What Late Stage Capitalism Can’t Sell You

I’ve heard the argument that free trade via a money supply allows the market to quickly signal through price of products what goods and services are needed. And this is true to an extent— for goods and services that are saleable and *can* be priced.

But this leaves out a vast portion of our lives which cannot so easily have bar code price stickers affixed or encased in hard clear plastic— friendship, love, civic duty, honesty, community spirit, genuine dialog and so much more.

Individuals offer those things freely to the society because people intuitively understand that they’ll receive likewise in return from their trusted friends and family. However, such an economy of these necessities in life is like a black market that is entirely outside of the “normal” economy. People who have found “their people”, whomever those people might be, are saved from the emptiness that is the life promised to them in “The American Dream”— which is an entirely materialistic one.

But in a society that values only those services and products which can command a price tag and a profit by producing a surplus, these other essential holistic elements for a satisfying human life are conspicuously absent from the marketplace, with only cheap substitutes sold in their stead.

And so, the symptoms that we see are casualties of despair due to the failure of capitalism to provide the most basic nutrients to sustain a healthy and happy human life. It is implicit in this “free market utopia” that each individual seek and satisfy the remainder of their human non-material needs through their own means. That is part of the contract of a “free society”. But people don’t always realize that and also don’t always know where to fulfill the remainder of their needs.

The problem is that the society that uses the free market as the foundation of its entire construct provides no guidance as to how and what further is necessary to obtain for a satisfying life. The recommendations that ARE given are intended for the producers to extract a profit from the people seeking something more in life. That is the nature of the foundation of this market-centric society.

In the absence of this guidance of what more to seek out in life, people have sought more meaning in their lives through the products and services that have been advertised to them. It is unsurprising that such products and services that don’t fill the holes in their souls. And when those things sold as promises fall short, people turn to other false promises from a variety of other charlatans in religion, politics, or other temporary snake-oil salves.

There is no doubt in my mind that all that is happening is a crisis of late-stage capitalism. The flaw isn’t that capitalism is terrible. It has served its part quite well— to relieve society of scarcity of material goods and services. However, it has not and cannot relieve society of the scarcity of immaterial things such as love, friendship, civic duty, respect, honesty, and so many other things that we inherently value as a social species.

We must find those things ourselves. But it’s difficult for people who are accustomed to using money to find solutions to all of their problems. When that currency is not accepted by the providers of these other immaterial needs, the people who are accustomed to being “valued customers” grow angry that their money is no good here.

That disconnect is what I see most often between people who have bought into the “material goods” worldview and the “immaterial goods” worldview. The two economies use different currencies, and there is rightfully a rejection of money being used to buy goods and services from the “immaterial goods” economy. When someone with money tries to buy from the “immaterial goods economy” without earning the currency first, there is indignation and offense, and often times rejection of their attempted purchase. And there is indignation and offense in return that their money, that they’ve worked hard for, has no value in this economy that is foreign to them.

You have to find your people, whomever they may be. That’s the missing ingredient. And for each person, that ingredient is different. So, it’s hard for capitalism to produce a surplus to satisfy this particular demand, though they certainly have no qualms about trying and profiting from it anyway.

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