Spend Away

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Professor of history at Rutgers University and the author of Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your SoulJames Livingston takes the counterintuitive view that under-consumption wrecked the economy.


James Livingston

Comments [20]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

As Dr. Dutta (my Economics101 professor when I was at Rutgers) taught me, I = S, dude.

Negative savings rates for the middle wage earners forces the investment capital to be derived either a) internally, i.e goods are priced above the market clearing price in order to generate the additional capital or b) borrowed from the 1%. Since the Johnson Administration, middle class wages have (barely) kept pace with inflation - and savings rates have plummeted. Our economy produces an additional $5T/yr over inflation AND ALL OF THAT GOES TO THE TOP TIER EARNERS.

I think Dr. Livingston should have stuck to history.

Dec. 07 2011 07:00 PM
SV from Brooklyn

This guy is a joke. I honestly can't believe he's a professor at Rutgers. I haven't read the book, but Levingston seems like a complete buffoon, so I'm already biased against anything he has to say. What a disappointment to have such an idiotic conversation on Brian Leher's time.

Dec. 07 2011 01:47 PM
Zaftig from BKLYN

Mr. Livingston raises good questions, but I don't agree... Brief interactions with people during Black Friday are a pretty pathetic form of social interaction. If we all lived in villages where we knew the butcher and the baker, shopping might have more social value, but how many of us go to Target or Wal-Mart and recognize or have meaningful interactions with the staff there? And how is a person who cares deeply about their appearance more altruistic than someone who doesn't? Buying can be hugely guided by social influence, but people's motivations for buying "stuff" are hugely driven by insecurity and fabricated desire. Sorry, but I'm not buying it. (Literally and figuratively)

Dec. 07 2011 11:55 AM

Uhmm, is it just me or is this guy making ABSOLUTELY NO sense, whatsoever...???

Dec. 07 2011 11:55 AM
John from NYC

I would like to suggest that you interview the authors of the book "What is the Economy For Anyway? This is a recent book and the authors are John DeGraaf and David Batker. This would provide another perspective.

Dec. 07 2011 11:51 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

I dunno......he was on the right track when he talked about wage stagnation...after that, he's kind of running off the rails.

But he's right about wage stagnation. Stopping wage stagnation is the only way to save this country. Increasing the income gap, giving the rich tax cuts and destroying the middle class, as the Ayn Rand loving Repiglicans want will ensure that this country keeps spiraling downward in decline.

Dec. 07 2011 11:48 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Love the hysterical crazy laugh from the guest. Sums this conversation up nicely.

Dec. 07 2011 11:46 AM
Robert from NYC

When did the definition of Narcissism make a 180 turn around!?

Dec. 07 2011 11:46 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

No way. Mr. Livingston is being self-indulgent here...
"Spending" is usually mindless and uncontrolled -- qualities that are degenerative and should be discouraged. This is different from having money and making informed purchases of goods in which the health of the overall economy could be a reasonable consideration.

Dec. 07 2011 11:43 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

Has this guy ever heard of people *not* having a big family that they love?

Dec. 07 2011 11:39 AM
Norman Coady from brooklyn

How is it that a professor can't apprehend we have entered a new period of history? This is the same old song and dance. With the rise of population, rival nation, there is no way to keep consumption at the same rate as it has been since the end of the cold war.

On a side note, I know how consumption treats me on a personal level, and it ain't good. Community is what makes me feel good, not consumption. Listening to the professor tip toe through the tulips on this subject is making me dizzy.

It may sell some books, but guess what you can't buy or sell? Karma.

Dec. 07 2011 11:39 AM
harvey r neptune

the academy hired now hired out to justify consumerism, indeed to deify it as even good for our 'souls.' I hope Brian would please step back and address this big question: for whom is he really speaking????

Dec. 07 2011 11:39 AM
EC from b'klyn

Henry Ford: "Mass production... requires mass consumption." So reversing wage stagnation is a key here... and no one in DC is talking about that.

Dec. 07 2011 11:38 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Oh well, he has a nice reasonable sounding voice so it makes it easy to listen. BUT I disagree, and I can see where having a contrarian view might get you a radio interview.

More theories hatched up in the Ivory Tower.

Dec. 07 2011 11:37 AM
R. from Manhattan

If this guy gets me a nice job with HEALTH CARE and paid vacation, sick days and holidays, I would be happy to spend more money.

Where I work we get a week off at the holidays WITH NO PAY. And this is an office. I have a college degree.

That means no presents, bub. Welcome to reality.

Dec. 07 2011 11:34 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I'm all for people spending during the holidays but I humbly ask the Professor - should people go into debt to do so?

Dec. 07 2011 11:33 AM
John A. speaking from experience

Something from my notebook: 'Immorality rises to consume all available cash.'
Waste (overspending) is good for localized profiteering but bad for the organism taken as a whole that is our country. And that's even without mention of the Planet environment and International security.
(A secret benefit of morality and with it religion is that it saves money for its practitioners and gives them back useful efficiency)

Dec. 07 2011 10:40 AM
Jim from Brookline


Dec. 07 2011 10:14 AM

If consumers had money they would spend it. consumers will even spend money when they don’t have it. the problem is that wealth is so concentrated at the top that the middle class is being squeezed. Buying more junk to full the mcmansions suddenly doesn’t seem to be so important

Dec. 07 2011 09:48 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

I can't wait to hear Mr. Livingston justify this train of thought!

Dec. 07 2011 09:24 AM

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