To point just one flaw out: part of the argument is that the modern culture is designed by marketers to keep you unhealthy and consuming.
That's confusing, yet again, correlation with causation. It's just as likely that modern marketers are just doing what people want. That the current system of distraction, consumption, and unhealthiness is evolutionary and not some master plan of a cadre of evil overlords. Sure, it makes for a better straw man to bounce your essay off of, but it's flawed. If nothing else, it assumes a personality for a thing that quite obviously involves tens of thousands of people acting independently. Usually (almost always, really) such systems are emergent in nature.
I understand all the emotional buttons that are being pushed with this, and by all means enjoy your time reading it. I enjoy a good rant and pipe dream about "rational social planning" as much as the next guy. All I ask is to take a little time and ask "Am I being manipulated by people I should hate? Or am I being told a story and a narrative about people to hate so that I can be manipulated?"
EDIT: Of course the truth is somewhere in-between, and I didn't mean to make a false dichotomy. Most times these types of reasoning errors are simply artifacts of the way people solve problems. So, for instance, if you feel that systems are controlled from the top-down, you are more likely to see a dysfunctional system and assume that it was made that way from the top-down. Those of us who have studied dysfunctional systems can only wish that things were that simple. They aren't.
I continue to be amazed at how many different places you can start at and end up with existentialism.
The first step in working the system is knowing that it's a system that can be worked.
Knowing that advertising, consumerism, competitiveness, worries about job security, etc. can be safely ignored is a good start. It then follows that you can wiggle yourself some extra disposable income and a healthy disinterest in your "career". From there, you quickly get to a state of perceived freedom. Keep going and maybe you'll figure out how to be happy. (hint: it doesn't require the addition of any new "stuff" to what you already have.)
Welcome to the field of Applied Psychology and Cognitive Science. Once you have reverse engineered the mind, the only practical application is manipulating it.
>just as likely that modern marketers are just doing what people want
For a TRILLION dollars we are not talking about "marketers" in the Mad Men, I-made-a-website-and-wrote-a-book, or "social media expert" sense. We are at minimum talking about behavioral psychologist PhDs and global corporate parasites like Coca Cola, Philip Moris Tobacco, etc.
In reality, those are still on the billion dollar level and not on the top of the food chain. The only trillion dollar companies I'm aware of though are financial institutions, so that would be my criticism of the article. If you really want to make a trillion dollars, you'll need to be much closer to the monetary spigot. In other words, a bank.
The products have always sold themselves, if anything it's the marketers and behavioral psychologists that are the parasites (on the commodity-selling industries).
Or improve it?
So it's not really a question of one or the other. Having manipulation will, long term, lead to corresponding vaccination.
We live in a time where the individual has more freedom to do what he wants with his life than ever before. When people live longer, survive perviously unsurvivable diseases, and can get by with the least work. When the glorious knowledge produced by human advancement is the most open and attainable it has ever been. When world illiteracy, infant mortality, and malnutrition are at their lowest point. When the most people ever get a college degree and work in fields that challenge their minds.
This really depresses some people for some reason. Can't figure out why. Mostly they just seem to get a kick out of criticizing how other people have chosen to live their lives. I guess it makes them feel better about themselves to imagine the great majority of the population are rubes and they are some wise sage.
On the contrary, I identify with the article because I know how stupid I am.
I know how manipulatable I am. I know how easy it is to hijack by overclocked-monkey-brain instincts. I know how subject I am to addictive behavior. I know how far I am from my ideal self. I know how much vigilance it takes to get closer to that ideal self.
I know that I am barely conscious for most of my life. The decisions I make throughout the day are mostly automatic, governed by forces trained on habit rather than intention. To live deliberately is a nearly impossible struggle with the meager tools at our disposal, and I'd be the last person to fault anyone for not doing it, or even for not desiring to.
It is not contradictory to believe that capitalism is the most effective engine for driving human ambition towards useful goals, and at the same time, decry the perverse incentives it creates to manipulate people against their interests and to destroy the environment.
I believe that capitalism is the best way to optimize a civilization towards an objective function. I don't believe that that objective function is correct, particularly when the the people optimizing for it have the ability to change it (through brand advertising, government influence, etc.) We ignore the tragedy of the commons at our peril.
