Posted on November 25, 2008
Perspective I started this morning with the bad news that somebody stole the tires off my car right in front of my house. During the afternoon, I witnessed a horrific car crash that narrowly missed me, my son, my mother and my father-in-law. Had I been a little quicker on the gas pedal, I would have had a semi-trailer truck plow through my door, and I would have been a goner. Talk about putting it all in perspective. Churchill once said that there is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at and missed. There was nothing exhilarating about not getting hit by that big truck. It was terrifying. But it helped me put everything in perspective. The stolen tires aren’t nearly as important as they once seemed. I actually think that is what is happening in a bigger sense with many Americans in this down economy. As people stare into the financial abyss, they are putting it all in perspective. They are buying things that they need, not things that they kind of want for some indefinable reason. They are looking for greater value for the things they do buy. And they are not defining themselves by the things they buy, but by the things they do for others. This is a noteworthy and laudable goal. But it is also bad for the economy. So much consumer spending is a complete waste. Do we really need all of that stuff? Do our kids really need all of those toys? Does my wife really need another pair of shoes? Does the family really need a new car, or does the old clunker work just fine? All across the country, families are making these decisions and they are voting to spend a lot less. In normal times, this would be good. Frugality, responsibility, efficiency, all used to be common values in the America. Now, they may just sink the economy. This says a lot more about the state of our economy than it does about those timeless values. Ben Franklin used to say “waste not, want not.” It is a good rule of thumb. And it helps us put it all in perspective.