The Real Big Social Bubble

Commerce and consumption and social stress near the limit?

We may be entering times of great social unrest. There are too many corporations, selling too many products, with too many varieties, too aggressively!

We, who are able to, are consuming too much, resulting great waste and pollution.

There has been some talk of a long term commercial bubble that is strained considerably and about to burst. Perhaps like previous occurrences when business, markets and spending were pushed too high by investment, business and consumer recklessness. They then slumped and later returned to a more normal trend line. While we may again repeat that cycle there is also concern circulating about double dipping to yet new lows and perhaps worse.

Much of the populace is in worry mode about finances, family, and the environment and what lies ahead for our lifestyles and the world in general. These are both confusing and stressful times if we consider some of the negative trends in the way commerce, government and people are acting and interacting. The circumstances this time might be quite different than in earlier serious setbacks as there have been so many social changes for so many years, both positive and negative.

In my 77 years I have seen so many great advances made in living standards, for most; yet there has not been accompanying success in attaining greater social happiness, world peace or eliminating poverty. Over the past decades in the developed world, our society has turned into a consumption monster where more is never enough. So many excesses have been pumped into the way we live under the intense pressure applied by corporate marketing. Commercial interests are now always in the forefront 'encouraging' us onward.

Have we come too far down the wrong path for a gentle turnaround?

The ideology of free enterprise is total devotion to maximizing profits in any manner allowed and increasingly without fairness. There is also a lack of effective laws to control unethical business practices, or the will to enforce those that exist. This infected free enterprise system is allowed to grow with little obstruction and in such a way that social abuse for personal or corporate gain becomes more acceptable with each passing year. Competition for consumers' money, to increase shareholder value, is always a priority. This has some very undesirable effects on society as corporate methods intensify and become less ethical.

The overall results are obvious. We are living in an era of ongoing dissatisfaction with what we have, and with what we must have. We have been told over and over that we need more stuff - and we believe it. Most of us. We are going to pay the price for allowing this, in our living standard values, and with world social distress and environmental deterioration.

Democracy's 'free enterprise' has been too free as it has allowed the corporate world to design our social habits and standards to their liking and financial benefits. We have been programmed to always expect more, much of which is non-essential or promotes unhealthy or stressful living and resulting in great amounts of waste being dumped every day.

Too many, too large corporations are producing and marketing too many goods and services that do not make life better or may even be harmful. The costs of material and wages are wasted when the production is unneeded whereas they could be directed to producing more goods and services that have social and family values, such as in education, health, peace, poverty assistance and world friendly projects. Regularly today newer products and services are unimproved, of poor quality, defective or unworkable and simple junk. But too often it can be sold for no good purpose other than for profit, depleting and spoiling our world's natural resources needlessly.

Can pumping money into a faltering enterprise system, to encourage more buying to boost the economy and markets really help society? Perhaps.

But we must consider some of the material things that are now aggressively merchandised that are excessive in quantity, size, style and cost; proud possessions such as cars, homes, clothes, appliances, gadgets and toys. Increasingly these have too many features so they can be proclaimed 'New and Improved'. There are too many varieties of too many products, which might not differ significantly but will waste more retail space and fill our shelves at home, perhaps to be trashed unused.

And while exorbitant riches may come from this and be too easily or unjustly accumulated for some, others in this world live in devastating and cruel poverty.

A more valued, equitably distributed lifestyle lies ahead for the world's citizens, but not with the underlying commercial and political strategies of today.

Perhaps we will continue this trend another decade or more until it no longer holds together. An unfortunate outcome, but at some point in time consumers will have had enough. They will become dissatisfied with democracy's hang-ups and begin to regret life's stresses used in the processes of acquiring those things which do not make for a better life at all. In very recent years there has been a backlash slowly arising. The serious issues of global warming and environmental deterioration have had increased attention that will hopefully expand significantly.

But to fix this once and for all we also need to return to a more rational way of existing that is satisfying and fair to all, and sustainable. We cannot continue with our high flying market-consume way of living if we want a society that we can feel good about. Simpler living is one prescription, from the super rich corporate executives, athletes and entertainers, down to so many middle class citizens we need to downsize our artificial desires. And the lives of the unfortunate lower class must be improved and poverty eliminated.

This will require a new way of thinking about ourselves and our place in the world and it will be necessary for citizens to voice their dissatisfaction with the commercially oriented society. We must insist on strong and innovative systems of government for all that do not favor corporations and the elite.

Consumers will become dissatisfied with democracy's hang-ups and begin to regret life's stresses used in the processes of acquiring those things which do not make for a better life at all. In very recent years there has been a backlash slowly arising. The serious issues of global warming and environmental deterioration have received increased attention in recent years and hopefully will become mainstream in future social planning.

But restoring normalcy to the artificial aspects of our way of living will involve less commercialism and consumption. Outlawing excessive and deceptive or harmful advertising would be a good start towards long term social healing. Imagine the changes if there were strict regulations in place, with goods and services purchased more wisely, not by persuasion but out of necessity or by word-of-mouth recommendation.

Marketing and consumerism are due for severe trimming, in this decade or perhaps much further on. Profits will shrink, businesses will suffer and markets will drop as we begin to return to a more natural existence.

Sooner or later, quickly and harshly, or gently over time, a simpler and happier society lies ahead.

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