In addition, a person freely making a bad decision of their own volition is not moral insulation for offering them that bad decision in the first place.
Extremely well put.
What system doesn't do this? If it's not a corporation manipulating people against their interests, it's the government.
"a person freely making a bad decision of their own volition is not moral insulation for offering them that bad decision in the first place."
If a person can't freely make a bad decision, it means they have less freedom. It's also interesting, because many "bad decisions" are subjective. Would you consider allowing a woman to have an abortion a bad decision? How about drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or eating fatty foods?
All of these in one way or another are bad decisions, but I wouldn't want to be prevented from making them.
The problem is that the oil, plastic, space for garbage, fertilizer for food, etc - the resources that our "amazing world" depends on - may not be unlimited. The depression sets in when you realize that with adequate foresight we could have enough amazing to get the benefits but without running our society into the ground; if only people had such foresight.
For most of the "conspiracy-nut losers" I think that your conjecture about the rubes and the sages makes sense. But for the thoughtful minority who believe in technology and consumption but also fear the excess of greedy monopolists, there is a real pearl of concern, it seems.
I'm not sure about that. Sure, we have infinitely more ways to work and play today, but freedom? I imagine that a US citizen from 200 years ago may be in awe of our advances in technology and medicine, but they'd likely be aghast by the erosion of our personal freedoms.
I wish I knew the source of the original shtick (it sounds like Paul Harvey), the one that goes something like this: Today's free man rises from bed, turns on his UL-approved lights, eats his USDA-stamped eggs and bacon for breakfast while watching his FCC-blessed TV, brushes his teeth with FDA-approved toothpaste, climbs into federal-safety-approved car with state-mandated insurance, to work at his OSHA-approved workplace, to get his state-taxed paycheck....
The original is so much more eloquent, but it certainly makes a farce out of the concept that any of us are truly free any more. Every facet of our daily lives is controlled by layers of regulation.
Furthermore, if you don't want to take advantage of regulations and consumer protections, you're more than welcome to raise your own damn pigs and build your own lamps in your home workshop.
Industry isn't the only thing that's more and more regulated anymore.
Doesn't it make you sad that a huge number of people are unhealthy, unhappy, die prematurely from perfectly preventable reasons or just plainly do not have any slightest idea about what to do with their lives?
That's especially sad because it happens at the times when there are the most possible opportunities available to almost anyone.
Of course, I understand the common response - "but shouldn't they just live the lives they choose and who are you to tell them what to do with their lives".
This is reasonable and true, but I'm still sad for some reason.
Living in Silicon Valley while growing up in the South East, being an Atheist and coming from a religious family, being a programmer and rubbing shoulders with MMA fighters and fans, and associating with Indians, Chinese, Europeans, Israelis, South Americans, and Africans in school has reduced my instinct to judge people who live according to systems of values different from mine. I guess I am broken in that way.
On a conscious level I know that I should respect their choices, on a subconscious it just still doesn't make sense to me.
I wonder what evolutionary psychology has to say about this phenomenon. Why is luxury so goddamn depressing?
Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can.
At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves.
But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must -- namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena.
The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.
~Noam Chomsky, from "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media" 1992
Bullshit. A society based on the principles of the free market will create unprecedented human health and prosperity.
Anti-capitalists are anti-human. I wonder if the billion or so people that climbed out of poverty over the last decade thanks to global capitalism would change Chomsky's mind at all. But I doubt it, considering how invested the man is in being a spokesman for a flawed worldview. It seems to me that anti-capitalism is a symptom of simple ignorance of basic facts about world economic development.
> Bullshit. A society based on the principles of the free market will create unprecedented human health and prosperity.
Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Free market? Sure, it's a great idea, but minimum wage laws, workplace safety, pollution control and so forth have all done just as much for our health and prosperity.
It's also impossible to say whether the prosperity was due to the free market and lack of regulations, the industrial revolution and development of steam power or the rise of the middle class and their increased free time/income.
I suspect that mostly it was technology, similar to what's happening in developing nations right now, rather than any free markets.
