When I first came across Ubuntu, I fell in love with the philosophy.
I am who I am, because you are who you are.
Having studied Psychology, the 'person in social psychology' is an extremely complex issue. When you ask a person to define 'who they are' - they very often describe social relationships. "I'm a rugby player" describes a person, because we can then draw on the social norms associated with rugby players, drinking, fitness, fairness and camaraderie.
In our consumerist society, the western adoption of ubuntu would probably go along the lines of:
"I am who I am because I'm better than him"
In the race to the top, in constantly looking as individuals to better ourselves, the first thing that breaks is community. The social fabric of communities that helped build up the work ethic in the early development of the industrial revolution has been reversed, when now the paradigm is to try and better oneself in comparison to one's peers.
The problem with this approach is that it breaks community. Instead of looking for shared prosperity, we are looking to break it. The recession of 2009 is evidence that such an approach is not sustainable, nor what people would actually want. I can assert with confidence that the majority of people would be uneasy to say all they want to do is be 'better than their neighbours'.
The root of the problem then lies in the social system, which is manipulating our individual psychology for prosperity. We are told by adverts to want the next big thing, we need to get bigger houses, more TVs, the latest iPad.
The good news, for me, is that it is the system that is manipulating the individual, rather than an inherent belief in an individual to want to better their peers. The vast majority of people look to share their prosperity with their friends, family and future offspring. There are other factors involved with the status quo, but I will not go into them in this post.
So if we go back to the root, if we look carefully at how we behave. Think about the pound that you spend; the time you use up. It is possible to turn the system on it's head. I'm lucky enough to have been involved in the 'Open Source' movement - this is moving away from software being regarded solely in terms of monetary value, and instead being given a social value. We exchange it for free, so that each of us may have a more prosperous resource from which to work.
Certainly, there are more challenges to be faced when using the same structures to share material goods, but these are not insurmountable. I'm sure anyone that's worked in retail will be fully aware of the mark-up put on products. If buying through a third party supplier, it's possible for the end distributor to make far more money on 'mark-up' that was earned by the manufacturer. I'd argue that the main reason for this is that the 'buffer' between the distributor and manufacturer is large enough for it not to have to play on the conscience of the distributor. If we move to a more local economy, then I'd suggest that these discrepancies in 'value' versus 'price' would be much narrower.