See, their morals, their code… it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these… these civilized people will eat each other. See, I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.
– Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)
What this essentially means is that humans are measured and weighed, as is the case of precious metals, on how much money they have and can spend. The more money, the higher his net worth, and such individuals become a person of interest. To whom? Marketers for one, who tend to put individuals in certain segments. Now, marketers are not the most thoughtful individuals, but they are skilled at what they know, and that is to flesh out individuals, by using the latest technologies and techniques, who might purchase their product or service. The thinking, faulty and reductive as it is, is that rich people, having more disposable income, might be more willing to buy their product or service.
Of course, this is pure nonsense, if you think about it. Even their purchase of so-called big-ticket and luxury items are limited. As one wealthy person said: “The reason that I am rich is that I don't spend my money foolishly on things that I don’t need.” And, wealthier individuals are no more likely to buy the latest electronic gadget than one who has less money.
In a heavily monetized society, which describes all western nations, where everything is for sale, all human transactions become about buying and selling; the buyer wants to pay less and the seller wants to receive more—and there is often a resultant dance called negotiation to arrive, if possible, at some agreement. Now, many people, notably economic conservatives see this as an ideal model, chiefly since that is how they view and conduct life, as a negotiation of competing interests with a winner and loser. And the winner wins and the loser loses, so be it.
So, what's wrong with this picture? Plenty. If human relations are chiefly transactional, which is the way that all conservative economists view things, then human relationships are diminished. Consider the following article on one of the changes brought about a monetized society; in an article written by Charles Eisenstein in The Ascent of Humanity (2007):
Another thread in the mosaic of the monetized society is the replacement of such social functions as reputation, word-of-mouth, credibility, and trust with their standardized, objective counterparts. Since the professionals we pay are unknown to us and outside our shrunken social networks, we rely on various kinds of certification and licensing to assure us that these professionals are competent and responsible, protection we need in the absence of personal connections. We don't know anything about these people, except for that tiny sliver of their lives that remains public.Such is pure reductionism, and some like such anonymity, but when such is the case, there is a social cost. The human connection is stripped bare by the market’s need to make and view all individuals as consumers, which only suits the needs of a small segment of society, one whose only interest is buying and selling products and services. Considering that the vast majority of the world’s citizens are poor, that leaves out a considerable portion of the world’s people who would be deemed worthy and important as human beings. After all, if they can’t buy products and services, they are considered of no use for marketers and selling agents.
This is a sad commentary on the way things often are; but it does not have to be that way. The chief reason that the United States, for example, wants to bring democracy in its capitalistic form to developing nations is to have accessible markets for its products and services; it has done this to some degree of success in China and India. One can argue that the “success” is mixed. China is not a democracy, yet it has adopted capitalism to its political system. It has become a seller of goods to America; and India has become a service provider to America.
The influence on these societies to the adoption of American values of consumerism has been notable and in many cases upsetting to their traditional values and way of life. The changes have been quick and brutal, leaving many people behind in the wake of capitalism and consumerism. The winners are few; the losers many. Such is what happens when society is monetized and individual dignity is considered as less important that the almighty buck.