The Destruction of Priorities

Ryan Heshmati

December 23, 2022

The Wall Street Journal finds individual American consumers and households spend $1.2 trillion in the United States on products, services, and items that are not necessary. Events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday allow Americans to justify purchasing items they do not need and would not have otherwise bought if not for a slight markdown in price. The problem of unnecessary indulgences worsens with each generation. Altagamma and Bain & Co. project that Generation Z and millennials will take up 70% of the global luxury market by 2050, a substantial increase from their current share of 44%. What do these numbers mean? The destruction of priorities is a pandemic that requires a shift in mindset to begin and reverse the damage.

The fixation on the unnecessary takes the eye off of addressing important areas crucial to society’s successes moving forward. Not-so-admirable American values are evident everywhere. Forbes notes both men and women look at pay as the greatest determinant in “… choosing a job and employer.” While compensation is an understandable matter of importance, and though one would hope the ability to make an impact or the ability to work within one’s morals would be on top instead, the truth is that does not always pay the bills. To feed the desire mentioned above to purchase in luxury markets, for too many, it may come down to dollars and cents, and as a result certain low-paying careers like those in education are having trouble filling positions.

When employees’ focus is just money, altruistic endeavors are bound to be hit hard. Unsurprisingly, charitable contributions declined dramatically between 2000 and 2018, according to Recode, from occurring in around ⅔ of households to less than half. Such data, when considering the potential hire’s mindset, only enforces the dangers of this direction. This new mindset offers profound negative implications. CNN’s Harry Enten recently wrote about the record-low levels of American contentment. Motivation by materialism and money could be at play in the pessimism resulting from dissatisfaction with today and a negative outlook for the future.

In America, where popular music constantly markets luxury brands like “Balenciaga” or “Prada” to listeners, the entire direction has been pinned on the wrong priorities. Statistics regarding American non-essential spending, potential hires’ top determinant, and American discontentment, paint a bleak picture if our culture does not shift away from its current idealization of material possessions and wealth. The drop in charitableness is only one result of an incredibly dangerous path materialistic tendencies take us down.