Hat tip to my friend Jeff who brought this excellent editorial by Katherine Lewis to my attention. A few weeks ago I asked why economists are always acting like spending more is good for the economy - when common sense suggests it's bad for the individuals actually IN the economy. And can trashing the planet be a good idea? It just doesn't add up. Lewis asks the same question.
By KATHERINE REYNOLDS LEWIS c.2008 Newhouse News Service
Economists are fretting that consumer spending might fall for the first time since 1991, pushing the United States into a recession.
Global stock markets are in turmoil, and with reason: American consumers account for about one-fifth of the world economy. The Federal Reserve Board's sudden interest rate cut and the stimulus package being debated in Washington both are aimed at keeping cash flowing from our pocketbooks.
But since when did consumption — our willingness to buy food, clothes, cars, electronics, appliances and homes — become our defense against economic collapse?
It wasn't always this way.
In the 19th century, the word "consumption" meant tuberculosis, notes Stuart Ewen, a historian at the City University of New York.
"The term consume ... meant to use up, to destroy, to lay waste. Consumption really was about destruction," Ewen said. "The idea of using things up in a world of scarcity was anathema. It was not celebrated."
Click here to read the entire essay.
Katherine Reynolds Lewis can be contacted at katherine.lewis(at)newhouse.com)
photo from Garden State Earth Institute