Is America a Christian nation? No – the true religion of the land is the confluence of commerce, materialism, and consumption. Religion can be defined as “ultimate concern” and our true societal devotion is found in material pursuits. It’s been a good religion; it has fed, clothed, sheltered, and employed millions of Americans. It can go too far, however. When these pursuits become excessive, the religion breaks bad and the common good suffers.
“Liberty produces wealth, and wealth destroys liberty.” Henry Demarest Lloyd, journalist and activist, wrote these words as the wealth of John Rockefeller Sr. crested to historic proportions. The long era of excess – beginning at the turn of the century – gave birth to a permission previously unrealized in American society. The egalitarianism woven into its foundational fabric, which protected the new republic from aristocracy and other undemocratic concentrations of power, could be abandoned.
Is social inequality the necessary price to pay for the uninhibited pursuit of wealth? Do social inequalities destroy democratic ideals? Just a Little Bit More explores these questions as it highlights the similarities between three short eras of excess in American history: the Gilded Age, the 1920s, and the current one that began in the 1970s and helped to bring about the economic swoon of 2007-08.
Democracy and egalitarianism are two of American society’s grandest achievements. They do not exist naturally but thrive only when advocated. When egalitarian practices suffer, so does democracy, leaving the fate of the common good hanging in the balance.
Excerpt from T. Carlos “Tim” Anderson’s Just a Little Bit More: The Culture of Excess and the Fate of the Common Good, Blue Ocotillo Publishing, May 2014. All rights reserved.