Monday, September 22, 2008

Affluenza: Unsatiable Desire for an Abundance of Possessions

Affluenza, according to author of the book, Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic and filmmaker, John De Graaf, is a term describing "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”.

My guess is this insidious disease, "affluenza" began right around the time President Reagan took office in 1980, and Laissez-faire capitalism dominated most of our thinking. By the end of Reagan's two terms, after he had established "nibor dooh" (steal from the poor to give to the rich) economics, that's what I call it anyway, affluenza began to spread faster than sexually transmitted diseases in the porn industry.

Trickle down or "nibor dooh" economics achieved its true goal, evolving the meaning of the word, "affluent" to encompass the ordinary and the "working class" to include the poor, immensely increasing the divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots". The "noble" reason or rationalization is that income disparities and/or inequality vs. economic growth are supposed to encourage those at the lower end of the earning spectrum, and motivate them to catch up, however, they left out the part about the harder the "low earners" try, the further behind they will get creating a class of people Katherine Neuman calls the "Near Poor" in her book, The Missing Class.

In 1979, the top 1% of the US population earned, on average, 33.1 times as much as the lowest 20%. In 2000, the top 1% earned 88.5 times more than the lowest 20%. By now the discrepancy is much greater proving that President Reagan, Alan Greenspan and George W. Bush did nothing more than transpose the Robin Hood story.

Prior to this time, we were slowly emerging from a time when the importance of sacrifice was paramount. Forfeiture of material goods for the sake of something considered to have greater value placed the emphasis on higher ideals such as God, Country, and "humanity" (New Deal). Of course, this era (1930-1945) of sacrifice followed the pain of a market meltdown - the stock market crash of 1929, prior to which times were much like today.

Man is designed to satisfy his needs and desires with the least possible effort. In addition, the more he owns the more he wants. Lawmakers, who have not transcended their greedy natures, are normally the first in line when society prospers, and will try to create law for their own profit at the expense of others...Enron, Bear Stearns, Haliburton, Iraq War, tax cuts for the rich etc.

Bear Stearns is the latest casualty in what appears to be a growing trend of corporate scandals and failures tied to what appears to be poor fiscal management and lack of regulation, but in reality, is a carefully constructed legal system to benefit those at the top . In other words, as Frederic Bastiat says,

"It is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds."
When legislators create laws that contradict morality, society will either try to stop the "lawful" crime or as our society has chosen, choose to share in it, - affluenza, - thus making "lawful" crime universal. The victims of these greedy lawmakers - instead of fighting the unjust legislation or lack thereof - will try to fall in and end up following the "evil-doers," out of ignorance or in hopes of gain, even if it means suffering the consequences.

As terrifying as it seems, a financial melt down may be the only cure for "Affluenza" as it will force us to reduce consumption and waste, give us a chance "dry out", and figure out what's really important to us. Who knows? People might start choosing work that reflects their values, what they're good at doing and what they love to do instead of going for the job that can fill up their 28,000 square foot mansion with junk, closets the size of bedrooms to store the junk, hummers and garages large enough to store the hummers, entertainment centers that put movie theaters to shame and so on...

Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, usually requires some sort of comeuppance before true justice has a chance.

1 comments:

Anonymous,  16:41  

From reading some of your posts on your blog it seems you are not happy with America. Nothing is keeping you here. Why don't you find some place better instead?

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