The Rise and Fall of World Commerce
Part 6—Economic Anxieties—When Will They End?
AS LONG as greedy commerce maintains its tight grip on the masses, economic anxieties will continue. That is the bad news. The good news is that its grip will soon be broken, putting an end to economic anxieties once and for all. Presently over four million Jehovah’s Witnesses are making this good news known to others throughout the world.—See box on page 14.
A Most Effective Instrument
The purpose of advertising—when applied to economics—is to sell products or services. To promote sales, the public must be influenced to buy. Billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, not to mention that irritant known as junk mail, aim to accomplish this.
The sophisticated advertisements of modern television are far removed from the messages of public criers in ancient Greece. But the purpose of advertising—to influence people—has not changed. The invention of printing from movable type by Johannes Gutenberg opened up such new vistas of public advertising that by 1758 English literary giant Samuel Johnson could write: “Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promise and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetick.” Were it not for his out-of-date spelling, we could suppose that Johnson had penned these words today, in 1992.
Advertising was given fresh impetus by the industrial revolution. The multitude of new products it made available needed buyers, who could now be reached by a growing network of newspapers and magazines. In time, radio and television embraced an even larger audience. Advertising became a business in its own right. Advertising agencies were formed as early as 1812, when Reynell and Son opened in London.
If advertising is truthful, informing us of available products or services to satisfy legitimate needs, it serves a good purpose. Not so, however, when it oversteps proper boundaries, seducing us into buying what we do not need and into taking on burdensome debts for the sake of instant gratification. “It cajoles, it implores, it reasons, it shouts,” is the way one writer described it, adding: “Whether consciously or subconsciously, all of us are affected, for better or for worse, by advertising.”
Prospective buyers are often swayed by factors that are not even relevant. Advertisers appeal to the ego; they work on the emotions. They may present half-truths. Worse, they may conceal negative or dangerous aspects of their product, thereby showing a serious lack of concern for the welfare of others—all in the name of economic competition.
Is Economic Competition Necessary?
You may feel, as many do, that competition is essential for progress. And, indeed, at present, honest economic competition may in some ways protect the consumer. But the education manual Psychology and Life questions whether competition is “a necessary characteristic of human nature,” asking: “Must we stand with one foot on the neck of the vanquished in order to be happy?”
While noting that people reared in a competitive society apparently “do respond to the challenge of beating the other fellow,” this textbook maintains that competitiveness is not an inborn psychological trait. In fact, in the long run, competition is counterproductive. Tests reveal that it “produces a win-at-any-cost attitude which is frequently not conducive to the best quality of work.”
Competition, for example, can breed fear of failure. But fear, whether at school, in the workplace, or elsewhere, is not really conducive to good performance. Besides, competition may lead to dishonesty or to cheating. Students who are overly competitive about getting good grades may lose sight of the real purpose of education: to equip them to become better and more productive members of society.
At the time of its writing in the 1930’s, Psychology and Life cited Samoa as an example of a largely noncompetitive society. “People work and store the products of their labor in a common warehouse from which all can draw according to their needs,” it explains, adding: “Anthropologists report that such people are fully as happy as their more individualistic fellow men in other parts of the world.”
Thus, a rewarding and successful economic system need not necessarily be based on competition. A leading businessman contends that while competition may be necessary to motivate immature people, mature individuals should have no difficulty in finding motivation in the activity itself. Joy is to be found in learning, in being creative, in making others happy, in making improvements and new discoveries.
Understandably, then, the wise counsel of the Bible is: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”—Galatians 5:26; Ecclesiastes 4:4.
Break Free for Something Better!
It is evident that Satan is using greedy commerce as an instrument in pursuit of his own ends. By creating economic anxieties, he is getting an ever tighter grip on mankind. Worry about satisfying material cravings crowds out the meeting of essential spiritual needs. The throw-away mentality fostered by commerce negatively affects the environment. Its have-it-all-and-have-it-now attitude destroys contentment and happiness. In fact, legitimate economic interests, when not tempered by divine principles, ultimately degenerate into self-interest and, in turn, into greed.
Greed and excessive self-interest, however, are forms of idolatry, which is displeasing to God. (Colossians 3:5) People who allow their personalities to be negatively shaped by commerce are, like promoters of false religion and advocates of human rule, treading on dangerous ground. They run the risk of becoming objects of divine disapproval. Jesus warned: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life [including economic anxieties], and suddenly that day [of Jehovah’s judgment] be instantly upon you.”—Luke 21:34.
Those who would be Christians must break free from the grip of imperfect economic systems by rejecting the spirit they foster and by shelving selfish economic goals. Personalities must be molded by the almighty Creator, not by the almighty dollar. Honesty must be striven for at all times. Contentment must be found in what one has, not in constantly grasping for more.—Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 6:6-11; Hebrews 13:18.
To set proper priorities, Christians must periodically examine their goals in life. (Philippians 1:9, 10) This is reflected in their choice of work and of education for their children. They keep in mind that “everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” They constantly remind themselves that when the world passes away, world commerce will experience a ‘Wall Street Crash’ from which it and its supporters will never recover.—1 John 2:16, 17.
[Box on page 14]
No Economic Anxieties Under God’s Kingdom
No soaring prices due to food shortages: “The earth itself will certainly give its produce; God, our God, will bless us.” “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.”—Psalm 67:6; 72:16.
No unpaid doctor bills: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” “The eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.”—Isaiah 33:24; 35:5, 6.
No exorbitant rents or mortgage payments: “They will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating.”—Isaiah 65:21, 22.
No division into rich and poor classes: “He will certainly render judgment among many peoples, and set matters straight respecting mighty nations far away. . . . And they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble.”—Micah 4:3, 4.
No more unfulfilled needs of any kind: “As for those seeking Jehovah, they will not lack anything good.” “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—Psalm 34:10; 145:16.
[Picture on page 15]
Under God’s Kingdom economic anxieties will be over at last