I listened to the most recent Munk Debate today. The Munk Debates are formal debates featuring high-profile experts in their fields which are funded by Peter and Melanie Munk. They take place in Toronto. The resolution of the most recent debate was as follows:
Be it resolved: North America faces a Japan-style era of high unemployment and slow growth.
Arguing for the affirmative were Paul Krugman and David Rosenberg. Arguing for the negative were Lawrence Summers and Ian Bremmer. It was not a particularly inspiring debate.
But what struck me was that all four debaters assumed the solution to the economic woes of the modern world lay in increased consumption. In fact at one point the very idea of a fundamental change in consumption patterns was mocked. I was reminded of Jon Arbuckle’s mother (of the Garfield comic strip). When Jon and Garfield went to visit all his mother said was, “Eat, eat, eat.”
It’s amusing when a comic strip character says it. It’s alarming when someone with the credentials (both in industry and government) of Larry Summers says it. Granted, he served under Clinton, and Clinton, by all accounts, was an “Eat, eat, eat!” sort of guy, but I don’t think that’s a good excuse.
It makes me pessimistic that we will find our way out of this mess when everyone involved in the debate won’t even consider the possibility that excess consumption might be a major (and possibly the major) contributor to the mess we’re in.
I suppose that’s a grinchy sort of thing to say one week before Christmas. But on the other hand, as an Orthodox person I can appeal to the Christmas fast and say that historically this is one of the four seasons of abstinence rather than consumption. …
Oh my, what came over me? Don’t buy stuff???? Quit reading this heretical blog and go to the mall! After all, according to Larry, et. al., this mess we’re in is all your fault.
At the very least, eat, eat, eat!