In other words it's not a player run economy, it's not populated by player cities. My response is ... so what.
For me it's not even this. It's that you are tasked with killing the bandits who are preying on a farm, you kill them, get some trinket, then you come back in an hour and the same bandits are still preying on the same farm. The only progress is pumping stats and getting access to new, similarly pointless quests. You never really save the farm, or reduce the threat of bear attacks, or clear the kobold mines, and there would be no consequences for the world if you didn't bother to carry out these quests in the first place. You are doing everything for points, and nothing more. It is painfully obvious that the NPC's are automatons replaying the same scenes over and over. The illusion of this being a real, organic world is paper thin.
And I'm not saying a more persistent game world would be easy to design. It wouldn't. It would take a tremendous amount of ingenuity to do so. But it would also keep the game from feeling so hollow.
Then it's probably a given that this genre of gaming simply isn't for you. Just like some people cannot stand FPS games, or other RTS etc etc. The fact is that the "MM" stands for Massive Multiplayer, and as such you cannot tailor content for just a single player or even a relatively large group of players, without screwing up the game for the rest of the players.
I understand your example, and you seem to understand the converse of it, which is... If you were to kill all of the bandits on said farm, and then I go out buy the game and login, and there are no more bandits to kill I'm not going to be to happy with the challenges of "farming" an empty farm.
NWN with a good sized campaign and a decent DM would likely be more persistent, but having tried that it's not all it's cracked up to be either. I doubt we'll ever see an MMORPG that's persistent in the way you define it. You might see RPG engines that allow for smaller multiplayer groups to enjoy a persistent world, then again NWN allows that in some ways, but technically it's tedious for the DM to keep content fresh and after a while the DM might want to start charging $15 a month :)
I enjoy single player RPGs and they of course always tend to have much much better story execution and content, on the other hand I also enjoy the MMORPGs for a completely different set of reasons, communication with actual people, playing with friends, team play (that isn't the twitch monkey variety) etc, and good PvP (testing out one's character and skills against another human).
I'd also suggest a truly persistent world would ultimately be much more time and responsibility than I would care to spend. Games with more persistent paradigms, like SWG and SB, require a lot more time and effort from the gamer. Without players the world starts to fall towards entropy. I remember when SWG first started there was no real economy, since the players hadn't yet established one, things were pretty "dry" then for items and gear. If one likes that style of game play then more power to them, but for me it's just too much time and effort, for the same rewards essentially I get out of WoW for much less time investment.
Pricewise again I figure for 40 hours a month $15 is cheap for entertainment, less than a dollar an hour. I used to spend more than that in the arcades as a kid. Of course that's just for me, not everyone has the cash or the time to spend in a game like WoW, but of all of the ones I've played WoW so far seems to require the least amount of time invested for a greater amount of reward. Anyway I'll reiterate I'm very happy so far with WoW, it is what it is and I think it does what it does very well. And again that's just my opinion, and examples of what makes me happy and content.