To Consume or Not to Consume, That Is the Question

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2009 12:57 PM CST
Cans of SPAM.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – As Americans cut back on spending, a certain dread creeps in—not of having less, but of what curtailed consumption could mean for the future, Douglas Coupland notes in the New York Times. Sure, “a big drop in consumption sounds like the advent of a new utopia where people stay at home to eat” and “discover life’s simpler pleasures,” Coupland writes. But it also “might mean a societal disaster to rival the fall of the Aztecs.”

“What if we actually do spend 10% less this year,” Coupland continues, “and then decide to stay at that level? Is that healthy? Will China implode?” No one knows what’s around the corner, and “what’s frightening is the fear that our system can’t handle less.” In the end, we must roll with the punches. “We were never really in the future until we hit that edge,” Coupland writes. “Everything we sense in 2009 is going to be new, but that’s what the future was always supposed to be about.”