Saturday, January 31, 2009

Save or Spend

Spend or save? That is the question. For us that’s easy. I’m unemployed right now, so we are definitely trying to save, not spend. As a friend of my wife’s put it, “Our new motto around the house is if we don’t need to eat it we don’t need to buy it.”

That’s a pretty good motto and we have adopted it except we have modified it slightly to include drink too. After all, human beings die pretty quickly when deprived of water. As a country we have entered that space where we are in danger of falling into what John Maynard Keynes referred to as the Paradox of Thrift. In layman’s terms Keynes posited that if we all save when times are hard, then overall savings go down because people in general consume less and we all become poorer as a result of it. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it? That's why it's a paradox. He explains it much better than I ever will.

In all my years I have never seen this kind of systemic economic malaise. I’m not an economist, but what I see is that even the people who aren’t struggling right now are waiting, waiting when they normally would be spending and stimulating the economy. They are waiting because they are unsure of what lies ahead, uncertain of whether they too will be struggling two days from now. Inaction is not a good thing.

What this country needs is a visit to a doctor who will pull down its pants, bend it over and give it a giant shot of B12 in each butt cheek. The first shot is jobs and the second is consumer confidence. We need these injected into the system post haste.

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