The Fantasy Economy

When Thomas Jefferson penned the goals of the United States as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he set into motion one of the most powerful engines of change in the history of the world. Two hun­dred and thirty years later this objective has been adopted as a global mantra.

Now that China has joined the world of economic freedom, the overwhelming majority of the earth’s population feels entitled to live in pursuit of the themes that Jefferson established as a basis for the found­ing of the United States. The end of communism and the overthrow of dictators around the world have increased the potential of individuals to achieve a life where liberty is a basic right. People have more free­doms than ever before and, as a result, more options to choose from.

The increase in global consumption has driven the pursuit of desire, or fantasy, to achieve everyone’s personal sense of happiness. Not only has this pursuit altered the direction of life, for the concept of life itself is being understood as never before, but life itself has simultaneously been extended, for the average life span has almost doubled from the time when Jefferson lived. To meet this new glob­al demand, companies now have the goal of developing innovative products and services.

Fueled by global communication of information, infotainment, and pure entertainment, individuals around the world have access to the latest changes and emerging ideas, and change occurs with an ever-quickening pace. what is the next step in the progression from commodity to good to service to experience? in our view, it is fanta­sy. Fantasy, according to one definition,2 serves the purpose of fulfill­ing a wish or psychological need. People not only want to experience their environment, they also want to project their environment and their emotions about that environment to a deeper level of desire. They do not want to just participate in the experience; they want to live it. They already live one experience—the reality of their own lives. Fantasy is a desirable experience that, at least currently, is not that reality.

Consumers are adept at life in realms outside their own reality, at times more comfortable in a fantasy realm than in reality. Individuals converse using movie imagery. Video games, an $11 billion industry, allow consumers to interact with and even control the fantasy realm. Disney World is more than an experience; it is a fanta­sy for every child and adult. You can stay in the wilderness Lodge at Disney World and not only experience the simulated Great Northwest, complete with Aaron Copland music always playing in the background, but also fantasize about living it.

in the meantime, the definition of reality itself is being changed via “reality television,” where participants live for the short term in undesirable circumstances in hopes of a substantial prize. With such a definition of reality, an awkward and nightmarish world if we were confined to it, fantasy by contrast becomes all the more normal. in a post-9/11 society, people project a fantasy in which terrorist threats no longer drive reality. Even the world’s money is increasingly virtu­al, unreal. Consumers spend money they do not have, and virtual markets exist with individuals buying and selling on the internet with virtual PayPal accounts. Even at an international level, virtual money

2 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (taken from www. dictionary, com).

passes between countries in stupendous volumes in almost no time. As reality becomes more challenged and as people come to expect a more desirable experience, fantasy becomes the driver of product and service purchasing—for this is the fantasy economy.