Summary of “The More Factor”

2 February 2017

The Ideological and Unsustainable Values of American Culture In The More Factor, by Laurence Shames, it is explained that the wholly American views of unending frontier, opportunity, and more have always been a part of who we are as a people. Over time these ideals and their growth have shifted from that of the physical world to that of economic expansion. Eventually society was faced with the realization that this growth is not sustainable, and that we must face this truth in order to reevaluate and shift our values to a more realistic view.

I feel that this change in cultural values is something that must be dealt with in order for our society to continue to be relevant in today’s world. Dreams of the frontier, opportunity, and the idea of more have been at the core of American ideals from the very beginning. With this came the renowned American optimism which has become an integral part of our culture. Shames writes that these views have always been a part of our culture, and he uses a great example for evidence of this optimism in his detailing of the story of speculators in Texas in the 1880’s from F. Stanley’s Story of the Texas Panhandle Railroads.

Summary of “The More Factor” Essay Example

The passage goes on and describes how speculators would risk all they had to build a town from scratch in the middle of nowhere, hiring workmen to build saloons, churches, hotels and more, then bribing people to move to the town for a short period of time in hopes that railroad companies would be lured into passing a railroad through if it succeeded in casting a semblance of a real town. If the speculators were successful in this risky investment and a railroad was built, their returns would be unbelievably large, but if not they faced losing everything they put into the towns.

One specific example Shames uses is of a speculator named Sanborn who built the town of Amarillo and succeeded in attracting the railroads and earning himself a fortune. He then goes on and explains that they did this for two reasons, for one the returns were so enormous that normal logic did not apply, and second, that it was assumed that America would continue to expand and grow. This and the many other booms justified and helped to create Americans’ famous optimism, and also led to the national growth of the habit of more, or that the frontier wasn’t land specifically, but that it was also an idea.

The American idea of the frontier shifted from the literal physical form, such as land, to that of the economy. Even with the shift towards having more monetarily rather than the physical aspect, the frontier continues to be a part of who we are as Americans. Shames explains that we are not running out of the essentials that keep our society going such as money, skill, passion and opportunity, but he goes on to write, “there have been ample indications over the past two decades that we are running out of more” (89).

We view our economy as ever expanding in opportunity and wealth but in reality that growth has become stagnant at best and has even shrunk in recent times. With figures taken from the Economic Report of the President published in 1984, Shames uses examples to describe the downward moving trend in productivity growth. Productivity in the private sector between 1947 and 1965 on average advanced 3. 3 percent, but by the 1982 to 1987 period, it had declined to an extremely low 0. 2 percent growth average.

The crippled growth average during this period was also accompanied by the shrinking of Americans real earnings between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four in the years of 1979 to 1983 by 14 percent. This overall downturn shows that where economic growth once was the new frontier, it must now be replaced by something else, and the author suggests that a growth in happiness and responsibility will have to replace our need to believe that our opportunities continue to expand. The use of economics as our new frontier was hailed as an unending prospect, but in reality that end did come.

Once the unending growth was no longer guaranteed, Americans as a whole for the first time had to deal with the realization that it is not a part of the “natural order” to become richer with every passing year (91). The generation that faced this cultural crisis was the baby boomers, and Shames quotes Thomas Hine’s Populuxe, saying in their childhood they were said to be “the luckiest generation”, when in all reality they were the ones who were forced to face the truth, that America’s belief in the thought that one will be richer every year was flawed (92).

Because of this our society must deal with this reality and decide whether or not to remain ignorant or to otherwise come to terms with these faulty and unachievable views, and work to forge new and more practical ideals that apply in this unpredictable world that will allow our society to continue to thrive into the future. Although Shames does a good job describing this problem, he could go much deeper by either offering or describing a probable solution or even what the consequences could be if we do not make a change.

Shames use of many different sources such as books, newspapers and other professional sources throughout the paper uses multiple types of proof including quotes, census data, polls and more shows his dedication towards reaching the truth and conveying it in an expertly written piece. The multitude of sources and information included in the essay not only explained its’ points but also helped greatly with its use of measurable data throughout.

This paper’s thorough evidence was extremely successful convincing me of the validity of not only the author’s central argument but also the points used to support it. The auther is speaking to the American public with the intent to inform and warn them that without a change the America we know and love may not survive into the future. Shames, Laurence. “The More Factor. ” 2009. Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. Boston: Bedford, 1997. 86-92. Print.

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