Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As Gone As Hugh Hefner’s Virginity

Goodbye 2008, and good riddance. Over the course of the year, the DOW has suffered the worst loss since 1931, but the financial geniuses in Washington just got around to calling this mess a “recession” last month. Based on that, I’d like to offer my humble prediction for 2009. A year from now, the word “recession” will be replaced with the word “depression,” even though the official spin may still be another year behind the actual economic reality. Here’s why I’m so sure about this.

We are told that the thing holding back an economic recovery is the lack of consumer confidence. When consumer confidence returns, the economic good times will also come back. The problem is— consumer confidence will never return, at least not in the previous incarnation. For the last 30 years or so, consumers were confident that they could have everything that they saw advertised on television regardless of their ability to pay for it. Palatial houses, gigantic pickup trucks, Nike tennis shoes, jewelry, billboard-sized flat screen televisions, palm-held electronic devices that can do everything but cook dinner, and endless mouthwatering food of every variety served up in trendy restaurants full of happy, extravagant mealtime patrons— all of this purchased on the tab, thanks to unsecured credit that flowed from those miraculous plastic cards. This is the glittering picture that reflected consumer confidence, but now it’s as gone as Hugh Hefner's virginity, and it's never coming back.

What’s happened is that a whole lot of people have suddenly realized that much of the stuff they were buying was stuff they didn’t actually need. It’s this word, “need,” and the concept behind it that’s thrown the trolley off the track. Conspicuous consumerism always relied on people thinking in terms of “want” rather than “need,” and this only became possible when the bulk of the population became young enough to not remember the Great Depression. Now, the old timers who always understood the concept of “need” are being joined by several new generations who are learning about “need” for the first time. This isn’t a trend that will take us back to things as they were.

There’s an old saying from the 1930s. “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.” People in hard economic times always seem to discover the wisdom of this old saying for themselves, and they remember it when times get better. It’s not a bad thing.

1 comment:

StoneCypher said...

Clearing out disagreeing viewpoints, are we?

Slippery slope.