Do you have any support for that assertion? The poor themselves decided en masse to move from village to city at the time, which seems to indicate the contrary. Yes, in the city they were also much more visible to literate observers who would write about their misery, but who knows what those same observers might have exposed if they had lived in a village instead. The people who knew both sides of the situation, certainly seemed to vote with their feet for the industrialized cities. We see the same phenomenon at work in China nowadays.
In many cases they hardly "decided"; they were en masse kicked off the land, so had no real choice. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclosure_Acts
Mostly I don't think it's at all clear that "being poor in the city working in a factory" would actually be preferred over "being a peasant farmer" given conditions of the time, if it were truly a free choice. In the United States at around the same time, you find many people choosing to leave cities to become subsistence farmers on the frontiers, because the Homestead Acts made it a viable option. If the UK had taken the enclosed land and distributed it via a Homestead-Act style process, would British peasants have chosen that option?
This being said, I think we agree on two points: the Enclosure Acts increased the pace of urbanization (but I believe it was by providing cheap food, not forced relocation), and they also increased the prosperity of society in aggregate. On my side, I argue that this prosperity registered a net gain for both landowners and the poor classes.
And people in the east end of London were most certainly not well fed:
Please try not to be so knee-jerk dismissive of everything that doesn't fit into your free market viewpoint.
> The Enclosure Acts "kicked" very few people off the land ... previously starving peasants moved into the cities to become well-fed
Your description makes it sound like some peaceful transition, followed by massive prosperity, everyone happy and singing, but the reality is pretty far from that.
You have the same mechanism at work today, in slums in India, South America and so on. The draw is the possibility of being better off and having more opportunity than you would in a rural area, but it doesn't always end up that way.
But we're getting off the point, which is that a free market doesn't give you "unprecedented human health and prosperity" - the best that you can argue is that it's one of the preconditions (but not the only one).
How about an eyewitness account, from 1902:
All a minimum wage law does is allow a society to shift its chosen point on an unemployment/wage tradeoff curve. However, increases in labor productivity shift that curve outward (this is usually because of technological progress and capital investment). It is because capitalism has shifted the curve outwards over time that we are so much more wealthy, not because minimum wage laws have slightly shifted our position along the curve.
If labor productivity weren't near as high as it is, then you could pass all the laws and regulations in the world and it wouldn't make us as rich as we are now. Anti-capitalists fundamentally misunderstand the process of wealth creation.
I suggest you also look up my comments on the ill-argued anti-libertarian "Victorian England" blogpost that I am assuming you are referencing from when it was submitted here.
And never mind a minimum wage law - Victorian England would've been a much more pleasant place with some sort of health and safety law, restrictions on child labour or a functioning welfare system other than slave labour in the poor house. Did you read the People of the Abyss link that I posted earlier? There's some scary stuff in there:
I worked at Sullivan's place in Widnes, better known as the British Alkali Chemical Works. I was working in a shed, and I had to cross the yard. It was ten o'clock at night, and there was no light about. While crossing the yard I felt something take hold of my leg and screw it off. I became unconscious; I didn't know what became of me for a day or two. On the following Sunday night I came to my senses, and found myself in the hospital. I asked the nurse what was to do with my legs, and she told me both legs were off.
There was a stationary crank in the yard, let into the ground; the hole was 18 inches long, 15 inches deep, and 15 inches wide. The crank revolved in the hole three revolutions a minute. There was no fence or covering over the hole. Since my accident they have stopped it altogether, and have covered the hole up with a piece of sheet iron . . . . They gave me £25. They didn't reckon that as compensation; they said it was only for charity's sake. Out of that I paid £9 for a machine by which to wheel myself about.
25 pounds is about 6 months wages for the loss of both legs, and he has to buy his own wheelchair! How much productivity was lost to society because that factory and others like it didn't take enough care of its workforce? And yet you and the rest of the HN libertarian echo chamber are trying to convince us that the only thing necessary for happiness is a free market?
Give me a break.
That's not the only thing it does, depending on the elasticity of various prices and wages. Another thing it does in some situations is increase the total share of money going to laborers while decreasing profit margins of their employers. This may or may not lead to the employer laying them off, depending on what the profit margins were to begin with; if they were very high, such that the post-increase margins are still nice (just not as nice), it's still rational to continue to employ the newly more expensive labor.
