Warning: This isn’t a normal geek/tech post. There must be something in the digital air that is promoting personal posts this week…

I don’t typically read more than a few skimmed words in Rothman’s first section on his regular posts (they’re always more personal), but today I read a bit more. “I can only hope at least some of us have gotten past the greed of the past 20 years. I know that’s being way too idealistic, but we can hope, no?”

Yeah, sadly, I’m not even that optimistic to even think that. 🙂 Sometimes economic woes can be caused by natural issues (both nature and just natural economic cycles) or global influences. But, in my non-expert opinion, our current climate was caused by the confluence of just two* things: greed and affluence-addiction.

Greed. There’s no real need to expound on this topic. Corporations are greedy, individuals in corporations are greedy, and individuals themselves are greedy. It just gets back to one of the insinuated tenets of capitalism: always increase profits. There is no plateau, no arrival at happiness or some financial equilibrium of bliss. Unless policy or corp culture/leadership provide hard stops, the risky decisions continue.

Affluence-addiction. Sure, this is my own term I made up today, but it’s what I feel drives too-high mortgages/household budgets, gas-guzzling but “impresses the coworkers” SUV tanks and v8 cars, and exponential credit debt. Some odd need to always have better, perfect, impressive, and increasingly costly affluent luxuries. The drive that tells someone to go wash their car every 3 days so it looks pretty (especially on Saturday so it looks good in the Sunday church parking lot). I feel this every time I see a report on how some family is having budget issues as they send their kids to private school, drive two cars, and want their 250 channels of cable (or whatever it is people watch today, tivo?). Or drives the decision for a automotive exec to fly in a private jet to beg for money, but then continue to avoid the dirty commercial airlines to drive themselves on their second try.

I like my affluence as much as anyone, and I have my costly hobbies and interests, but I don’t like it being taken to non-practical excess.** I do have a little Emerson or Thoreau in me, and that’s the part writing today. There has got to be something said about the slave-driver weight of debt being indirectly related to happiness…

* Yes, I’m sure there are more, especially the long-term issues like maybe a governmental administration or long-term 9/11 fallout or whathaveyou, but I consider those, ultimately, to be minor influences.

** If you want a popular movie that explores a very similar topic, watch American Beauty. And try to compare every character in the movie on a scale of superficial down towards “underlying value.” A hint: stalker boy is one extreme, real estate wife is the other.