Title Page


Capitalism and Its Effects: Home


Capitalism’s effect on economics: Income Disparities


Capitalism’s effect on politics: Corruption


The Future


american flag jail

“My two hands are mine to sell a major machine, and they can stop it, too.”


American Consumers:

Capitalists’ solution to the current economic downturn is to increase the circulation of capital; in other words, increase consumerism, a system of economy driven by consumer spending. However, consumerism leads to materialism, or the mentality for the need for excess.

slaveryPeople in consumerist societies live by the influence of advertisements, and often methodically buy things they do not need, and in most cases, cannot afford. This, in turn, leads to greater economic disparity, and despite having the most or latest products, consumerists have a feeling of unfulfillmentd due to spending a lot of money yet having nothing of personal importance.

live buy consume dieThe phrase “conspicuous consumption” was coined in 1899 by Thorstein Veblen in his criticism of American society, which he believed to value “homo consumens” (consumer humans) over “homo faber” (maker humans). Americans make up only 5% of the world's population, yet accounts for about a third of global consumption. On average, 1 American consumes as much total energy output as 2 Japanese, 6 Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians, or 370 Ethiopians.


The Unrealities of the "American Dream:"

Attaining the so-called “American Dream” is often the measure of “success” in consumerism America. The American Dream is not a measure of the quality of one’s character, but a measure of the value of the material goods they have accumulated. As Jimmy Carter said in his 1979 address, “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.”
Average annual expenditures per consumer unit rose 1.7 percent consumerism adin 2008 following an increase of 2.6 percent in 2007, according to results from the Consumer Expenditure Survey released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. The average expenditure in 2008 was less than that in 2007, but still showed an increase, meaning Americans are continuing to spend more year after year despite the current economic climate.

The American dilemma is the consistent belief that they can live beyond their means. Like most other capitalist forms, consumerism is concerned with short-term profits without consideration for the future effects of wealth distribution due to overspending. If a household’s income is stagnant or decreasing, but its consumption is increasing, that means the people are borrowing: taking out home equity loans, or maxing out credit cards. Statistics show that as median incomes have stagnated since the turn of the century, household debts have exploded (Drum).

graph GDP


Black Friday:

Black Friday is the epitome of capitalist, consumerist America. This outlandish practice has practically attained itself the status of a national holiday. On this day, stores open at 4 a.m. so that rioting shoppers can buy a superfluous number of products at prices that are relatively cheaper than usual. And of course, since something that may cost fifty dollars is now (on this one day from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m.) only thirty-five dollars, they will buy it without further consideration if they actually need it or not. black friAmericans seemingly have a proclivity towards chaotic settings when shopping, and the subsequent satisfaction in getting a “deal.” Gordon Laird of Huffington Post laments that “if we cannot find ways of creating new value, and new stability, then our economy will increasingly resemble just another troubled retail chain in a discount price war, one that desperately devalues itself and eliminates jobs in a last-ditch attempt to survive.” Laird claims that an estimated 68% of all economic output is tied to consumer activity. Roughly one out of every two American citizens - an estimated 172 million people -- went shopping on the day after Thanksgiving in 2008.



"...my hands can stop it too:"

The Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess perfectly explains: “’Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!’” Americans need to stop the devastating effects of their capitalist, consumerist society by refusing to buy needlessly and simplifying their lives. In striving to fulfill the American Dream, many people overspend on luxuries, and then are unable to maintain the things they need, and need to pay for, such as their houses. Failing to pay a mortgage results in eviction, and such speculation and overspending attributed greatly to the stock market crash in 2008. As Korten says in his book When Corporations Rule The World, “In the name of creating new wealth, humanity is impoverishing itself, placing its survival at risk.” Consumerism is concerned with the individual needs, choices, and satisfaction, and in turn promotes overwork, personal stress, skyrocketing debt, the erosion of family and community, and most importantly, an increase economic disparity..

Back to Top