I'm not entirely sure it's helpful to conflate capitalism with populist consumer culture. Capitalism, strictly speaking, is the application of capital toward assets that increase total factor productivity. Money, meanwhile, is simply a signaling agent that we've had for thousands of years prior to the development of capitalism early in the Industrial Age. So capitalism is pretty much irrelevant with regards to your core argument (an argument I entirely agree with). The real question is simply this: if most people want to consume garbage, surely the "democratic" attitude is to assume that consuming garbage is therefore OK? The problem at the heart of democracy is the problem we face today: there's actually no real difference between democracy and populism. The only superficial difference is the window-dressing. Thus we need to wonder whether democracy is consistent with civilization (if by that word we mean some sort of social structure that overall promotes improvements in life options, ensures rule of law, etc.). Plato famously showed how democracy inevitably leads to tyranny through precisely the mechanism of despots appealing to populist sentiment which is invariably ignorant, bigoted, and simple-minded. Hence Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi, Duterte, Erdogan, Putin, Orban, Babis, PiS, and (waiting in the wings) Salvini, Le Pen, and AfD. The end of Western-style civilization is thus a global phenomenon driven by the fundamental flaws inherent in representative democracy that have now been exacerbated by an always-on sensationalist media culture. Dumbing down is the road to success for democracy. Or, to adapt P.T. Barnum’s observation: “nobody ever lost votes by under-estimating the intelligence of voters.”

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Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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