Consensus among economists these days on minimum wages is a lot more nuanced than it might've been 50 years ago, anyway. A majority of economists still think that they're on the whole a bad idea, but most would want to know what kind of economy you're talking about before giving specific predictions about their effects. The fundamental shift driving the "well, generally X, but it depends" view is a realization that economies can be quite far from classical equilibria, for quite long periods of time, in which case policies don't necessarily have the effects classical economics would predict.
The living standards of black slaves in the Americas increased over time as well.
I wonder if the millions whose standard of living increased under slavery would change your mind that slavery is bad? It seems to me that anti-slavery is a symptom of simple ignorance of basic facts about world economic development.
So, he understood this very well? I must conclude so since he didn't avoid it. So he could tell me with precision when a "general population" has taken control of "its own destiny"? Whether "it" has "concern[ed] itself with community interests"? Generally, you can provide some measure with which I can find out if Chomsky is right or wrong in these statements?
I think not. Chomsky "carefully avoids" nothing; he treads heavily, makes a lot of noise, and kicks up a dusty fog.
Only for a limited time as the natural resources are also limited. We don't have another Earth. The total standard of living existing now for humanity is not sustainable.
Concisely sums up everything good about free-market capitalism.
His views are obviously nuanced, but he's most often described as an anarcho-syndiclist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho_syndicalism
The main problem with your interpretation is not that the group is better than the individual, but that then the group _imposes_ that view upon the individual. There's a big difference between cooperative decision making and a dictatorship by an 'enlightened few.'
See?! Now they've convinced you that to be fulfilled you have to read Chomsky!
However, in this case, what I meant was, "I really should read more Chomsky before attempting to claim that I am fully and accurately representing his viewpoint in an argument."
Now that is depressing.
Surely there must be a way out. If there is one thing that I've noticed as a pattern over the years then it is that mankind will only get off their collective asses when it is proverbially speaking 1 minute to twelve (or even 1 past).
That gives me some hope that our considerable intelligence will be brought to bear in time of need and that we will actually deal with these problems, but first we need to be forcibly kicked out of our comfort zone.
Historically the house going down was the prelude to building a bigger and better house. The problem is that it sometimes took as much as several centuries to recover from the house going down.
This is why they initially wanted health care debates behind closed doors - the lobbyists can make much more use of transparency than the uninterested voter can. Fareed Zakaria wrote a lot about this in The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad.
[A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin]
"Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours and every one of them is a succession of incidents, events, occurrences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet at this moment, here we face a critical branch point in history, what we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants, it is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilisation and the Italian Renaissance. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet."
so intelligent, inspirational and full of hope, but listening to it 30 years later I can't help feeling bummed out, as it seems as though our civilization has chosen its path.
If you are motivated by addressing humanity's long-term challenges, please do not attempt to bludgeon others into being more thoughtful or compassionate. Instead, learn first how human society works. Learn how to motivate social change in the least destructive way (all change is costly to someone). Learn why people oppose you, and what their interests are, and try to come to a common ground. Don't go off half-cocked. Learn subtlety.
Nobody talks about subtlety. It is an under-appreciated virtue, and one of the most important.
Also, don't be disheartened by the continual persistence of stupidity and triviality. There are amazing things happening all around us, never forget that. For two generations human civilization has had the unprecedented capability to cause the near extinction of mankind, and yet that hasn't occurred. Measure that in the context of history, it's fairly remarkable. Meanwhile, war is becoming less common (honestly, check the data), more and more people are getting lifted out of poverty every day, amazing innovations are occurring continually, and we continue to reach for the stars. There will always be setbacks from time to time, but you shouldn't let that dishearten you.
Within the next 30 years there is every reason to believe that there will be more developed nations, fewer people in abject poverty, yet more communication between peoples around the world, and perhaps even hundreds of people living and working in orbit and off-Earth.
The outcome is the anti of the "typical person" inventory on that page. I feel healthier, more motivated, my work life balance has shifted, I'm socializing more and getting involved in more community / business opportunities. The sudden understanding that I don't need technology, media or a mountain of knowledge / reference to succeed at my goals is completely liberating, and I feel much less resistant to change.
The additional time, clarity of thought and free cash is quite mind blowing, it's basically re-oriented my life completely. No magic bullet, but it feels like a step in the right direction.
