Archive for January 2011
“Where did all the personality go? The gusto? The glamour?”
In a laissez-faire economy, individuals are left with no other option but to innovate if economic success is their goal. Innovation requires independent and original thoughts and the willingness to take risks with those thoughts. A person must, in a word, be bold if he wishes to succeed. On the other hand, in a mixed economy – an economy composed partially of free elements and partially of government controls – the economy of today’s United States – innovation is not the only means of economic success. Another method is to become politically connected. To be perceived by, and defended as, “economically vital” by those with governmental power.
The reason why the “personality”, the “gusto”, and the “glamour” are gone (or at least disappearing) from American life? There is no economic incentive to develop these personality traits. Those with their antipodes – a love of tradition, of “safety”, or fear-driven mindless conformity to the conventional – are equally as capable of accruing (or retaining) material wealth as anyone is (probably more so).
This commercial may be inspiring to some because it appears to be a rejection of the false-alternative between being original and bold and being economically secure and professionally established – but that is only what it appears to be. What it actually is, however, is a usurpation of the viewing public’s legitimate (although usually subconscious) concern about the results of a mixed economy in order to get them to purchase an automobile.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with an individual wanting the automobile he owns to be a reflection of his philosophical beliefs. If he rejects the notion that life either has to be tradition-bound and wealthy or original and impoverished, to own an automobile that is both luxurious as well as daring in it’s performance or design can be a great way of expressing that (or, at least, reminding him of the propriety of his opposed belief should be find himself doubting it). But is that enough to actually reject the physical manisfestation (the mixed economy) of the view of life he rejects? Certainly not.
That requires an understanding of just what terms like “capitalism”, “socialism”, and “mixed economy” actually mean. If accepted, this commercial’s message, does precisely what needs to be done in order to make the development of such an understanding impossible (it ameliorates the emotion that should be attached to a concept – instead of a car – and thus takes away the incentive to investigate the conceptual root of that emotion) . Could it be that the makers of Cadillacs – General Motors – who also happen to be one of the most politically-connected, “blue-blooded” companies in the entire American economy – approved this commercial’s message not just for the reason already mentioned, but also to satisfy that concern – and thus deflect the public’s (justified) antipathy towards GM itself? In other words: “Let us get away with undermining your government, destroying your economy, and the larger parts of your life – in exchange for a car which makes you feel like that isn’t what’s happening.”
Perverting language, manipulating minds, exploiting pretentions and fears – instead of actually making a superior product (honestly, is a Cadillac really all that much different than a BMW, a Mercedes, a Lexus, a Lincoln)? That’s nothing new. That’s been done, for centuries, by those who would rather lick the boots of tyrants than stand up to them – and in the process sell their less powerful countrymen down the river. Where is the “gusto” in that?
“A mixed economy is a mixture of freedom and controls—with no principles, rules, or theories to define either. Since the introduction of controls necessitates and leads to further controls, it is an unstable, explosive mixture which, ultimately, has to repeal the controls or collapse into dictatorship. A mixed economy has no principles to define its policies, its goals, its laws—no principles to limit the power of its government. The only principle of a mixed economy—which, necessarily, has to remain unnamed and unacknowledged—is that no one’s interests are safe, everyone’s interests are on a public auction block, and anything goes for anyone who can get away with it. Such a system—or, more precisely, anti-system—breaks up a country into an ever-growing number of enemy camps, into economic groups fighting one another for self preservation in an indeterminate mixture of defense and offense, as the nature of such a jungle demands. While, politically, a mixed economy preserves the semblance of an organized society with a semblance of law and order, economically it is the equivalent of the chaos that had ruled China for centuries: a chaos of robber gangs looting—and draining—the productive elements of the country.
A mixed economy is rule by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies, all fighting to seize a momentary control of the legislative machinery, to extort some special privilege at one another’s expense by an act of government—i.e., by force. In the absence of individual rights, in the absence of any moral or legal principles, a mixed economy’s only hope to preserve its precarious semblance of order, to restrain the savage, desperately rapacious groups it itself has created, and to prevent the legalized plunder from running over into plain, unlegalized looting of all by all—is compromise; compromise on everything and in every realm—material, spiritual, intellectual—so that no group would step over the line by demanding too much and topple the whole rotted structure. If the game is to continue, nothing can be permitted to remain firm, solid, absolute, untouchable; everything (and everyone) has to be fluid, flexible, indeterminate, approximate. By what standard are anyone’s actions to be guided? By the expediency of any immediate moment.
The only danger, to a mixed economy, is any not-to-be-compromised value, virtue, or idea. The only threat is any uncompromising person, group, or movement. The only enemy is integrity.” – Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
Art imitates life… and over-the-top humor provides the momentary relief of not having to believe it to be real. It allows the consumer to briefly tell himself “if it were real – if that were really the kind of culture I was living in, then that is what would be happening. But, because that is not happening, I must not be living in that kind of culture.” In this day and age this – this “service” – and not the qualitative superiority of one’s product – is what differentiates one’s brand from the competition on the minds of consumers. It allows the consumer to compromise his reverence for civil behavior – and the innocence of childhood “incivility” – by letting him rationalize that all he has is a healthy sense of humor. These kinds of twisted thoughts – which Infiniti is exploiting and furthering here – are what allows a man to compromise in every other realm of his life, and to live the life of prey one minute and predator the next that a mixed economy demands.