We have just completed a national election in which the main mantra was “jobs, jobs, jobs” and the main focus was the economy. This despite strong attempts to make it about “Choice,” “Immigration” and "Gay Marriage." In China a similar process is underway, more secretive but still with the focus on the economy and how to keep it growing and how to grow the number of people in the “middle class.”
In fact, wherever one looks on the globe, including those countries where religious fanatics have taken up arms to install their version of religious law, the main focus is on the economy. The economy in all cases is the consumer economy. It is consumerism that is the de facto global culture and right now there are no other contenders for the title. And this is a good thing.
In practical terms the entire human species has declared its principles: first a job or other way to earn money, second a home however modest with a car out front and a TV in every important room and of course, plenty of food, good health care and a secure retirement fund. Any government not actively working for these ends is fated to lose office whether by vote or by gun.
This is a remarkable development in human affairs and bodes well for the future. These goals are only attainable in an economy linked to the global economy and require educated populations to operate. As more consumers come into the market, the market expands and offers more opportunities for more entrepreneurs. People who operate in the marketplace, consumers, retailers, distributors and producers need a secure situation to ply their respective trades. It is no accident that terrorists routinely blow themselves up in busy marketplaces.
The reason I say this bodes well for our species is the core principle of consumerism: The Customer Is Always Right! (I know that cable companies don’t understand this yet, but they eventually will.) Competition forces this core principle onto the marketplace. The retailer or producer who disregards this tenet is soon replaced by those who get it.
Development around the world is spotty but it is all aimed at the same goal and the closer we get the more peaceful the world becomes since no one can afford war on their own lands. We can still blithely blow things up in Afghanistan since it is so little developed but the developed nations are very leery about inviting violence home.
Science and technology are the cultural stand-ins for our evolution and the more complex the systems they deploy the less violence they’ll brook. We will someday learn to extract power without heating the globe, we’ll learn to farm without poisoning the air, the land and the water, and we’ll learn how to extract food and minerals from the oceans without killing all the creatures and fouling all the waters. We’ll learn all this because the dominant voice on the planet will demand it; the voice of the consumer.