The psychology of capitalism

What motivates a personal trainer? Some people love the culture of gyms. But I think personal trainers are often motivated by helping people. For 30 or 60 minutes at a time, they're physically close to a person who, in many cases, wants to feel better about themselves; trainers have the ability to help them get there. You could say that there's no irony between them -- the trainer isn't using a bait-and-switch technique, or attending sessions on how to "sucker in" more clients.

Usually, they're not just acting like, but are being a real person. Pretty simple, really.

Notwithstanding all that, training is normally capitalistic. My friend trains in her clients' homes and drums up work herself. She's an independent business person -- she uses her own capital to buy equipment and promote her company.

The free market is competitive. Though Adam Smith anticipates many features of capitalism -- the minute division of labour chief among them -- the pitting of opponents against one another to produce the best offer (product, price or marketing/placement) for consumers is central to how we view the positive side of the system today.

But within this system is a central irony -- that companies want to profit from their relationship with customers -- certainly from the consumer relationship (the B2B relationship is a bit harder to fudge). Most of the ads I take in make me feel like I'm being lied to; in fact, I think most people of my generation automatically handicap anything they receive via mass distribution, or that doesn't carry a label of authenticity with it.

What is the larger effect of this? I try not to consume media much anymore; just radio and Internet mainly, but few movies or magazines and no TV. But if I, like many people, took in hours of media daily, and if it was all funded by explicit and implicit (embedded) advertising messages, would that not affect how I see the world? The level of trust I generally have.

And would that carry over to my trust of political leaders, or in fact of policies that were genuinely developed in an objective and fair way -- the governance of our nation. Or of personal relationships, or of how I might relate socially in public places, like malls or sidewalks, or while driving in traffic.

I think there's something big about closeness -- I think physical trainers are more likely to develop friendships with clients than to lie to them and use them. What about mid-sized private companies? Are they more authentic than multinationals? And, if so, what is it about multi-nationals that makes then inauthentic? Can a multinational consumer chain be built that cultivates genuine and honest relationships in all points of business (relationships with suppliers and other vendors, creditors, employees/owners, and customers)? What if a group of local, authentic businesses formed a federation -- would it change things? What if that federation adopted a form of central authority -- what then?

I've written before that authenticity is big -- in PR and in business as well as of course in life. But for people who don't perform personal training or public school teaching etc. as a career, it can be difficult to not creep over that line. But that line really, in the long run, is vital personally and in society.