December 31, 2009

HERE'S ALL YOU HAVE TO KNOW ABOUT HOW EASY LIFE IS AT THE END OF HISTORY...:

Best Decade Ever: Sure, the 2000s brought war, terrror, and economic misery. But Reihan Salam sees a magical decade that created peace and prosperity that will be with us for years. (Reihan Salam, 12/31/09, Daily Beast)

The fact that Americans are willing to spend borrowed money on flat-screen televisions and souped-up video game consoles and hybrid electric vehicles has led us to an era of painful deleveraging, one of the things moralistic scolds are quick to condemn about the Big Zero. But this eagerness to buy, buy, buy also helped the country maintain its technological leadership. Economist Amar Bhidé, perhaps the decade's most underappreciated thinker, has argued that one of the key strengths of the American economy is what he calls "venturesome consumption"—the willingness of consumers to try untested new goods and to invest the time and effort necessary to figure out how to use them. The gadget geeks who always have to have the latest and greatest gadgets help the rest of us by creating a large enough market for innovative products to eventually drive prices down to earth. This is in some respects very risky behavior, a small-scale version of the risks taken by entrepreneurs. The geeks are guinea pigs, after all. Yet it means that inventors across the world are striving to create products that can crack the lucrative American market.

The perfect example of venturesome consumption is, of course, iPhone-mania. At first, the iPhone was a way for people to cram a cell phone, iPod, and datebook in the slender pockets of your skinny jeans. With the advent of applications, it's become an infinitely expandable device that is much more like a baby computer than a cellphone on steroids. It's only natural that people are increasingly transitioning from expensive laptops to cheapo netbooks that work on the rare occasions when the iPhone won't do the job. The iPhone is leading us towards an age of constant connectivity. In the not-too-distant future, your phone, smaller than a fingernail or perhaps a strand of hair, will constantly monitor your vital signs, just in case you're on the verge of catching a cold. It will even warn you when an ex is around the corner, sparing you an awkward encounter. And without this low dishonorable decade, it would never have happened. Astonishing increases in the quality of the goods we consume like these won't be captured in crude measurements like GDP, despite the fact that it is a real source of wealth. As grumpy as you might feel on New Year's Eve, would you really want to go back to the bulky CD players, the lousy supermarkets, and the VHS cassettes of yesteryear? Of course not.


...one can, with a straight face, refer to an economic slowdown that was shorter than a pregnancy as an "era."

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 31, 2009 3:49 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« IT'S A 60-40 NATION: | Main | MAN JUST DOESN'T MATTER MUCH: »