Why do we American Christians NEED a fast during the Christmas season? One reason is because we embrace the values of capitalism as championed by Adam Smith.
“Adam Smith championed the social value of harnessing the instinctual drives of curiosity and self-interest within the framework of the marketplace to create a self-regulating economic order. […]Smith worried in his writings, as did many other thinkers of the time, that human envy and our tendency towards compulsive craving, if left unchecked, would destroy the empathic feeling and neighborly concerns that are essential to his economic model and a free market’s successful operation.[…]In America, living with such an abundance of choice, we have discovered some disturbing facts about human behavior – facts that from knowledge of modern neurobiology are predictable and that confirm Smith’s worst fears. In times of material affluence, when desire is no longer constrained by limited resources, the evidence from our contemporary American experiment suggests that we humans have trouble setting limits to our instinctual craving.
This comes as little surprise to the behavioral neuroscientist, for it is now well established that under certain contingencies it is possible to ‘overload’ the reward circuits of the brain, triggering craving and insatiable desire. As the quintessential reward driven culture, America bears witness to this truth, for there is considerable evidence suggesting that unchecked consumption fosters our social malaise, eroding self-constraint and pulling the cultural pendulum toward excessive indulgence and greed. “(Peter C. Whybrow, American Mania: When More is not Enough, pgs. 7-8)