We’re doomed unless we can learn – an ominous case study

Anyone paying attention knows that America shops too much and saves too little.  Fifty years of this has left a large fraction of households at the brink of bankruptcy, and the nation grossly indebted to foreign nations (e.g., Japan, China, members of OPEC).  Yet every month sees Wall Street cheer when we spend more than we make.  Worse, every holiday season sees otherwise intelligent folks cheering us on to shop until we drop.

Perhaps they think it’s funny.  If so, with millions of American at risk of either losing their home, bankruptcy, or both — they have an odd sense of humor.

Perhaps we’re mad.  Repeating the same mistake (shopping instead of savings), each time hoping to find happiness — but getting just things and weaker finances. 

My guess:  it’s symptomatic of a people who don’t realize that it’s a new era.   America’s future lies not in shopping.  The era of feckless borrowing and spending has ended.  It’s payback time for past shopping; time for finding a new path.

Today’s evidence comes from Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.  Perhaps as a tenured law professor he lives in a different world than most Americans, secure and well-paid.

THEY’VE BEEN SERVING WITH DISTINCTION SINCE RIGHT AFTER SEPTEMBER 11, but can we count on the Retail Support Brigade to save America one more time? I’m not sure. With doubts about where the national leadership is taking them and whether it values their sacrifice, and whether it will support them in the crunch, it’s hard for me to recommend re-enlistment at this point. On the other hand, I’ll be spending about the same as last year, but, as usual, mostly online. (26 November 2009)

LOOKING AHEAD to Black Friday. “The real test, though, will not be when the Black Friday numbers come out in a few days. Rather, it will be whether retailers can sustain a decent sales level without phenomenal discounts.” (26 November 2009)

RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: So the Insta-Daughter and an Insta-Niece braved West Town Mall at 5 a.m. this morning. They report that it was “semi-crowded,” but no better than last year. (27 November 2009)

It’s not just blindness.  He wrote similar things in November 2008 — as the world burned during the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s.  Some people just never learn.  Let’s hope he’s atypical of Americans, or we’re doomed.  Here’s a post from the FM archives, dated 13 December 2008:

Summary:  The madness of early 21st century America will baffle future generations.  Esp our determination to spend ourselves to destruction, borrowing to maintain a lifestyle beyond our income.

Our cure requires looking at ourselves, seeing past our optimism and hubris to the causes of our problems:  as Michael Jackson says, the man in the mirror.  These posts illustrate the madness, esp the later ones written in the midst of a destructive cycle of debt deflation whose end we cannot see.

Here we see posts by Glen Reynolds, the Instapundit — a sample of a great many such posts.  I use them not because he is foolish (he’s not), but because he is an intelligent man — a law professor at the University of Tennessee — who runs one of the most important nodes on the Internet.  His views are influential, his access to information beyond those of almost everybody.  As such he illustrates an important aspect of America’s problems.

This is astonishing, cheering for exactly the opposite of what an over-indebted, over-shopped nation needs.  Perhaps he considers these to be funny.  Perhaps they are, just like passing out booze at meetings of Alcohol Anonymous — and cheering the resulting drunkenness.

Think of these posts when next you read that our problems result from corrupt or stupid leaders, or evil plutocrats.  These posts reflect our attitudes.  They reflect an important aspect of America.

Perhaps you too find these funny, or trivial.  Bookmark this post.  In a few years, after going through the economic destruction already descending upon us, I suspect the madness of these will become obvious to all.

The Instapundit urges salvation through shopping, a peculiarly American insanity

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