Why this recession may be good for us 2


dollarsNo, I am not thinking that unemployment is good. It ain’t, and I know about it as I am myself currently seeking employment. However, this recession is the occasion for us to embrace a more sustainable development.

Less money means we have to reduce the amount of stuff we buy and focus back more on our NEEDS instead of our WANTS. The Pew Research Center shows that this begins to happen in the United States.

Similar trends have been found in France and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the case in other rich and developed countries.

As the Pew Research Center noted:

From the kitchen to the laundry room to the home entertainment center, Americans are paring down the list of familiar household appliances they say they can’t live without, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project.

No longer do substantial majorities of the public say a microwave oven, a television set or even home air conditioning is a necessity. Instead, nearly half or more now see each of these items as a luxury. Similarly, the proportion that considers a dishwasher or a clothes dryer to be essential has dropped sharply since 2006.

These recession-era reevaluations are all the more striking because the public’s luxury-versus-necessity perceptual boundaries had been moving in the other direction for the previous decade. For example, the share of adults who consider a microwave a necessity was just 32% in 1996. By 2006, it had shot up to 68%.

But it has now retreated to 47%. Similarly, just 52% of the public in the latest poll say a television set is a necessity — down 12 percentage points from 2006 and the smallest share to call a TV a necessity since this question was first asked more than 35 years ago.

(…) In addition to exploring these shifts in consumer perceptions, the Pew Research survey asked respondents about a range of belt-tightening strategies and behaviors triggered by the recession, which officially began in December 2007.

It finds that eight-in-ten adults have taken specific steps of one kind or another to economize during these bad times. Almost six-in-ten say they are shopping more in discount stores or are passing up name brands in favor of less expensive varieties. Nearly three-in-ten adults say they’ve cut back spending on alcohol or cigarettes. About one-in-four say they’ve reduced spending on their cable or satellite television service or canceled the service altogether.

About one-in-five say they’ve gone with a less expensive cell phone plan, or canceled service. One-in-five say they’ve started mowing their own lawn or doing home repairs rather than pay others for the service. And about one-in-five adults say they are following the example of first lady Michelle Obama and are making plans to plant a vegetable garden to save money on food.

(…)Yesterday’s Necessities Become Today’s Luxuries

In hard times, the Pew Research survey finds that many Americans are changing their minds about which everyday goods and services they consider essential and which ones they could live without. The survey also shows that “old-tech” household appliances have fared the worst in the public’s reassessment of the line between luxury and necessity in their daily lives.

Of 12 items tested, six dropped significantly in the necessity rankings from 2006 to 2009, while the other six basically held their own. All of the “old-tech” household appliances on the list dropped in their necessity ratings. For example, the proportion of people who rate a clothes dryer as a necessity fell by 17 percentage points in the past three years. There are similar declines for the home air conditioner (16 points), the dishwasher (14 points) and the television set (12 points).

More globally, this recession is also the dreamed opportunity to think again about economic growth and GDP.

No President will be elected – yet ? – by saying that economic growth is preposterous and that we got to start decreasing our lifestyles. Because most of us still want more and more. Ad nauseam.

However, it’s high time to understand that our current system focusing on economic growth is wrong. (Ooops, I may now be referred to a dangerous socialist or even worse.) Indeed, infinite growth in a finite world can’t last forever. Let’s focus again on happiness, on being instead of having…

What do you think ?


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2 thoughts on “Why this recession may be good for us

  • Kiashu

    The problem is that while people consume less during a recession, afterwards they spring back with more consumption than ever.

    The children of the Great Depression grew up to be the first big consumers of the 1950s. The recession of the 1970s was followed by the “greed is good” of the 1980s. The recession of the 1990s was followed by the housing bubble, granite kitchen benchtops, and SUVs.

    It’s as we saw with Cuba,

    “people are naturally conservative, that is reluctant to change, but will change when it’s necessary to their survival. If given the chance, they’ll try to go back to the old way of doing things, mixed in somewhat with the new ways.”

  • Edouard Post author

    Kiashu, you forget the environmental issues. This might change – to my humble opinion, I have to admit – a lot of things.

    Indeed, these factors (pollution, loss of biodiversity, energy scarcity… should I continue) will stay after the recession.

    In any case, many thanks for your comment. I look forward to reading you soon here ! 🙂