Less Able to Plan

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Gillian Tett of The Finacial Times discusses and comments on the results uncovered of several private studies of American buying habits versus known pay and benefit cycles. These studies have revealed a marked recent deterioration in the American standard of living:

Before 2007 ... consumer spending on food and drink was fairly stable during the month in most US cities. But since 2007, spending patterns have become extremely volatile. More and more consumers appear to be living hand-to-mouth, buying goods only when their pay checks, food stamps or benefit money arrive. And this change has not simply occurred in the poorest areas: even middle-class districts are prone to these swings. ...
I have to agree with Tett that this is alarming.
The second reason I find this trend intriguing - if not tragic - is what it reveals about our attitude towards time. During most of the past century, it has often seemed as if a hallmark of modern "progress" [sic] is that our planning horizons, as a society, have expanded. Unlike peasants or herdsmen in the pre-modern age, who lacked the ability to measure the passage of time or calculate future risks with precision, 20th-century man appeared to have so much control over the environment that it was possible - and desirable - to take a long-term view. No longer were people destined to scramble in a reactive manner; they could plan ahead, mastering time. The fact that people were no longer foraging for food each day, but were able to visit a supermarket proactively at pre-planned intervals, was a good metaphor for a much bigger social and cognitive shift. [bold added]
Improper government, in the form of central "planning" and the redistribution of looted wealth, is to blame for our current economic hardship, but many people, buffeted by the storm will understandably (but mistakenly) seek any port, even if that means more of the same. This doesn't mean we are doomed, but it does mean that people need to be aware of a positive alternative to this state of affairs in a hurry.

-- CAV

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