09
May
08

Why things are screwed and why marketing is dying.

How does wealth happen in a society? Really there are only two types of real wealth… raw materials and manufactured goods. Any other types of wealth are illusions. This is at the root of the current problems in the United States, they stopped having either one.

Basically it worked like this: a long time ago the United States was the new world, and was very rich in natural resources. A great deal of wealth was created because of this, and at the time natural resources were the only way to get wealth. After a bit (a paltry few hundred years) Henry Ford came up with a new way to handle manufacturing. All of a sudden manufacturing could scale. For quite a while that was working for the US. In fact, it worked so well that the US started importing most of the raw materials it uses. Production was scaled back, mining towns became ghost towns, and in the third world people got paid an incredibly small wage to risk their lives and compromise their future. In the meantime American companies sold manufactured goods to the countries that supplied the raw materials and made a profit on each transaction.

Until the eighties that kind of just ticked along fine. However, starting in the eighties and really into the nineties the whole idea of a knowledge economy and an attention economy started to take hold. “Why?” the heads of corporations started to ask themselves “are we paying big bucks to factory workers when we could just move the factory to the third world, pay them a tenth to a hundredth of the wage and get around all of those pesky human rights and environmental laws.”. So, they started to do just that, exporting manufacturing to other countries at a phenomenal rate secure in the knowledge that the value they added by having consumers who could buy stuff and smart people who could manage stuff would mean that the third world would still need America. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t really smarter than everyone else on the planet, they just used to have more money. Now that the money is starting to go away there really isn’t much incentive for the third world to prop up the people who once exploited them. America no longer harvests much in the way of natural resources (and third world countries are better set up to do so anyway, since the US neglected the infrastructure it needed in order to keep resource harvesting up), and it no longer makes much of anything… the savings have run out, and now it is simply borrowing money to keep afloat based on a reputation that is no longer valid.

The attention economy is the biggest farce of all. It assumes that your attention is worth money and then rewards you for it, not with cash in hand, but with knowledge (Google) and entertainment (television, the drug of the nation. Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation). The problem is that your attention is only worth anything if that attention can be converted into sales for the company getting the attention, and since the US is pretty much about to be broke, the attention economy is worth exactly nothing (or soon will be), at least within the United States. The irony is that the left (the real left, of the international variety, not the slightly watered down free market corporatists that the American political system calls the left) has been saying this will happen for years and been decried as traitors, communists, evil socialists.

Marketing is worthless if you are marketing to an audience that has no money to buy stuff with and that is where the US will be very soon.

Of course, sedition is Canadian so it might just get built anyway.

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