Monday, August 30, 2010

Home and Revolution

Are political revolutions accompanied by social revolutions?
All of the political commentary seems to posit that sooner or latter the American people will, once again, have confidence, and will start to spend money. The left/right split seems to be whether that confidence will return from the economic top, or from the middle class and bottom.
I ride my bikes all over southern California, and as I move from one block to another, I'm reminded of what pre-Reagan America was like. I'm old enough to remember when people bought houses as homes, and not as investments. I'll roll by block after block of what, 30 years ago, were considered large family homes. And then, sometimes in a new development, or a newer house sited among homes from the fifties, sixties or seventies, a McMansion; a house two or three times larger than it's neighbors. Families didn't get bigger. The lust for square footage did.
The political revolution of the Reagan era was accompanied by a social revolution that was fascinated by ostentatious wealth. Bigger, for the sake of bigger, more for the sake of more. But what if the social revolution of the Obama era is a rejection of excess? We've built an economy that survives through mass consumption. What if the American people now want smaller, more manageable homes? Smaller, more fuel efficient cars? What if the idea of a big screen TV in every room of the house begins to seem silly? If our economy needs excessive consumption to right itself, we might be in big trouble.

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