ANDY THOMAS: Obsession With 'More' Is Ruining Us
Whew! Thank goodness it's over!
Are we nuts? Why do we, the taxpayers and voters of our society, allow a political campaign to last over two years at a cost of millions of dollars for redundant and sometimes offensive television ads, speeches and commentary?
We're in the "more" era, where the more there is the more we seem to love it. Marketers push this concept down our throats, aided and abetted by the media. Whether it's food, race cars, entertainment, "breaking news," money or other material goods and services, moderation has long disappeared from our vocabularies and thought processes, and "more" takes over.
Ever go by a huge car dealer's lot and wonder to yourself if ever all those vehicles will sell? Same in stores, with shelves and racks stocked to the gills. How on earth will all this stuff ever be sold? "All-you-can-eat" places, Thickburgers, "buy-one-and-get-one-free" come-ons and such reach out to those of us who strive for "more."
Our affinity for having "more" indicates to the market that we need and want an overabundance of political information. I say this is absolute rubbish, to borrow an English expression. I'll bet the average person already knows who he or she is going to vote for after just a few ads and a debate or two. The endless speeches and advertising develop into personal attacks because of the extraordinarily long campaigning process. Breaks the boredom.
My top three picks for the most negative TV ads are Sen. Joe Biden's rhetoric about how Obama will be challenged by terrorists within six months of taking office; then two from Ms. Dole's battleground, including the one suggesting that opponent Hagen is an agnostic or atheist; and the annoyingly repetitive one of Kay Hagan saying, "When I get up there, I will let you know."
Robert Pittenger's cartoonish lieutenant governor ad of Walter Dalton was humorous and gets an honorable mention. How in the world did Joe Biden think his words about future terrorism could possibly help his partner?
The best statement in the campaign, for me, came from Sarah Palin, with her hockey mom, pit bull and lipstick metaphor. Runner-up was when Sen. John McCain told his opponent that he was not George Bush and that if he wanted to run against Bush, he should have run against him four years ago.
Both presidential candidates promised change in their candidate bag of goodies. But the very first change that should take place is how we run our elections.
Very simply, we need a term-limit policy on the length of political campaigns and the cost of them. The Brits and their Commonwealth have successfully ruled their countries with elections that take only a fraction of the time and money we devote to them. Six months, as I recall, and a new party (or the incumbent one) is established. Bing bang, then back to business.
The huge saving in time, resources and patience, if we were to follow suit, would be dramatic.
But let's discuss further the "more" syndrome -- which our new president, Congress, state and local governments, and we peons need to address in total. The "more" syndrome is the culprit in upsetting our economic peace of mind, because it has slowly and surreptitiously turned to greed, perhaps the gravest of the seven deadly sins.
At what point will "more" be impossible? Will we ever see production and output reach a saturation point? Can we envision, at current population growth rates, a United States of America that has run out of room for cars, cities, houses, infrastructure and people?
Some economists are suggesting that major changes are required to sustain capitalism as we know it.
I listened to an interesting BBC radio discussion recently that focused on the need to change our ideas about capitalism. Peter Morici, economics professor at the University of Maryland, Oliver James, British psychologist, and Caroline Lucas, member of the European Parliament, argued their divergent points.
James is the author of "Affluenza," a book about the obsessive, envious keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality that has resulted in huge increases in depression and anxiety among millions worldwide. He wonders why so many people want what they don't have, despite being richer and freer from traditional restraints than ever before. His premise is that people should change and be happier accepting fewer material objects.
Ms. Lucas thinks we need a steady state economy where the rate of new capital production from invested savings exactly equals the rate of existing capital depreciation. This would require much government intervention and an aversion to growth.
Morici contends that people would have to be persuaded into steady-state behavior in lieu of being dictated to. He believes technology will be the answer to solving our economic woes.
I think we do need a change in behavior from "more" to moderation -- and shorter elections. But how do we get there? Maybe our new president can help.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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