By Brian Ferguson
It is the well-known tendency of Liberal-Progressive thought to consider only its intentions in seeking to change society and never the unintended consequences of its actions. Leftists during the 1960s energetically promoted a culture of personal hedonism that was, by their own intentions, to be applied to all but one specific area of human life. It was not to apply to the abundant ownership of material possessions which was seen as the unique preoccupation of the "exploitative" American capitalist system ("Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can" John Lennon famously sang in the song “Imagine” which hit #3 on the U.S. charts). The folly of this thinking can be found both in the incredibly naive assumption that the desire to enjoy material goods (and even to amass them) is unique to a capitalist system as opposed to being a part of human nature as history itself attests, and second in the belief that you can create a general attitude within a society but safely cordon it off so that it doesn't enter into various other areas of human life.
Nevertheless this way of thinking became the rule of the day, and several decades later what we find is a society whose dealings with material goods has been defined by the hedonistic ideal first introduced during this influential era. Another way to describe the event is as the transition from a culture of ownership to a culture of indulgence. The culture of ownership is embodied in the traditional concept of the American Dream. This concept has to do with the eventual attainment by both individuals and families of a certain high standard of of living, but is distinguished by its focus upon the concept of objective achievement. It is not defined merely as the enjoyment of material goods but just as much by the satisfaction of having earned those things, and of becoming a full owner. In other words, the attainment was just as important as the enjoyment. Thus the concept of the American Dream naturally leads to a society of owners.
The culture of indulgence however is about the immediate gratification of the individual by nothing more than the enjoyment of the material good. Only gratification matters, therefore ownership is of little importance since through credit and debt such things can be enjoyed without ownership. Enormous debt is the mark of a society of indulgence (both personal debt and government debt). It involves more and more people spending beyond their means in order to acquire more and more material things for the purpose of their immediate gratification. The spending of disposable income, and well beyond it, on inessentials has continually been on the rise decade after decade , while the practice of saving has continually fallen. This course ultimately leads to a society of "serfs" rather than owners. And so it has come to pass that the Left, in its attempt to thwart the so called materialism of the American free enterprise system, has itself engineered the most virulent and irresponsible strain of materialism yet seen. .