Posts Tagged ‘American Dream’

How about consumer confidence to buy less?

Good news! Consumer confidence drops in October.

Where’s the good news there, you ask? Doesn’t this portend a slowing economy, perhaps a recession? After all, our economy lives and dies on consumer spending. If we consumers aren’t optimistic about the future, we’re going to reel in our spending. And that will bring businesses to their knees and cost us our jobs.

Or at least that’s what we have been led to believe for years and years.

No, I don’t yet see the good news in the fall in consumer confidence. But I do look forward to the day when consumers are actually confident enough to spend less — not more. I mean, look at what we’re being told by those guiding our economy: We are to be afraid, very afraid, when surveys tell us that collectively we may spend less in the months ahead. We have learned to use that fear of spending less as a motivation to spend more so we protect our economy, jobs and way of life.

Americans are conditioned to believe it’s consume or bust. But I’m pretty sure we have things turned upside down here. We’re in an age of rapidly disappearing natural resources, a warming atmosphere and exploding consumer economies in China, India and elsewhere. Never has it been more evident that too much consumption — not too little — is the thing we ought to be concerned about most.

In other words, strong consumer confidence, as it’s defined today, is as much a negative social and environmental indicator as a positive economic indicator. If we could somehow find ourselves in an economy built on limited consumption of material goods, we would track our collective confidence in buying less. Meaning, we are optimistic that if we save our money or spend it on non-material stuff, the economy will prosper, and so will we.

I recognize I’m dreaming here. But look where our existing American Dream has taken us.