The book/movie takes anti-consumerism to a grand finish, but I think there is a definitely a continuum and that most people are too far towards the consumerism side. The real problem is that people equate having stuff with happiness. My issue is I look at people who have a lot of stuff and they seem to spend all their time and money on maintaining said stuff. Owning a boat is probably the prototypical example.
Years ago I owned nearly nothing. My apartment living room consisted of a couple of deck chairs and a small TV. My bedroom had a bed and the office had a small desk with my computer on it. There is great freedom in knowing that I could leave and the only thing I would need to grab would have been my computer. My life hasn't changed very much today, except I would add my camera to the list of things I would also grab.
Another thing to note is that it's not just owning things, but also the attitude you take towards what you own. Owning some nice things is fine, but you can't let them control your life. You have to remember that they are just things.
Your last point is interesting - one of the guys that used to mentor me in meditation often said that the attachment to not having things is just as painful as the attachment to having things. It's a true point.
I was thinking more along the lines of how people act differently with stuff. A personal example would be my dslr camera. I purposely bought the least expensive that I could get away with, but still have the basic features I wanted (used nikon d60 if you're curious). I take it everywhere and use it all the time because I don't worry about it getting broken or banged up. Obviously I'm not going to toss my camera out the window, but I'm also not going to go nuts if bangs on a rock while I'm hiking. Things are just things.
Contrast this with a friend of mine who bought a d3 (~$10k!) and a bunch of lenses that go for over $2k. He rarely ever uses the camera. It's like he's afraid to mess it up. In my mind his camera is owning him rather than him owning a camera.
The professional photographers I know or even the guys who just sell pictures on the side use relatively inexpensive equipment compared to what is available for sale.
And since you're posting here it seems at least one computer, unless you're writing this in an internet cafe of course.
Emigrations are a good way to realize what you can do without.
And then a few years later you look around and wonder how it happened again.
I was pretty stuck anyhow (progress wise), so if it takes a couple of years to gain new momentum, I feel it's time well spent.
A few people asked if I was heading overseas, the more people that do, the better an idea it sounds like.
Reminds me of the Vampire Weekend song Kids Don't Stand a Chance. Particularly the verse:
I didn't like the business
But that was at first glance
Your pillow feels so soft now
But still you must advance
Not much to be gained from blame or envy. Just try to set a good example. It might help, over time.
I also decided to save and not consume much. Therefore, I resort to making homemade sandwiches and finding water bottle.
A few days ago, I made a pencil holder out of a discarded soda can. Why the hell not?
There are cool things that I want to buy. But, they're mostly for making cooler projects.
I am a prosumer. I find it fun to make stuff and sell stuff just so I can make much more interesting stuff to sell.
The Man's strategy? Did he even really exists? What's there to blame and be envious?
The intellectual life is worth more than the cars, the fancy houses, and 2 1/2 kids. Things are in itself an interesting intellectual exercise. Selling them is merely a way to keep points about which is the most interesting things to the most people.
He investigates these sorts of things, talking about how it is now impossible to be separate from civilization (even the Amish are dependent upon civilization at large to support their lifestyle). And he starts to talk about how we can cope with that, and engage with it on our own terms, in a constructive manner.
Let's say that "lifelong customer" spans 47 years (aged 18-65). In order for him to spend seven figures s/he would have to spend $1750/month. And, depending on what they're paying for, a lot of that won't be profit...
So not sure why it's worded as if everyone should realise that a single life-long customer is worth a huge amount, chances are, for most companies/people, they won't be.
A single customer, spending $500/year on whatever it is you do, wherein you make 5% compounding profit off of their $500/year, nets $100,000 in 45 years. I feel that's a bit more realistic of an approach.
5% profit of $500/year is $25/year. I'm too lazy to work out compound interest over 45 years considering that a new $25 is being added each year, however:
45 * $25 = $1125
If you invested $1125 for 45 years at an interest rate of 4%, you'd end up with $6571. (And investing $1125 over 45 years gets you more back than only adding $25 a year to the investment.)
Obviously it's possible to do better than 4%, but I would suggest that, then, however you are investing the money is "how you are making money", not "having a lifelong customer".
So, have I completely misunderstood your example, or was your maths way way off?
