The Gospel of Consumption

Jeffrey Kaplan in an article from 2008 for Orion Magazine called “The Gospel of Consumption” makes the case that our obsession with having The Gospel of Consumptionmore and more can be traced, at least in part, to a deliberate decision by American industrialists in the 1920s.

There was a fear that the American public might stop buying things when they had what they needed.  He writes:

…despite the apparent tidal wave of new consumer goods and what appeared to be a healthy appetite for their consumption among the well-to-do, industrialists were worried. They feared that the frugal habits maintained by most American families would be difficult to break. Perhaps even more threatening was the fact that the industrial capacity for turning out goods seemed to be increasing at a pace greater than people’s sense that they needed them.

It was in response to this fear that Charles Kettering of General Motors Research wrote an article in 1929 called “Keep the Customer Dissatisfied”.  As Kaplan points out, he was not advocating a dissatisfaction due to the quality of the product but a created dissatisfaction.  The American people did not yet know all the things they “needed” but advertisers were about to tell them.   Kaplan describes it this way:

By the late 1920s, America’s business and political elite had found a way to defuse the dual threat of stagnating economic growth and a radicalized working class in what one industrial consultant called “the gospel of consumption”—the notion that people could be convinced that however much they have, it isn’t enough.

Did it work?  Here are a few statistics cited in the article:

  • In 2005 per capita household spending adjusted for inflation was twelve times higher than in 1929.  For larger ticket items like cars and houses it was 32 times higher.
  • Between 1979 and 2000 the average number of hours worked annually by a married couple with children increased by 500 hours.
  • In 2004 and 2005, 40 percent of American families spent more than they took in each year.

Clearly we’re working more than ever before and spending more as well.  The industrialists’ dream of a market where people are never satisfied seems to have come true.

Hundreds of years before the business boom of the 1920’s, however, there was another dissatisfied consumer:

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless. – Ecclesiastes 5:10

While we need to be aware of the impact advertising and culture have on our purchasing decisions, ultimately indulging ourselves with more and more things and never being satisfied is not the fault of Madison Avenue but of our own wicked hearts.  During the time of King Solomon, few men could afford to indulge themselves this way with material goods.  However, thanks to the unprecedented prosperity we’ve enjoyed in this country – not to mention free and easy credit –  it’s now possible for the average person to indulge him or herself in ways only available to royalty in the past.

We must always be on guard against this Gospel of Consumption – the belief that that next thing I aquire will be the answer to the longing of my heart.  Only Christ can fulfill that longing. Only when I realize that He is all I truly need can I stop being a slave to materialism.

That Which Cannot Continue Will Not Continue

House Of Cards
House Of Cards (Photo credit: FurLined)

When I was a kid, I liked to build card structures. It was fun to see how many cards in the deck could be used before the whole thing came crashing down. Two things determined how far you could get, your skill at erecting the cards and the laws of physics. Skill will get you a long way but there is an absolute limit to how many cards can be balanced on one another. At some point, no amount of skill will keep the structure from collapsing.

We live in a culture that is reaching the outer limits it can achieve without collapsing. But, rather than going beyond the laws of physics, it is exceeding the boundaries of basic biology and economics that will lead to the collapse.

A hundred years ago, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was a man and who was a woman – that gender was a fixed absolute like skin color. Now, beyond the looking glass in 2014, thoughts and desires are fixed and the physical characteristics possessed by an individual are merely a serving suggestion.  One’s gender is whatever he or she wants it to be and, oh, by the way, there are now more than two.

This insanity was taken to a new high (or low) recently in California where the legislature decided one could use the restroom or locker room of their chosen gender whether their anatomy matched that choice or not. Now, in California, a man who claims he’s a woman can walk into a women’s restroom with your teenage daughter and if you object, well, you’re just an intolerant bigot.

Up is down, war is peace and men are women.

The economics being practiced today is no less bizarre. Again, a hundred years ago most people understood basic math, that spending more than you made was a recipe for disaster and that you can’t get something for nothing. Yet now, basic mathematics and economics are routinely flouted, not by third graders but by the leaders of the nation – and people believe them.

The recent roll out of the Affordable (sic) Care Act is a prime example. People are shocked that their insurance premiums are increasing by, in some cases a factor of ten. We were told that insurance companies would provide coverage to everyone and that you could not be penalized with higher premiums if you had a pre-existing condition (code for already sick). Of course, such a fiat does not change the cost of care provided to those who are already sick so the only recourse is to spread the cost of their treatment among a lot of well people who were heretofore paying less because of their good health.

