COMMENTARY: The good in economic materialism

JIM N. TAYLOR, Special to the Star

By JIM N. TAYLOR, Special to the Star

Evidence of an “excessive” desire to acquire and consume material goods as affluence level determines individual social status is definitely at least double what it was when I was in college (over 60 years ago).

Although, it has been demonstrated by many that happiness is not always increased through buying, spending, and accumulating material wealth.

As a personality trait, materialists are frequently described (by liberals) as non-generous (reluctance to share with or aid others), envious (of the wealth or possessions of others), and possessive (fear of loss with desire for greater ownership control).

Of all these traits, I find only envy to be objectionable. All the other qualities are not necessarily related to materialism, but they are part of prudence.

I find it rare that a conservative envies while normally being envied.

Polling of college students over the years reveals a doubling in the number of students since 1970 (from 40% to 80%) who state their primary objective in education is money and fame as opposed to a satisfactory philosophy for living.

Surveys demonstrate the willingness of 1 in 14 to murder for the sum of $ 3 million; and that 65% would spend a year on a deserted island for $ 1 million.

These figures (say liberals) suggest that either a decline in morality is caused by increased materialism, or vice versa.

The opposition to materialism comes from religion, environmentalism, social activism, members who declare that materialism leads to immoral lifestyles without a proper reason for human existence, degrades our environment, destroys nature, causes war, economic inequality, poverty, oppression and genocide; let us observe.

Morality: Science teaches us that correlation is not necessarily related to cause.

The increased willingness to commit immoral acts is being linked to materialism by progressive liberals because of their cognitive biases, not by fact.

The decrease in morality can be demonstrated in most aspects of modern life, including the vulgarity or coarseness of acceptable conversation and visual content of what we accept for our children’s viewing; the increased willingness to lie or cheat; a decrease in the % of the population identifying with religion; increasingly allowing our government to steal from the productive for the benefit of the nonproductive; increased voting for such a government; the increased cheating by students with the knowledge of the teachers; the increase in out-of-wedlock births. None of these are caused by materialism.

We might say that valuing goods for social status is frivolous, shallow, ugly and obvious, but is there factual justification in linking materialism to morality?

The increase in dollarbased immorality has the same cause as any other increase in immorality. The legitimization, normalization, permissivity of deviant behavior always comes from the same cause: progressive liberalism; not from materialism.

Reason for existence: Since it is not known why we exist, it is only speculated that we have a purpose which transcends whatever I might choose as a reason to be; but the religious and/or environmentaland social activists have no right to establish

their own reason for me to exist.

Humans may well be a leftover hybrid between visitors from another planet and our Neanderthal humans who were once crossbred as needed for intelligent labor.

This is as much for me to say as it is for those who anoint themselves as our keepers to say otherwise.

Degrading the environment or nature: Concern for self is the only motivator, as it moves all humanity in the satisfaction of our needs.

A proper appreciation for material goods and wealth need not degrade our environment which is also a material good.

The wealthier the nation, the more it protects its environment. The private accumulation of wealth is the source of all employment in a market economy. It is the noblest endeavor.

War, economic inequality, poverty, oppression and genocide are not positively correlated to the accumulation of private wealth; on the contrary: the less any nation’s citizens accumulate in private wealth the more we see in poverty, oppression, economic inequality, genocide and strife.

Economic inequality is a function of human nature in our unequal abilities to satisfy our needs. We may be born with equal rights, but there can be no guarantee of equal outcome.

We should not assume that increased American materialism is a bad thing; it is much more likely a positive development. The solidity and predictability in realism always wins out over unproductive idealism and progressive liberalism.

Jim N. Taylor is a Harlingen resident who long has been published in the Valley Morning Star.