Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Sign of the Times

.....As Mike correctly pointed out in a previous post, all signs indicate that the consumption level of Americans is being reduced in the face of economic uncertainty. This clearly is welcomed news, considering that we Americans previously had the lowest rate of savings and highest consumption rate in the developed world.

.....I recently paid a visit to my local butcher, and asked if the recession was hurting his business at all. He said that, on the contrary, our rotten economy has actually been helpful to him. As he put it, "Instead of people going out to dinner and spending $100 on steak, they have been coming to me, and for $20 they can get two of the best steaks we have."

.....I use this steak example with no offense intended towards my vegan friends. We all agree that it would be preferable if Americans also simplified their meal choices to include more plant-based foods. But the fact remains that many Americans are choosing to forgo fancy restaurants and buying items they don't really need, because their values are beginning to change as they confront the reality of economic uncertainty.

.....A cultural shift may very well be occurring in which people begin to embrace - or at least are more open to - the ideals of movements like Voluntary Simplicity, Sustainable Economics, and Smart Growth. Yes, there will always be people who choose to drive gas-guzzling vehicles and to live excessive lifestyles, but hopefully, such individuals will become the exception rather than the norm in our society.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

So who's hurting, anyway?

I keep hearing about how tough times are for Americans during what many economists are calling the "greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression." But I have to confession that here on Long Island--epicenter of the the crudest form of crass consumerism on the planet--I just don't see any evidence at all that people are changing their behavior in the face of economic uncertainty.

I went to the mall the other day to buy some much needed curtains for the house ($29 on sale at J.C. Penny's, in case you were interested). It was a Wednesday morning around 11am and I was amazed to find that the parking lot of the mall was as packed as ever with the usual assortment of over-priced cars and SUVs. As I struggled to find a spot to park my 15 year old Corolla, I couldn't help noticing all the people leaving the mall loaded down with shit that they probably didn't really need. Inside, the mall seemed about as crowded as ever with the typical garish, self-absorbed drones--drinking Starbuck lattes, of course--who have always shopped there.

Am I just living in a land-o-plenty in an otherwise struggling country, or are these people simply incapable of reducing their consumption after so many decades of habitual buying? My guess is that it is the latter. We are so used to deriving our happiness and meaning from what we buy that the idea of reducing consumption is sacrilege to many Americans.

The good part of all this is that those of us who have been living prudently will ultimately benefit from the inability of our neighbors to stop shopping. They may drive their own families into bankruptcy because they must have the latest Ipod or flat screen TV, but this sort of desperate consumption is probably all that stands between us and total economic annihilation. Certainly, if the economy of the United States had to depend exclusively upon cheap bastards like myself, we'd all be in very big trouble. All I can say is, thank god for other people's addictive tendencies!!!

Popular Posts