What is the Psychology behind Capitalism?
When we are born we are clearly and appropriately so focused on the “self.” We go through stages where we believe the moon is following us and we believe we are the center of our universe. As we develop and mature we realize this to be false. Practically all psychopathology ie: personality disorders, quirks, oddities are the result of being so focused on the self. Even gross insecurity and dependency needs are a direct result of this preoccupation. Clearly the self absorbed narcissist is, so how does this effect us with a Capitalistic society? Historically the origin of commerce, trade and the creation of the dollar is the best place to begin. The first paper money was created in Massachusetts in 1690 by the colonies. This was well before the creation of the good old United States. The development of paper money began the dissection of the classes. It was the beginning of wealth, poverty and the good old middle class. We now can label based on money and draw perceptions about what is important and what is not, by value. Individuals that do not separate out the difference between want and need, distorted perceptions of what is valuable a million dollars or a sunset became caught with a distortion that directly influences the “self.” We really have not ventured that far from having the more expensive plow for two dollars versus the cheaper one for one dollar and fifty cents. There is innovation, and the importance of toiling the earth easier and more economical versus the want to have what neighbor Smith has because he is either more productive or is perceived to have a higher sense of “wealth.” When one has wealth and uses that to define them as a person we have clear, factual pathology. There is no arguing that point. We clearly can measure, test and plot on a graph, social demographics, importance of friendships, what individuals value, and hence, grossly skewed perceptions of themselves and how they perceive themselves; not just in relation to others, but their place in the world.
Capitalism clearly has it’s negative influence on the human mind, the psyche, and our perceptions of self. What is better? That answer is clearly not answerable as far as commerce. The more important question is, can one find a sense of non-selfish self whether they function in a capitalistic, socialist or marxist society? We will not change or commerce but one can change their perception of self and their goals balancing intelligently the need to survive comfortably versus the tainting of the human mind. Children are the one’s learning from the role models that fall extremely short in understanding the importance of family versus monetary gain. Money does not define someone’s self worth, your sense of self worth in society defines your ability to obtain money. When you are an adult and you still think your shadow as well as the moon is following you it is time to look at others. Yes, other people have shadows also. Capitalism does give every one an equal opportunity, or does it? To want to reach lofty goals of materialistic wealth can have a clear paradoxical backfire effect on our personality. If one does not place priorities of needs versus wants in perspective, if one does not SERIOUSLY introspect and admit their craving to fill up their insecure cup of personality issues, and if one continues to be narrow minded, capitalism will breed intense non-fulfillment. It is an illusion, a David Copperfield event at best to believe a complete sense of self worth is defined by monetary gain. Clearly the two can exist; however a maturity level of one’s purpose must be established before the Rolex is placed on the wrist, and your franchise spreads across the nation as you drive your smart car with a Christian fish magnet on your bumper. The importance of knowing who you are, what is important to you, having a genuine understanding of the poverty stricken, and what percentage you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good must be established if you are to find a semblance of happiness that co-insides with capitalism.
What are the dangers of Capitalism?
In reality the consistent complaint is the riff between the wealthy and the poor. As that gap widens and the lower class suffer we see clear increases in crime, unequal health care, mental illness, (depression, suicide rate, addiction) and a shorter life expectancy. This is not new and the data is out there. In the United States this gap is growing larger and larger. Even if Obama wants to tax those who gross over 200,00o. a year, will it really slow down this riff in classes? No ! We should all be aware of the “trickle down theory.” It is believed the skilled excel and the lower non-skilled benefit. Ala the late, J.K. Galbraith’s explanation of it. “We are the sparrows who feed on the oats in horse dung. The horses (the rich) get good oats, the people get scraps.” Do we really get the scraps, and is this a benefit?
When a baseball player makes sixteen million a year and wants more as the line-employee makes eleven an hour while listening to the pitch being thrown to the batter on their twenty minute lunch break, one wonders what crumbs are left in the horse stable. Winston Churchill in 1906 stated eloquently, ” The liberal party is the cause of the left out million.” Yes, we all have the opportunity, so “they” say. Psychological studies have long proven that the good looking, the generational well-to-do have the increased percentage of the better paying job and the easier ability to climb the ladder. When phone interviews were conducted by African-Americans, women, and Hispanics versus Caucasian males and then presented in person the Caucasian male had the higher frequency of obtaining the job (EVEN WHEN THE OTHER PARTICIPANTS WHERE BETTER QUALIFIED.) The “downward drift” scenario with a tablespoon of stereotypes and racism.
As per Neville Bennett a lecturer at The University of Canterbury where he has taught economic history; “The world’s wealthy, often called High Net Worth’s (HNW), grew by 17% last year and their combined personal wealth grew by 18.9% to US$29 trillion.” The gap continues to grow and if that is the case we as clinicians wonder why mental illness has tripled over the last fifteen years. Yes, there is population growth; however we must underscore the importance of the social-economic gap in the “classes.”
The long and short of this human debacle is that nothing is going to get dramatically better in the short term. Each one of us MUST look at needs versus wants, and put each one of our lives in perspective. Recognition of what the capitalistic society has given us and realize we can make a difference in our life and more importantly in the lives of others. It IS possible, but first there has to be change of self, a move towards intense self-actualization. The want, desire and recognition that all of us have a shadow. Just because one has a history of loving their shadow, becoming grossly self absorbed, and may have had good fortune,or even worked harder does not entitle that individual to step on a sparrow looking for crumbs.