“Whoever dies with the most toys wins”“Greed is Good. Greed works. Greed capturesthe essence of the evolutionary spirit.”
Signs of “More” in Our Culture “Get the MOST for the LEAST” “Something for nothing” “Supersize your meal” “The Big Gulp” Movie Popcorn: from bags to tubs Big Box retailers – Costco/Price Club/Sam’s Average house size doubled since 1970
How (according to Shames) does the frontier function as a symbol of American consciousness?
Speculators…Shames argues that the key to understanding thenational character is found in the economichistory of the old West.Speculators built up towns in the hopes that therailroad would come and they would strike itrich.
Speculators…Why did they keep “bucking the odds”?1. The long shot was worth the risk. (the real estate boom paid out big)2. A presumption that American would continue to thrive. The “habit of more” = truth for the economically ambitious: No such thing as losing – there was always a second chance in a land of growth and destiny (this idea instilled long before the yuppie)
FRONTIERThe frontier was key to theidea of moreAmerica was seen as a land ofopportunity = vacant spacewas linked to economicprosperityVast open space allowed forupward mobility – it signifiedambition and progressFree land created American John Gast, Americandemocracy (F. J. Turner) Progress
What connections does Shames make between America’s frontier history and consumer behavior? (pg. 58)
FRONTIEROPPORTUNITYMORE: American TrinityFrontier gave the belief/raw materialsresponsible for streak of economic boomsBooms became the justification for gamblesand American optimismOptimism shaped schemes and visionsFrontier shaped American way of doingthings and a sense of what’s worth doing CONSUMERISM
FRONTIER; OPPORTUNITY; MORE: American TrinityFrontier + Booms = Optimism & AmericanismConsequences: (Shames 58)• Because of this goal of “more”, Americans have NOT adopted other values, hopes, ambitions• “The ethic of decency has been upstaged by the ethic of success”• No ideal of contentment; instead, “restless striving”• Value system based on bulk not nuance
“In America, a sense of quality has lagged farbehind a sense of scale” (Shames 58)
Today’s Problem: Less of MoreProductivity growth had declinedExpectations have not• The baby boomer generations definition of success began forming at an early age. As children they watched their parents work hard to achieve success through home ownership, a good paying job and the obtainment of material possessions. Some moved to bigger houses and their parents purchased more expensive cars as spendable income increased.
Why does Shames term the 1980s “an era of nostalgia”?
The Myth of Endless AbundanceWe keep the frontier mythology going eventhough the idea no longer exists.• New ideas are termed a frontier – space, technology, fashion trends, the suburbs etc.Economic growth became the newfrontier
“…what made all these usages [of “frontier”]plausible was their being linked to the imageof the American economy as an endlesslyfertile continent whose boundaries neverneed be reached, a domain that couldexpand in perpetuity, a gigantic playing fieldthat would never run out of room and onwhich the game would get forever biggerand more filled with action.” -- L. Shames
The YuppieThe 1980s were a quest for thelost frontierDisappointment of thatnostalgia resulted in greed andnarrowness = Y.U.P.P.I.E.• Young Urban Professional especially when regarded as materialistic• Coined in 1982 on the model of hippie and yippie.
Wall Street – The epitome of More“It was ironic that yuppies came tobe so reviled for their vauntingambition and outsized expectations,as if they invented the habit ofmore, when in fact theyd onlyinherited it the way a fetus picks upan addiction in the womb” (Shames62)
Wall Street – The epitome of MoreBud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a Wall Street stockbrokerwith a strong desire to get to the top. Working for his firmduring the day, he spends his spare time working on anangle with which to approach the high-powered,extremely successful –but ruthless– broker Gordon Gekko(Michael Douglas). He finally meets with Gekko, whoexplains to him his philosophy that "Greed is Good".Taking this advice and working closely with Gekko, Foxsoon finds himself swept into a world of "yuppies", shadybusiness deals, the "good life", fast money, and fastwomen; something which is at odds with his family andthe way he was brought up.
Wall Street – The epitome of MoreGordon Gekko: “The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms - greed for life, for money, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed - you mark my words - will not only save [this company] but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you” “If you need a friend, get a dog” Ironically…
It’s released just after October 19, 1987On Black Monday -- October 19, 1987 -- onetrillion dollars invested in the stock marketevaporated as the Dow Jones plunged 508points, or almost 22.6 percent of its total value.It marked the single largest drop in the historyof the market.• Source: Online Newshour – www.pbs.org