9780060593780

Is The American Dream Killing You?: How "The Market" Rules Your Life

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780060593780

  • ISBN10:

    0060593784

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2005-09-07
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Summary

The "market" is the collective name for every act of buying and selling we participate in. It governs our economy and our lives, determining our values, our goals, and our accomplishments. We make it-and are made by it. In Is the American Dream Killing You? Paul Stiles shows how the pressures of the market are causing undue stress in all our lives. He explains why there is so little trust in companies, why it seems harder to feel secure, and why we never seem to be able to rest anymore. In this stunningly well-researched and elegantly argued book, Stiles shows that the harried, anxious lives we lead have one common pressure-the market.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Sound of the Alarm 1(12)
Introduction: The Economic Beast 13(16)
Rethinking the Market
Burnout
29(26)
The Market vs. Human Health
Meltdown
55(26)
The Market vs. the Nuclear Family
The Bubble
81(24)
The Market vs. Reality
Flatland
105(18)
The Market vs. the Good
Jolts Per Minute
123(18)
The Market vs. Culture
Borrowed Time
141(32)
The Market vs. the Environment
The Ozone Hole
173(34)
The Market vs. Business
The Modern God
207(32)
The Market vs. God
The Market Curve
239(12)
The Market vs. America
Epilogue: The Market Cross 251(12)
Appendix A: The American Hypermarket, 1950-2000 263(2)
Appendix B: Society in the Balance 265(2)
Appendix C: A Market Lexicon 267(4)
Appendix D: Market Metaphysics 271(2)
Notes 273(10)
List of Illustrations 283(4)
Acknowledgments 287(2)
Index 289

Excerpts

Is the American Dream Killing You?
How "the Market" Rules Our Lives

Chapter One

Burnout

CHANG (speaking of Shangri-La): It is quite common here to live to a very ripe old age. Climate, diet, mountain water you might say. But we like to think it is the absence of struggle in the way we live. In your countries, on the other hand, how often do you hear the expression "he worried himself to death" or this thing or that killed him?
CONWAY: Oh, very often.
CHANG: And very true. Your lives are therefore as a rule shorter. Not so muchby natural death as by... indirect suicide.

-- Frank Capra's Lost Horizon (1937)

For over a decade now the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Harvard School of Public Health have engaged in a landmark study of disease throughout the world involving over a hundred researchers. Known as The Global Burden of Disease, this ongoing, multivolume project is particularly remarkable for the way it measures the health of societies. Since illnesses like depression generally make you miserable rather than kill you, mortality statistics fail to assess their impact on a population. To correctthis, the researchers created a single measure, known as Disability Adjusted Life Years, that measures lost years of healthy life through death or disability.

This approach considerably changes the public health picture. The Global Burden of Disease reveals that the burden of mental illness on health and productivity has been vastly underestimated. While psychiatric conditions are responsible for just over 1 percent of deaths, they are nearly 11 percent of the disease burden. Of the ten leading causes of disability worldwide in 1990, five were psychiatric conditions: unipolar depression, alcohol use, bipolar affective disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, and obsessive- compulsive disorder. Unipolar depression alone is responsible for more than one in every ten years of life lived with a disability worldwide, second only to heart disease. As a whole, mental illness ranks higher than even cancer or HIV in the global priority list. Most striking of all, the disease burden for mental illness is highest in what the researchers called "the Established Market Economies." The report projects that by 2020, fully 15 percent of all illnesses in the Established Market Economies will be mental illnesses. Part of this increase will come from success in wiping out other forms of illness; part of it will come from the persistent inability of the market economies to conquer their mental health problems, a failure for which there is currently no explanation.1

This report raises the question, why is it that mental illness is so common, and so persistent, in market economies? Is the Market driving us all crazy? Yet as obvious as that question is, you will look a long time before you find anyone investigating it. Instead, a paper by a World Health Organization team asks, "Why does the burden of mental disorders persist in established market economies? There are four possibilities: the burden estimates are wrong; there are no effective treatments; people do not receive treatment; or people do not receive effective treatments ."2 Here no one even considers the obvious answer: something about market economies is causing mental illness.

One reason we fail even to consider such a connection is that it has become politically incorrect to criticize the Market, particularly in America, where the Market has become wedded to our national image. To associate the Market with mental illness is like saying Uncle Sam is on Prozac. Another reason is that the Market lies deep. It is a prime mover behind the world around us, but there may be several steps in the chain reaction before the symptoms appear. So it is that your organization may post a list entitled "Ten Steps to Prevent Workplace Violence," but none of them refer to moderating market pressures. Yet another reason is that we have long assumed that the Market is good for public health. After all, people's health is, in general, much better in industrialized countries than it is in developing countries. However, such assumptions only reveal our innate marketism, our bias toward the Market:

It is true that to achieve the high levels of population health enjoyed today in the West, particularly the very low rates of infant and neonatal mortality, substantial economic wealth has been a necessary precondition. But there have also been many, many other factors necessarily involved, of a social, political, ideological, and cultural nature, to convert the wealth generated by the processes of economic growth into increased population health for all. Economic growth is an intrinsically disruptive process. The history of almost all successful economies of the West shows that, in the absence of a sufficient political response at both national, state, and local government levels, this disruption will result in deprivations, disease, and death.3

What we see here is the danger of confusing the Market, which is part of society, with society itself, and all the higher values it contains. As the same author concludes, "in almost every historical case, the first and most direct effect of rapid economic growth has been a negative impact on population health, the classic example being the Industrial Revolution.

At the same time, the Market clearly does a tremendous amount of good for our health and well-being. It is, after all, the material supply system that supports our entire society. So what exactly is the connection between the Market and human health?

The Hypermarket

In the past few decades, the market experience has greatly changed. The temperature of our society has been rising, year after year. There is no single thermometer to directly measure this rise, but numerous different gauges, their readings confirmed by a great deal of everyday experience.

One of these is the pace of life. Here the title of James Gleick's book on the subject says it all: Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything. Such acceleration is not just the pace at which we move, it is the number of things we do in a day, and the many ways in which we order our lives to maximize them. Our communications have been stripped down from thoughtful letters to e-mail burst transmissions, without even a salutation. Over half of Americans now skip lunch at work. We are a people, as Gleick points out, who wear out the "close door" button on the elevator just to save us those five seconds.4

Is the American Dream Killing You?
How "the Market" Rules Our Lives
. Copyright © by Paul Stiles. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Is the American Dream Killing You?: How the Market Rules Our Lives by Paul Stiles
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