Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Maybe we'll look back on the Great Recession as a good thing

Obviously, being stuck in it right now, the Great Recession sucks. Hard. But I wonder if someday we'll look back on it and see it as one of the best things that could have happened to the nation?

The other day I blogged about giving up the greed, and how greed is such a root cause of so many problems we face. Greed also manifests in the form of consumers, well, over-consuming. That is, you and me being addicted to buying cheap crap from China.

Last month, marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather released a study showing that this recession might just break us of that addiction.

The study makes fascinating reading, but here are some of the highlights:

Today's worker values security over money and advancement. Fully 75% of those surveyed said they'd take a job that was more secure over one that paid more or promised future raises. Another 75% say they'd rather escape the corporate rat-race entirely than spend their lives climbing the corporate ladder.

Another three quarters say (perhaps unsurprisingly) that they'd rather have more quality time with loved ones than have more money. It would be nice to see a statistic on that question from before the recession, but regardless, it's a reassuring majority who seem to have their priorities straight on this one.

People are tired of spending money on shoddy goods that break quickly and can't be fixed. Yet another three quarters of people surveyed (what is it about that number?) say they'd rather have less stuff, if it were of higher quality, than more stuff. I can empathize; I've lost count of the number of poorly built lamps and other household items my family has brought home from Target, only to have them break or wear out after a year. Ridiculous.

The recession has renewed people's interest in the local economy. With the collapse of the financial system, driven by mega-banks engaging in behaviors that are entirely destructive to "main street" America, people have lost trust in those large financial institutions. Almost 80% of those surveyed said they'd rather see their money stay within the local community. They place more trust in a local economy, one whose actors are local people and businesses they can put a name and a face on, than to have their economic fates resting in the hands of Goldman Sachs and their ilk.

All in all, people's conception of the American Dream is changing, and for the better. If Ogilvy is to be believed, the New American Dream recognizes the value of sustainable behaviors and sustainable careers. The New American Dream recognizes the value of work--that is, actual productive labor--as the driver of America's future success rather than faux-value created through non-productive financial shell games and arbitrage.

The New American Dream is built not on a foundation of greed and consumption, but rather, on more meaningful values. Quality of life, rather than quantity of stuff. Sustainability, as the report says, is the new happiness.

If that's true, I for one will be dancing in the streets.


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