As said before, there's lot to the topic. If people didn't consume, what would drive the economy? Well, we can discuss that at another time (Todo #1). Throughout this post, other topics are identified for further attention.
In the meantime, we can recall Maslov's contribution to the subject, via his hierarchy. The most basic consumption is for health and welfare, including housing, food, and such. Then, all sorts of discretionary things stack up after that.
Which brings up this question, can a subdued consumption pattern sustain a happy life? An associated question is, can one stay within one's means and be happy? Does this not lead to a certain degree of independence? (Todo #2).
Many possible variations exist to the theme of consumption, but, a topic to cover now, since Washington is heavy into these discussions due to the large unemployment rate, concerns jobs. As, without jobs, with what do we consume?
As an aside, wage is generally the major factor for labor and can spawn interminable discussions. However, the model ought to consider, too, 'rent' as it may apply to labor, within the context of a society. Seems that the best-and-brightest have already figured this out. This needs further discussion (Todo #3).
Now, one factor in US job availability is globalization, now the new colonialistic scheme. Recently, PhilG's blog mentioned that even Sikorsky is making things abroad, and they're heavily defense oriented (mind you, paid by taxpayer dollars). That is, the US Defense has farmed out oodles of work. In particular, Sikorsky has producing plant in China.
Looking at the post, and the comments, sort of motivates this post, as the issue of outhousing is still very much open (Todo #4).
There has been a lot of talk about how US consumers have gone too far, to the point of massive debt and to thinking that their houses were ATMs. (We need to look at those who lure the consumer into debt, too -- see this piece found at Philg's.). Okay, we have more savings being reported, now over the past year, which bears some discussion (Todo #5). Yet, it is reported, too, that other countries save more, in particular we hear China and India mentioned.
Well, we must consider that China and India differ from the US in many cultural ways that are very important. For one, neither of these nations can claim a ‘dream’ for its people (no matter how tenuous this might seem in reality for most US citizens). Or, in other words, who is beating down the door to move there in droves? Too, in the case of China, the government is forcing the savings. How many trips have there been to China, on the part of the US, to talk them into letting their people spend?
Oh yes, American business people are beating down the doors. Are these not the new colonialists?
Both countries have cultural and social problems that bear attention. A Business Week article mentions a police officer in India, living under a bridge. He's quoted as saying that a swank hotel won't even let them use the toilet.
The US may not be perfect, however we do have some things going for us. Labor, those who are now without jobs, do have rights such as those mentioned in the Constitution. One problem right now is that the upper classes, supposedly those favored in the Capitalist's view, are very good at diminishing the rights of Labor and, at the same time, in arguing why their take (sometimes, outright thievery) is that which the law condones. (Todo #6).
So, as old man Ford is quoted as saying, we need to pay the workers in order to have them buy stuff. Of course, in his day, 'stuff' was not inferior, throw away, imports (Todo #7).
12/13/2011 -- McKinsey report shows that households hold over 40% of the world's wealth. Hence, the consumer as the major influence on the economy. Now, consider that the household wealth collection (using income in the U.S. as a proxy) is skewed to a very small bunch.
12/09/2009 -- Cannot sustain the consumer with debt.
12/04/2009 -- Frugality as a way to riches.