When he said 5% profit he meant 5% interest.
Result depends on the figures you put in, but if you can get people to spend hundreds of dollars on your business every year of their life, you are probably in possession of a mechanism providing interest well over 12% or 15% annually. Which makes the value per customer much higher.
IKEA is one of the companies that successfully transformed the culture of one or several nations to their own benefit and routinely creates lifetime customers from infant to the grave.
But $500 profit a year from a single customer is way above the average for the majority of businesses.
Still, there are several businesses that are making on average over $100-500/year profits on me. More or less my bank, car maker, gas station, energy company, furniture store, favorite soda brand, supermarket, fast food chain... what else? Scary thought.
The habits of a single life-long customer divorced from everyone else whose spending is absorbed by a single player might not be worth a million - EDIT: maybe 50k with interest (being very generous).
BUT if a small player has "in hand" said habits, they could be worth much more sold to the larger players. The larger players can direct the consumption of this consumer to convincing counterfeit items (margarine instead of butter, Budweiser instead of a decent beer, etc). This gives them much higher profit margin. These larger players can also us the single consumer's habits as a model for ten other people's habits.
And naturally it feels nasty discussing things this way...
So I think the "amortized" control of single consumer's habits might conceivably be worth about a million.
First you bought butter whose "realness" and "wholeness" wasn't in question and didn't cost extra. Then you bought margarine that "better" and cheaper. Only then you realize that you were being sold a unhealthy (trans-fat-filled) fake. So you people went and bought yet another product, "whole", "real" butter!
As far as margins go, they're being chased down by competition, which exactly there always needs to be new products, as above.
This implies that there are usually competitors willing to accept a lower margin for a largely similar product; in food, I'd compare Trader Joe's to Whole Foods in this role.
Really, this (producing a largely similar product at lower margin and lower price) is the tactic I'm attempting to use, as well. The margins most large companies have, once you account for their economies of scale advantages, must be staggering, (that, or the inefficiencies inherent to being a large company where the people who make the decisions have no contact with the people who own the company are staggering.) which means there's plenty of room for the generics to have a go at bringing prices down.
about a future in which bioengineering allows individuals to become self sufficient (adding photosynthesis to their genome, for example). this causes the economy to collapse as many consumers no longer depend on society.
The only problem with the scenario is if/when wars between the self-sufficient farms erupt.
Heidegger has a fascinating analysis of this phenomena, which he calls "Das Man" or "The They". Most of the time, all of us are "the they" instead of being authentically ourselves.
Note: if you decide to read Heidegger, it may take as much time as a television habit.
I agree with you in general, but I think this is one of the "glib" cases in the original post. Buying into "vs. the Man" is, ironically, one of the Man's main tools in the contemporary US; there are entire ethnic cultures in the US being held back in no small part by the belief they are being held back by the Man, which in turn requires them to be externally rescued by the don't-look-too-closely-just-believe-we're-not-the-Man-Man.
There's truth in the "Man" analysis, but the escape is to transcend the narrative, not engage with it. (The synthesis of the man/vs. the man thesis and antithesis, I suppose.) Which I doubt you disagree with, I'm just being explicit.
EDIT: Why? Because I've never thought about it from that point of view before. It doesn't necessarily make his point true, but it's interesting nevertheless.
From what I've seen, higher earning potential doesn't correlate well with happiness.
I mean, sure, I can't accept that enormous piles of consumerist junk manufactured every year don't really represent the creation of much value. But that isn't everything, and, I'd argue, it is dwarfed by the enormous amount of valuable materials, goods, and services that are produced.
In order for this kind of invective to carry in weight, one has to implicitly agree with the hidden assumption that the trillions of dollars of goods and services produced every year represent essentially no value to human beings.
And that seems to me to be a pretty ridiculous statement.
It's funny that someone could write that as part of a scathing critique of consumerist culture and yet not see the irony of it.
There are things that are a lot worse than materialistic, shallow, consumerist culture. Specifically a moralistic, prudish, puritanical culture which is at every point so very concerned with what is the best for everyone else. At least consumerist culture is easy enough to escape and ignore.
I just don't kid myself that consuming a poem through oral tradition in a field without electricity would be somehow more noble/satisfactory.