Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Free Market & Family Values

I wonder if those people who loudly embrace both traditional "family values" and free-market capitalism give much thought to how capitalism actually mandates the family structure. For example, it apparently takes two people to work to own one home nowadays or to pay the rent, but companies haven't exactly gone out of their way to help families deal with growing issues like, how to care for your children and hold two full-time jobs down at once. Meanwhile, we work harder, longer hours.

The older I get the more I think blind faith in the tenets and strictures of capitalism impacts our daily lives in myriad debilitating ways. We've a fundamentalist's respect for capitalism in our society, which ignores its affect on family, workplace, politics, religion, and our sense of purpose. And, obviously, our fundamentalist's reverence for capitalism has a tremendous, deleterious affect upon our politics. As we're currently witnessing. We've a political party that would rather see us sail off the edge of a "fiscal cliff" rather than simply raise taxes on those who can most easily afford it. The so-called "job-makers." Those people who'd have no money if they're employees didn't design, develop and distribute their products on their behalf.

We've been brainwashed not to question the authority of the capitalist system. We should work harder, for less money (relatively), even as those in the upper echelons of the agencies, which employ us enjoy historically high incomes. That's not an exaggeration. CEO wages have increased 725%  since 1978. Everyone else's? 5.7%.

Furthermore, computers, email, teleconferencing, and many other digital tools allow us to crank out far more work, to be far more productive in a day than we've ever been able to do in the history of humanity (this sounds grandiose, but it's literally true). Although we supposedly have a 40-hour work week, many of us work far longer, and as salaried employees we get paid for a 40-hour work week but get little, generally nothing for exceeding that 40-hour work week again and again and again. But we seldom complain. We work on.

We apparently do it in the name of pursuing happiness. Yet, as this article points out, happiness actually peaks at a modest income level. “[Governments] that stick to GDP growth as their primary measure of national well-being will be forced to find increasingly inventive ways to explain their failure to very unhappy voters.” Still, we've learned to push and push and push, ever chasing the carrot, seldom remembering it's intentionally being tugged away, every time we're about to close in for the reward.

It's almost as if, to pull a well-worn example from popular culture, which nonetheless rings true, it's almost as if, we're working within The Matrix. A matrix, anyway. One where we've been conditioned to accept a reality that hardly corresponds with the fantasy we're sold by the most dogmatic free market advocates and by the extraordinarily successful and competitive world of commercialized industry. So we work and buy, buy and work. Day in and day out. Day in and day out. Day in and day out.

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