-7, especially for older kids, but I'm thinking specifically of parents (I know examples) who basically never see their kids in the week except for a few minutes in the morning before they go to work, and then again for a short time after they finish work until the kids go to bed.

    If parents are working that hard simply so they can buy products that they are told they need (but really don't) then I think something is wrong. I know it's not as clear-cut as that I hasten to add. I know some parents have to work that much simply to afford house/food etc.

    I would say the rocketing level of consumer credit would indicate otherwise.
     
  8. anarchist

    PermaBanned

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    Location: Midlands

    Well, the co-operation thing is a fact (if you believe evolution of course!) because the same can be seen in chimp and other ape societies.

    Perhaps it's because there was no room for greed in early human society. If there was just enough to go around to feed the tribe, then a greedy person would be seen as damaging the tribe and hence wouldn't last very long. In our current globalised society, people can be greedy without affecting the local tribe. Just guessing.