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Friday, October 14, 2005

Come join us in the quicksand!

It has been calculated that if everyone in the world lived like Americans do, we would require several additional planets to support them. Massive vehicles driven massive miles, giant homes using lots of heat and electricity on large lots requiring lots of water and mowing, high-meat diets requiring far more land than vegetarian diets do, plus tons and tons of nearly useless consumer crap purchased continuously on credit--our lifestyle is only possible because we are stealing resources from the past (oil, coal), the future (deficits, pollution), other countries (oil, cheap labor), and our own (outsourcing, low wages, environmental destruction). The planet is screaming in protest.

So why is our Treasury Secretary trying to convince another 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of the world's population, people who are and will increasing be in direct competition with us for remaining scarce resources, to be consumers just like us? From the NY Times:
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, touring this village in the Sichuan province to promote "financial modernization," urged China on Thursday to take lessons from the United States on how to spend more, borrow more and save less.

Mr. Snow argued that China's consumers and entrepreneurs are badly in need of financial sophistication offered by American banks and investment banks.

As he wandered through a thriving farmers' market and a traditional rural credit cooperative, Mr. Snow said that with better credit, Chinese families would be able to spend more money, buy more goods and perhaps reduce China's huge trade surplus with the United States.

"Good credit facilitation and consumer finance is going to help consumers buy more things," Mr. Snow said.

"We see consumerism and consumer credit as going directly to the thing we have most on our minds - the global imbalances."
This is so mind-numbingly insane that I can only figure that Snow is trying to make the war in Iraq appear less crazy by comparison. Any government more concerned with "global imbalances" than with global survival is insane, criminal--Republican. American-style consumerism and credit isn't the cure--it's the disease. John De Graff, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor have even given the disease a name--Affluenza, which is a book you really should read if you haven't already. (Just thinking about the chapter on how the 30-hour workweek was rejected in favor of more stuff still makes me mad!)