A Nation of Consumers

From global foolishness to microimperialism, the rich own you. And you like it that way

Our conservative friends will tell us that the market will take care of everything, that whatever may run askew from our national and social interests—and I would say that Monsanto owning my gonads qualifies—will naturally fall in line with our values via the ebb and flow of market forces.

I think that's a load of hooey. When most of the country's wealth is concentrated in 1 percent of its population—which owns everything from your genes to your media sources to your congressman—it's no longer a market. It's a slaughterhouse of our natural interests.

But let's ignore that reality to instead ponder things on the purified fluffy cloud where conservative thought dwells because they have a point on which I think we can agree. It is one of their central arguments against government regulation; that it is you who knows what's best for you. Yes, you, the individual, should be the one to decide what you'll allow in your life. It's a tenet Republicans adhere to only selectively—they'll pass laws to protect you from communists and clitorises and things they've deemed you too stupid to sort out for yourself but defend your freedom to stand alone against polluters and monopolies.

Well, as the Bush administration makes clearer by the day, we are alone. And it is time we started acting like it.

Don't like the ever-escalating cost of concert tickets? Blame lax antitrust laws for allowing Clear Channel Entertainment to buy up every concert venue and radio station in sight. But also blame yourselves for buying those inflated tickets. Rather than boycott such greed, consumers instead led the way to it by forking out $300-plus to scalpers long before it occurred to promoters to join the fun. The same applies to gasoline. If lunkheads will pay $1.50 for a 12-ounce bottle of water, can you blame gas companies for trying to get $2 per gallon for their highly refined product?

We've become a nation not of citizens but of consumers, and lame consumers at that. Businesses are there to make money. Some of them try to do that in a just and moral way; others give full value to Thorstein Veblen's observation that capitalism is the predatory phase of our existence. If you don't educate yourself to know which is which, if you don't shop or invest in an informed and moral manner, if you don't actively oppose wrongs, then you deserve the shitty world you get.

Hold on a minute here; the mail just came. Hey, I got a notice from the IRS on my Immediate Tax Relief. Well, shut my mouth—President Bush came through for me! I'm getting $25.30 any day now! I'm gonna buy me an ark!

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