Conspicuous consumption pervades our society. You can see poor people wearing brand name clothing, listening to iPods and playing hand-held video games. You can see middle class people driving expensive cars, living in big houses in swanky suburbs.
Neither group can really afford those luxury items.Nevertheless, the message from the society at large is to maintain your status, to show(mostly to others, but to themselves too) that you've made it. This notion is what makes people to spend, spend at all costs. Take on those ARMs, consumer credits, HELOCs etc. Max out those credit cards. We live only once, you know.
70% of our GDP comes from consumer consumption. That is, our economy is totally dependent on it.
It's a small wonder that a notion of building of true wealth is more of a counterculture.
In a way, the beautifully wrapped box becomes in and of itself a goal instead of its contents.