During the 1800’s the “prosperity” of land gave people the opportunities to obtain better lives. Although it was a never ending expanse it enabled people to take enormous risks, in hopes of gaining back double the amount of what they had invested, even if their wager was at stake, they knew that they would be able to regain and rebuild what they had lost. Soon after the Frontier was claimed, it became the economy’s vehicle of growth, but the possibility of it being successful wasn’t a positive impact seeing as the productivity of growth was decreasing in the latter part of the century. The idea of growth was momentous to this nation because after all “America was the place where one never quite came to the end” (Shames, 77) and other values like quality and decency were overlooked and underdeveloped.
Laurence Shames truly believed that the way we should live our life’s was by differentiating are wants vs our needs. But growing up in a culture that always taught us that in order to have more, growing was necessary. As a culture we always found a way to strive for more, a perfect example of so was the unexplored land of the west, after the not so positive outcome of it all people began to turn to the economy, because of significance growth had. Shames states that, “Americans have been somewhat backward in adopting values, hope, ambitions that have to do with things other than more” (Shames, 78), things that overweighed quality, success, and super passed decency.
More so even if growth was something that people cherished and admired so sacredly, it would eventually diminish due to the fact that over the last few decades, the productivity of growth would go down.
The Frontier Era, gave people the opportunity to strive for more, it was the backdrop and raw material for the streak of economic booms. Booms that would incite and justify the myriad gambles; and for Americans it would create optimism.
Optimism that turned and shaped visons “that were sometimes noble but always bold”. As a reality and as a symbol, the frontier was what shaped and gave us a sense of what should be done, what’s worth doing, and what shouldn’t be done. But just as there was success there was also failure, “when persuasion failed, the builders might resort to bribery, pay people’s moving costs and giving them houses” (Shames, 76).
Consumerism was considered an offshoot establishment of this widespread concept of having and striving for more. Having more meant achieving happiness, happiness that the consumerism culture ambitioned. People constantly wanting to purchase the latest version of an item that they already have or that they feel they might not need but the urge of spending money to fulfill their temporary sense of desire and happiness, can be gained from the consumption goods and services. Which is what Shames wanted us to realize, that living minimalistic ally doesn’t and shouldn’t categorize you as a cheap; to differentiate are want vs needs.
America has always been a country that has no limits, its economy is its frontier. The “more” concept is still a reoccurring factor to this day. As Americans the need for more always lingers in our minds, we were always sought out to be a country that would blossom and boom. But that isn’t true nowadays people purchase things more than they can afford to try and in exchange flip it for something they can profit off; that doesn’t always go as planned.
Although there is the majority of people who make the minimum wage or work more than one job, and stride for more. To help better this economy and keep it booming with never ending opportunities of progression and profit, “There was always a presumption that America would keep booming… the next generation would always ferret out opportunities that would be still more lavish than any that had gone before” (Shames, 77).
The “more’ mindset of Americans, leads us to believe that we as a nation were never at the reach of contentment, a result of capitalism itself based off materialistic values, “the more we have, the more we want” and to this day it is a reoccurring thing now more than ever. Stereotypically enough we were always led to believe that we would always get a second chance to succeed if we didn’t the first time around. A stereotype that was key in American society for centuries that would later on become the concept identity of America. The never ending necessity of doing more, trying again and again, and acquiring more.
Nevertheless, the ideology of “more” during the frontier era, gave us an insight to how that culture impacted our now in day life’s. How corrupt the desire for more has become in America, as we’ve adopted the desire to obtain materialistic wealth and associate that with our self-worth; how we are willing to sacrifice what we have in order to gain a great amount of money and possessions, just like the speculators did when they were trying to attract the transcontinental railroad to one of the many towns built in the middle of nowhere. The pressures of society to obtain more at no cost.
- Shames, Laurence. “The More Factor”. Signs of Life in the U.S.A 9th Ed.
- Ed. Sonia Maasik & Jack Solomon. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2018. 76-82. Print.