The Anti-Thesis of today’s America can be found in the 10th commandment “Thou shall not covet”.
Coveting is the cornerstone of modern capitalism. We have entire industries devoted to fueling our covetousness. This same advertizing industry pays for the production of the bulk of the media that we ingest every day.
When you disobey God, there tend to be consequences. Not because he is a big meany in the sky, but because He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He tends to warn us against things that may seem benign to us and our limited perspective, but are actually quite perilous if one where to be able to see the full story.
Kinda like when you 4 year-old asks really nicely if he can use the razor blade to parse his play-doh. Uhm.. “bad idea, no.”
Americans are rich. There may be an exception here or there, but by and large, 90 percent of us are richer than 90 percent of the world. If I compare today to 1985 for example. Even the poorest among us are sporting a pretty wide array of luxury items. We don’t notice this because they aren’t classified as “luxury items” anymore. But the function of a VCR or a cellphone still provides the same luxury it did in 85.
While we are rich, we are also financially stressed. Why? Because by and large our culture pushes us to live beyond our means. “You deserve it” our television tells us. So we buy that car for 350 dollars per month. We continue indulging until we are the limit of our cash flow risk tolerance. When we are at the limit of our tolerances, we are stressed.
Economies surge and wane. This is natural. People have different economic needs and capacities to produce at different ages, so demographics cause fluctuations. Technologies have life-cycles as well — A new invention may be bought at first by just a few, then gradually economies of scale develop and it becomes accessible to the masses, then eventually the market becomes saturated, and demand declines. Investment money also surges and wanes in abundance and risk tolerance at various times depending on the landscape of options available. These are just a couple of examples – there are probably thousands of factors that contribute to economic cycles.
The motivational speakers usually have a message that goes something like this: “If you put your mind to something, you can get it” And they are right.. The part that they leave out is “because you are so focused on your goal that you will fail to care about what you have to sacrifice and who you have to step on in order to achieve it”
America is obsessed with consumption and it elects representatives that reflect the same ethic.
Both political parties worship mammon (economic prosperity) . “It’s the economy, stupid” is the central point of debate on both sides. Every downturn in the economy suddenly requires a massive federal stimulus to fix. Why? Because the constituents have zero contentment. A representative government is going to serve the idol of it’s electorate.
That means sacrificing our grandchildren’s future on the altar of today’s prosperity.
The problem I have with most of my liberal friends is that they don’t believe in the consequences of the consumptive policies that they propose. Government spending is unsustainable.
The problem I have with my conservative friends is that they tend to see the consequences, but they still frame the debate through the lens of the same idol. If you frame the debate around unrealistic expectations of economic prosperity, we ought not be surprised when our elected officials do whatever it takes to maintain at least the illusion of economic prosperity.
Until Americans as a whole repent of their covetousness, and find contentment, they cannot be surprised when their representative government does what it can to appease them. The government will stay corrupt as long as the people stay corrupt.
The well designed system is such that it is self-correcting however. Math does not lie. When the inevitable comes, it will re-arrange our priorities and values of the people. Unsustainable idols can be worshiped for a while, but in the end, they will let us down, and we will cease to sacrifice to them anymore.