promoting modesty, not luxury

Last night we discussed American culture of consumerism, and efforts made by the government to promote responsible financial practices by individuals.

One of the initiatives mentioned was wealth management (or savings management) education at public schools. This would certainly go a long way, especially if students would be required to attend and participate. I think it was Rachel that proposed that the course be structured as a workshop, rather than drawn out over the course of a semester. This would effectively hold students attention, and give them the opportunity to be exposed to more in-depth applications than they might be able to participate in during a less intensive schedule.

However, in my mind the largest adversary to responsible consumption of income is the glorification of wealth by pop culture. Nowhere else on this planet does mainstream media so aggressively promote luxuries like expensive cars, mansions, jewelry and high fashion as we in America do. Shows like Gossip Girl, the OC and NYC Prep, or artists such as Fergie or Kanye West (not to say that I’m not a fan) knowingly promote shallow ideals for the sake of commercial success through corporate sponsorship.

We need consumer spending to drive our economy. The argument that we should only buy American products is important when considering products like cars that are actually designed and manufactured by stateside companies, but it fails to consider the dependency of major retailers such as Wal Mart or Target on imported goods.

Networks and music labels need to take a stand against promoting expensive living, and instead they need to encourage more modest tastes for their viewers and fans. The ideal of success in the United States has become little more than the car you drive and the square footage of your home. Home sizes have grown arithmetically over the past 40 years when families are not nearly as big as they used to be. Our society has become pressured to overextend its liabilities to fit into our own twisted view of success, and it needs to be reversed.

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