Golden Oldies: Consumer Nation

This post, from November 2006, merits repeating as the consequences of America's consumer spending binge become apparent:
As the holidays roll around again, and we hear about "Black Friday," the busiest shopping day of the year, and we hear radio ads for furniture and electronics with easy credit and no payments until next year, I am again amazed at the magnitude and breadth of America's consumer culture.

America now has a zero or even negative savings rate. The average American spends as much or more than he makes, hoping that home prices will keep rising so rapidly that he'll never actually have to work to pay off the debt.

In the 1700's, people sold themselves into indentured servitude to make a new life in the New World. Now people sell themselves into indentured servitude for a new stereo. Every gadget you buy today means hours, days, weeks, or months more that you'll be working for the man instead of enjoying retirement.

As a rabid capitalist, I believe that free markets are by far the most efficient, most rational, and most moral way for people to organize their economic behavior. But watching people sell themselves into debt for the fleeting high of buying the latest hot car, plasma TV, or clothing seriously challenges those beliefs. I think I know how God feels when he gives people free will and then watches them choose to use it having their colons perforated by horses.

Intellectually, I'm a capitalist and free-marketer. But my heart lies with the smelly hippies at Adbusters. Free markets would work better if people used them responsibly.

So go ahead and run up your credit cards buying what they tell you to buy on TV. Make no payments until June 2007!!! I have stock in Amazon and Wal-Mart and other retailers, manufacturers, and credit card providers, so you're putting money in my pocket. But I don't respect you for it.

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