Many religious writers have made the following argument for the claim that living in a market economy makes inner peace harder to achieve.  The argument goes something like this:  Inner peace requires being satisfied with what you have.  Market economies can only exist by convincing many people that their lives are currently unsatisfying in some way.  The entire point of advertising is to convince you that you would be better off if you purchased this product.  So, all advertisements attempt to focus your attention on the areas of your life that are lacking, on your insecurities, on your (often unrealistic) dreams and desires.  Since we are subjected to advertising all day in almost every conceivable form we are constantly presented with images that are designed (by really smart people well educated in psychology) to make us dissatisfied with our current life.  This work is often successful (or the whole market system would collapse.)  Being dissatisfied with your life is inconsistent with a robust state of inner peace.  Thus, finding inner peace is a much harder prospect today than it would have been in the past (even though we are materially far better off today than in the past.)

How good is this argument?  I find it pretty convincing.  While it is undeniable that market economies produce great wealth, they obviously do so at great costs.  One of these great costs, it seems to me, is that one must be continuously bombarded with really well-done marketing designed to make you dissatisfied with the way things are.  The best objection to this argument that I can think of is that the lack of satisfaction is entirely natural and would exist anyway all advertising does is articulate the desire.  While it is obviously correct that advertising does not cause all dissatisfaction, it is true that advertising often creates dissatisfaction where it did not previously exist.  Many examples can be given of this (is my two-year-old computer really in need of replacement?)  Thus, I do think that this argument basically works.  So I accept the conclusion that one of the costs of market economies is that they make it harder to find inner peace.

Read more: A family upbringing

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