To have a well rounded understanding on capitalism and consumerism it is important to educate yourself on the foundation, the roots and it was applied in the past, and if the application proves beneficial for our modern state. Adam smith explained extensively in The Wealth of Nations the economic system that capitalism fostered. Mercantilism would put emphasis onto the individual instead of the group; it favors entrepreneurship and self-motivation. Capitalism would favor the quickest and most productive forms of production meant for the highest profit. Smith explains that in this laissez faire system the market would be something that would be pushed along by human nature, as he believes we are self interested and seek more profit and power for ourselves. This idea of a free market and mercantilism was something that hugely benefited the 1700s economy and took power away from government run monopolies that were very oppressive. The growth of capitalism helped people reach enlightenment and self growth, the system may be similar in ways to the current more neo-liberalist approach to capitalism, but in some ways it is based on false ideas about the nature of humans and it has become so exploitative in its application that is has very little to offer to the average citizen.
Over years and years people have done little questioning on how an economy entirely based on the individual would in turn actually effect the individual, it appears to produce massive economic gains but has severe social repercussions. People have also assumed this natural selfishness to be inherent but three are many people who disagree with this. Graham Peebles comments on this in his article Materialism and Misery he explains that this supposed human nature is not entirely true and was created to promote the profits for the ones who were truly gaining from the economic growth, the capitalists. He references a study by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology where they “observed that 14-month-old babies spontaneously acted with kindness when an adult in the room needed help. Actions, which are inherently selfless, offer an intrinsic reward because they facilitate relationship with our true nature.” He shows that so many people have gone along with the idea that we are inherently selfish, when the only thing that benefits from that outlook is the market, and therefore the people who have the most control in the market, the capitalists. He further elaborates that when the children were offered a materialistic reward their focus shifted and “They lost interest in the act of kindness and became fixated on the object of reward.” This interpretation of human nature would foster growth and community and a more successful worldly relationship, instead of primarily and almost entirely focusing on the success of the individual self and the profit margin for the capitalists.