Like most Americans, perhaps all Americans including our leaders, I don’t understand the economic mess we’re in or how to get us out of it. But I do understand that all the leading economists are saying the we need to get consumers spending again; that consumption is the key to getting our economy back on track, our workers working, retailers retailing, idled factories factoring, and Detroit producing crummy (sorry, better) cars again.
Our capitalist economy is built on the assumption of constantly expanding markets, creating demand where there was none, tapping into unserved markets (China, anyone?), getting kid version of adult products and adult versions of kid products, ad infinitum.
Does anyone really think this model is infinitely sustainable? Surely the smartest people in the room, including the Oval Office, have read the same research as I that suggests bringing the entire population of the earth to a “Western” standard of living will require several times the amount of resources currently available on our planet.
In the long run, the very basis of our economy may need to shift from consumption as the cornerstone of growth to sustainability. Products with the longest shelf life, the longest mean-time-between-failures, and the longest planned obsolescence cycles will be the ones that win in the market.
Meanwhile, getting us to spend, spend, spend seems a bit like fiddling while Rome burns and the ice melts.