Today’s political race highlights intense psychological conflicts within our society. Is Romney a model for “success” you would want your child to become? Is he realistic, e.g., “there are winners and losers”, or is he cold—advocating that Detroit should have been allowed to go into bankruptcy. The advanced and powerful capitalism leads some to immense financial success but it seems to come with a decline for those in the middle.
The issue is not one of eliminating capitalism or going towards socialism. Look at the markets—stocks, mutual funds, options, hedge funds, commodities—do you see any evidence of Socialism? The core issue is that money and wealth have completely taken over as the primary driving force to the definition of “success”. The sophisticated advertising, PR and marketing of capitalism have us brainwashed. We all think we can become a millionaire tomorrow. That has become the American Dream. Yet this new model has in fact damaged what used to be the American dream. I was the youngest of four and my father worked in the steel mill in Gary, Indiana. My mother finally went to work after I entered grade school. We owned a home and I went to a catholic school. Not possible today. We weren’t well off, but I didn’t notice.
I hope the political discussion will be able to address the issue of the definition of success and what type of capitalism is healthy. After all, you can have capitalism without democracy. Just look at China. China decided they needed healthcare for their country so they just did it. No discussion needed. Today’s redefinition of success will need to put democracy ahead of capitalism. I don’t think that can happen. But can we at least discuss it? Isn’t that what the political process is for?
Jay Slosar, author of The Culture of Excess: How America Lost Self-Control and Why We Need to Redefine Success. Visit the author's webpage at www.thecultureofexcess.com.