[Please note: some of the video clips linked in this article contain profanity.]
The stock market continues to fluctuate wildly on Wall Street. “Occupy” protests continue even in the face of increasingly stronger official resistance and a continued lack of any actual direction for the movement as a whole. The unemployment rate continues to be dismally high. We have spent the better part of nearly three years looking for some sign of hope through all of this, and then came yet another “Black Friday.”
While the name originated from the fact that this annual sale marks the point at which many merchants’ financial situations returned to profit, recent years has given rise to a much more ominous meaning. The continuing outbreaks of violence and complete disregard for humanity in pursuit of the “best deals of the year” seem to reveal more about what we have become as a society than we want to admit. Even the claim that 2011 was not as bad as the previous three years doesn’t count for much when you see what is being regarded as an “improvement.” Clearly, the average U.S. citizen doesn’t view himself as part of “that crowd.” Indeed, he would argue that those people don’t really represent the “average American.” Does that argument really hold up? Now, I’m not pining for “the good old days.” I know that there have been problems in every period of history, but can we really claim to be no worse?
Certainly, one cannot put all of the blame on the businesses. After all, it is true that these consumers are acting on their own. Then again, the businesses are not completely blameless either. They know the results of these events, and they do everything they can to get the most customers to their stores instead of their competitors’. They appear to be fine with the massive crowds that will push their way into the store even before the gates have completely opened. They use disposable displays because the know the mobs will tear them apart while fighting and crushing each other to try and get at the sale items. They bring in extra staff and security because they know that some of the mobs will turn violent. This last video clip is very revealing because it first laments the actions of the mobs, and then turns around to say that the absence of mobs elsewhere is a bad economic sign. See, we NEED to be part of that crushing mob in order to help the economy!
What can we say about our society and its economy when average citizens will so easily become part of such a mob, and when their failure to do so is reported to be a bad sign? Consider that most cities are no longer supported by either their own production or a surrounding rural area that supplies their agricultural needs. Gone are the days of the local self-sufficient economic community, where neighboring cities and rural communities provided for each others basic needs. Why is it that our society and its economy have brought people to the point where, despite our economic standing, they will literally rampage at the prospect of a discount? What would these people be like if there were a real crisis like a food or water shortage?
Changing the answer to that question involves more than merely changing the economic model. While not rejecting the idea of profit or good prices as a whole, we need to put them in their proper place. We need to turn against condemn greed, both that of the producer and that of the consumer. While the news shows bring out people to explain this away as some psychological problem, the truth is that it is a philosophical and moral problem. The missing element is the philosophical and moral foundation that society needs overall, including in its economy. A foundation that reminds us that neither making the greatest profit, nor getting the best deal, is the most important thing. Until we realize and accept that all actions tend toward an end, and until we put our ultimate end as the primary factor in all of our actions our society will continue to decline no matter how prosperous it may become. Unfortunately, the prevailing economic model separates morality from economics, and the most well known alternative seeks to correct the injustices and problems inherent in the former with even greater injustices.
This is why I am a Distributist.