Imagine saying to a single person, you now have to pay part of the grocery bill for an overweight family of five. I know you personally don’t eat that much but we don’t want to penalize people who eat a lot or have large families so in the interest of fairness, you’ll have to pay for part of their groceries. But never fear, you can keep your grocery store and your monthly food bill will not increase. Who in their right  mind would believe that? Yet that’s exactly what we’re being told about health care. And one provision of the new act even manages to combine both economic and biological lunacy by requiring single men to pay for maternity coverage, you know, just in case.

Up is down, war is peace and spending is saving.

However, there is good news. As the title of this post suggests, what cannot continue, will not continue. But it won’t be legislation that brings an end to this kookiness. Flouting the laws of nature and economics can only go on for so long before the house of cards comes tumbling down – it’s as certain as gravity’s action on a falling object. The resultant mess will be painful but if those left to clean it up have eyes to see, a culture built on reality can perhaps again rise from the ashes.

Bring Me His Head on A Platter

Beheading of John the Baptist
Beheading of John the Baptist (Photo credit: Walwyn)

When rulers are more worried about saving their reputation than being righteous because they’ve made rash and unwise public promises:

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison,11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. – Matthew 14:1-12


Roundup of Stories on Syria

Roundup of Stories on Syria

The potential US bombardment of the nation of Syria has been front and center in the news in recent days. Here is some of the best of the web on the topic.

Doug Wilson discusses the concept of just war and whether that applies to an attack on Syria:

Syrian Just War, or Just War in Syria?

Rob Slane bemoans the lack of wisdom among our elected officials who see bombing Syria as the solution to the issues there:

Another day, another phoney war.

Pat Buchanan urges the US Congress to stop abdicating their constitutional responsibility:

Congress Should Veto Obama’s War

There have been many shocking videos showcasing the barbarism of the Al Qaeda linked Syrian rebels. Here is one that has not been showcased as much where a group of rebels stops three truck drivers and summarily executes them for being the wrong type of Muslim:

Al Qaeda-Linked Terrorists Stop Truck Drivers on Side of Road then Execute them for not being Sunni Muslims

I pray that cooler heads and the rule of law will prevail in this country before something as serious as attacking another nation takes place. I pray also for Christians in Syria who have been some of the primary victims of this tragedy and who face even more persecution and death should the Syrian rebels prevail, with or without our help.


The Closet Racism of “Diversity”

The Closet Racism of Diversity
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Working in corporate America for the last twenty-odd years, I’ve seen “diversity” from many vantage points. In the heady days of the 1980s, it was a “business imperative.” In the leaner times since then, not so much. Once the bottom line moves from black to red, on site diversity managers and  diversity training and programs shrink or disappear completely.

If such things are “essential” the way, for example good R&D or inventory control are, why, when times get tough, do they go away? Because they were not essential, at least not the way they were being run by politically correct human resources gurus. What was essential was to say they were essential to justify the added expense and headcount as well as to placate the diversity industry that sprang up to meet this “business need.”

So, can diversity be a good thing, even a “business imperative?” Absolutely, if properly pursued. Unfortunately, what diversity means in most organizations is having an acceptable number of people who are not white and male on the payroll. This we’re told is helpful because it exposes decision making to a variety of points of view. However, I suggest this view of diversity is a result of stereotyping and even racism and sexism. Think about it. If you assume having a black person in the office automatically gives you a different point of view than having a white person would, you’re assuming no black person would ever think the same way as a white person. You’re stereotyping him or her based on skin color. You’re assuming there is a “black” point of view which also implies black people are a monolithic group. If I said all black people look alike, I’d (legitimately) be called a racist. Why if I say they all think alike is the same not true?

The problem with most corporate and government diversity programs is that their goal is diversity of appearance, not diversity of opinion. In fact, the thing institutional diversity programs want least, is a real diversity of opinion. If you don’t believe that, just express an opinion outside the politically correct party line (such as that expressed in this post) next time you’re in “diversity training.”

The truth is diversity can be had in a room full of all black people or all white people or all women just as well as it can in a room full of a mixture of all three. The key to truly helpful diversity is to pursue a diversity of opinion or point of view without regard to race, sex or other external factors – you know, those things we’re constantly being told are unimportant. Of course, that’s more difficult to do and not as easy to measure as counting the number of noses of a certain color but if your agenda is to help organizations be truly diverse, that’s the way to do it.

Other voices on this topic:

‘Diversity’: The Magic Word by Thomas Sowell

Diversity, Yes; Force, No by Christopher Westley