Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Consumocracy

A brief recap: the U.S. ceased to be a republic long ago, experts say. We became an empire by pursuing expansionism. Then the U.S. apparently shifted toward a service-economy from an industrial or manufacturing-based economy. This is still a work-in-progress, I gather, but we import many more goods than we export, and more and more jobs seem to be in the service-sector. So the food served, the toy sold, or the car leased may come from outside our borders, but we still need people to bring the food to the table, "ring up" the toy at the cash-register (which doesn't ring anymore), and haul the car from the port to the car-dealership.

Because we're more of an oligarchic empire than a democracy and more of a service-economy than an old-fashioned capitalist, industrial political economy (smoke-stacks a-blazing), then maybe the proper signifier for the U.S. is "consumocracy." Everybody has the right to buy stuff, and we hope everybody does buy stuff, because the economy depends on these retail service-jobs. United we buy. In goods we trust.

Do I have the economic and political analysis all wrong? I sure hope so, and I think the odds are very good that my hope is supported by reason. Actually, I just like the word, "consumocracy," because of the way it sounds and because of the way it describes how I see the U.S. Before I turn this space over to a poem, however, I will recommend a book about American legal history and how the concept of laissez-faire took over. It's called Lawyers and the Constitution, by Benjamin Twiss, who knew what he was talking about (unlike some we could mention), and it was published way back in the early 1940s. Its style is fresh and direct, and the research is terrific. It was reprinted in 1973, so it's probably in lots of libraries.

The Consumocracy

If you don’t have it, you
must need it, and if you need
it, we can feed it to you. You’re
free to buy what you want,
and we’re free to buy ways
to entrance you to want what
we sell. This is not, as is
alleged, democracy mocking
itself. It is the consumocracy,
which the founding dads
intended their investment
to become. For a limited time,
we can offer you books and
digital videos that prove this point.
We’ll think of something
you don’t have and buy a
way to let you have it. We
like to let you have it. This is
how the consumocracy works,
see. See our product, sense
your need, see and want. Buy,
buy, see. See it there, laissez
faire
. Eat the feed, pay
the fee, seed the greed. This
incredible deal won’t last! Call
now and we'll throw in something
else incredible for free. Call
now, or else.


Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

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