The limits of freedom — the dangers of crossing them

This image symbolises a central issue for the affluent and rising to affluence world. The paragraph below hits on the head why. It is written by the brilliant Avner Offer and is the concluding chapter from his book ‘The Challenge of affluence’:

‘Market competition promotes myopic bias. It promotes hedonism over other forms of satisfaction, since hedonic reward is easier to identify, package, and sell. It promotes individualism, since that reduces the costly and time-consuming need to negotiate and compromise with others, and to contract with the future. Individualism and hedonism combined give rise to narcissism, an obsessive interest in the self. And hedonistic, individualistic and jaded consumers will, in their turn, make more eager consumers for the next twist in immediate gratification. The compelling products of innovation raise the psychic cost of investing in long term rewards. Innovation also creates an ambience in which the uncertainty and instability of tastes makes it more difficult to invest in consumption and pacing skills that might only deliver in the longer run. Popular culture is not bad: nor is high culture necessarily better. But the proliferation of cheap rewards makes those rewards that need an investment of patience and time that much more difficult and expensive to achieve.’

The author argues that libertarian extremists have got it wrong — we all, high and low, clever and not so clever, need a bit of external restraint if we are to survive as a society.

Mark Rapley,
Co-founder of Blabmate, English teachers directory