Were going through turbulent economic times. Financial sages are pontificating that the human race has never seen such global financial turmoil. Could this be a worse crisis than the 30’s depression that opened a door to a world war? When things get this bad the blame starts to fly. The tabloids are gunning for the banking community and the city using a variety of combinations of adjectives and animals from “Greedy Pigs” to “City Fat Cats”. Most people seem to be blaming an “irresponsible banking system” for allowing easy credit and offering subprime mortgages.
But we are not forced to borrow. Like my wife, I was brought up in a Lancashire family with a mantra to keep things “pure and simple”. It was ingrained in me to spend only when I have earned it. With my wife we have enjoyed earning and then spending and to this day have never borrowed other than taking on mortgages that were well within our means and on properties that required mortgages of 80% or less of the value.
Research regularly shows that people are unhappier than previous generations’. Despite having more possessions; more food on plates, and access to money, life for many doesn’t appear to be as satisfying as it was for parents and grandparents. I know that from running businesses the only times I have ever really hated work have been when finances have been tight. The worry always impacted on our ability to think creatively.
Could it be that the simple and pure pleasures of a life unencumbered by debt make for a happier recipe? Is the current economic crisis a time to re evaluate where society is? It became accepted by governments and captains of industry, that those calling for a retreat from overconsumption in the face of global warming were worthy but unrealistic dreamers and that a consumption based, capitalist system led by “the market” had raised the developed world’s standard of living and would in time spread the wealth worldwide. But at the moment we are rightly questioning if indeed a market led approach is infallible. The financial system, internationally, has had to be shored up by governments. A market led economy has been embarrassed and has left the world in turmoil. If the model of (over) consumption is making us unhappy, causing environmental problems and hasn’t worked financially then where does that leave us?
Is this a time to experiment? Is it a time to look back to purer times when the real values of work and achievement led to the ability to consume and if we are to believe the research industry,a time when most humans were happier?
Maybe a return to common sense consumerism based purely on creating tangible rather than virtual wealth is what we need. Maybe this deep economic downturn has a silver lining in precipitating a return to “pure and simple” values.