Hurry Up and Buy

By Gary Isbell.

401px-AvariceOne of the big problems with modern economy is the constant attempt to take the human element out of the equation and speed up the process of trade. Speed and frenzied economic activity are aspects of modern economy that are justly criticized in the book Return to Order: From Frenzied Economy to Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go. It leads to, what author John Horvat calls, frenetic intemperance — a desire to throw off all restraints and gratify disordered passions

One recent example of frenetic intemperance is a new system that is being implemented at some Wal-Mart stores called “Scan & Go.” Customers are encouraged to scan the bar codes of the items they wish to buy on their iPhones and then bag the items already placed in their cart. When arriving at the self-checkout lane, they hold up their phone which transmits a list of the items purchased and negotiates a payment. Other retailers are trying similar systems such as one where a person can pay from anywhere in the store. It should also be mentioned that some have abandoned these schemes because it makes shoplifting much easier.

Someone might object that such measures are merely done to increase efficiency and make shopping less annoying. However, there is a strong tendency toward intemperance in these schemes since it feeds the idea of instant gratification and promotes the idea that not even the buying process should have any restraint or reflection. Moreover, the human element is eliminated by these measures. The rushed consumer now “saves time” by doing everything himself. He puts himself at the service of the retailer by quickly performing all the functions that once fell to employees.

Subscription5.3Temperance is the virtue whereby man governs and moderates his natural appetites and passions in accordance with the norms prescribed by reason, and when it is weakened by one thing, it is weakened for everything. Buying and selling should thus be a calm and reasoned process, not a “scan and go” shopping spree that favors today’s age of instant gratification. When frenetic elements enter into an economy, the resulting intemperance introduces imbalance and turbulence that rock markets and lead to economic turmoil.