Remember, Jihad vs. McWorld? That book about how the US version of globalism was shaping how the rest of the world saw us and was creating enemies, back before we all became familiar with the images of Jihad on our own soil? Well, author Benjamin R. Barber is back with a new book, Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. And he has an op-ed published in yesterday's LA Times that lays out his thesis.
Capitalism's success, however, has meant that core wants in the developed world are now mostly met and that too many goods are now chasing too few needs. Yet capitalism requires us to "need" all that it produces in order to survive. So it busies itself manufacturing needs for the wealthy while ignoring the wants of the truly needy. Global inequality means that while the wealthy have too few needs, the needy have too little wealth.
Capitalism is stymied, courting long-term disaster. We still work hard, but only so that we can pay and play.
When we see politics permeate every sector of life, we call it totalitarianism. When religion rules all, we call it theocracy. But when commerce dominates everything, we call it liberty. Can we redirect capitalism to its proper end: the satisfaction of real human needs? Well, why not?
The world teems with elemental wants and is peopled by billions who are needy. They do not need iPods, but they do need potable water, not colas but inexpensive medicines, not MTV but their ABCs. They need mortgages they can afford, not funny-money easy credit.
Public citizens must be restored to their proper place as masters of their private choices. To sustain itself, capitalism will once again have to respond to real needs instead of trying to fabricate synthetic ones — or risk consuming itself.
While a lot of this sounds like an undergrad term paper I once wrote, it should appeal to those of us growing wary of capitalism's end-game.