Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 24, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE RAT RACE....Ezra "Happy Z" Klein say that keeping up with the Joneses is making us all miserable:

But there's an easy solution. Stop. Pull out of the competition. Seriously ask whether you want to continue trading away your time for your stuff. And that requires ignoring what your neighbors have. It requires shutting your eyes against short-term incentives and trying to remember what actually makes you happy, what you tend to remember when each year closes out. It requires keeping a little of that Thanksgiving litany in mind, even after the meal is forgotten and marshmallows and yams again seem an absurd combination.

Well. Ditch the marshmallows and yams? Take a break from the rat race? Reconnect with your fellow man? Is this what happens to products of the Irvine public school system after a few years in our nation's capital? Hmmph.

Kevin Drum 12:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

Well, I'm not a product of the Irvine public school system, but I'm a 20-year citizen of the suburbs of the nation's capital, have a husband who works inside the Beltway as a defense contractor, and worked for awhile for one myself (I'm now a freelance writer.) -- and I've reached that point. We watched our friends buy mega homes and fancy cars and wished we had the same, but really liked our housepayment and living within our means. Now, I look around in satifaction of the choices we made and the comfortable existence we now have, while I watch the foreclosures all around us and families still needing two incomes to exist in this area. It's nice to slow down and enjoy life.

Posted by: pol on November 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I spent 6 minutes in a store yesterday, returning an item. I was not up at 4 AM, nor looking for a parking place in a crowded mall. My wife and I want nothing for Christmas. For each of my children, I will buy a jackknife (20,17,17). They need nothing either, although one child would like a $1000 camera - ha ha. I will not buy a $1000 diamond set for my wife. We dislike diamonds. I plan on spending very little this Christmas.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 24, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Heretics!

Posted by: A different Matt on November 24, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

I never left the house on Black Friday. Spent a pleasant afternoon sorting through boxes and getting rid of stuff. The combination of not buying anything and culling possessions is entirely satisfying.

Posted by: Snarkworth on November 24, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Ezra is single and paid too much. Many of the rest of us are running as fast as we can just to keep from slipping back.

In other news, Ezra/Matt/Others seem to think that it's okay just to call people racist without realizing how serious that charge is, or how repulsive they look and what they do to all of us by just tossing that charge out.

The new "i r serious blodger" in the liberal blogosphere this weekend is to call Saletan a racist. He may be a fool, he may be ignorant, but the guy is clearly not a racist. I am really disgusted by our serious bloggers this weekend.

They're all having a "dc village pundits must be hawkish on iraq to be serious" festival.

Yuck.

Anyway, Ezra has admitted he'd rather have his iPod toys than a mortgage.

Posted by: not impressed on November 24, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

The economy would run more efficiently if everyone did this. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is a "dependent utility function" (the utility of my car depends on it being fancier than the Joneses' car). The mathematical proof of the general-welfare-maximizing properties of a free market economy depend on utility functions NOT being dependent like that.

Posted by: dr2chase on November 24, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I never left the house on Black Friday. Spent a pleasant afternoon sorting through boxes and getting rid of stuff. The combination of not buying anything and culling possessions is entirely satisfying.

I didn't leave the house, either, but I have to admit that I've done a lot of Christmas shopping online!!

Posted by: pol on November 24, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein - more French than the French! Even as conservative French President Sarkozy is doing his best to have the French work more hours so that they can compete with America and its strong Bush economy, Drum and Klein want America to go back to dark days of Carter and Clinton. The reason why America has the strongest and most widely admired economy in the world is because Americans are willing to work those extra dozen hours and give it the 110% to make more money. If liberals had their way, workers would be out on the streets, waving signs, chanting hippy slogans, and blowing up railroad tracks instead of working hard to make America the strongest and best country in the world.

Posted by: Al on November 24, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Good column, right up to the "easy solution" part. Then he runs afoul of the social-animal factor. We are social animals, and we are socially competitive animals. That's why goods, incomes, etc. are positional.

We're not built to ignore other people's toys -- and if some of us are anomalous exceptions to this rule, our peers, children, mates and/or prospective mates are not.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on November 24, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

From what rock did "al" just crawl from under? Strongest economy in the world? Sounds as if "al" has been listening to too many White House talking points!

Posted by: Don Quixote on November 24, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

GOOD NEWS!!!

A bit off topic, but the Australian Labor party has just defeated the Liberals (the right-wing party in Australia) in the Australian general election. I know it is a bit late, but former Prime Minister John Howard was one of President Bush's staunchest allies in the War in Iraq. And now he's gone. The new prime minister Kevin Rudd plans to withdraw all Australian troops from Iraq.

Anyway, I just thought that I would pass the info along.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071124/ap_on_re_au_an/australia_election

Posted by: Fighting Words on November 24, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

But there's an easy solution. Stop. Pull out of the competition.

Like RonK, I think that this is very facile. Ezra refers to happiness studies to explain what's going on, but he doesn't mention that some of this competition is hardwired into us by evolution. It's not impossible to overcome, but it's certainly not easy. (For example, you might think that young multimillionaires might just retire and enjoy their wealth. How often does that happen? How many stories did we hear during the dot-com bust of people who had millions in the bank and then lost it all? They should have found it trivially easy, according to Ezra, to pull out of the competition.)

Posted by: RSA on November 24, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Let's take a little moment to achieve some honesty here, OK?

It's fine for Ezra Klein to declare the absurdity of keeping up with the Joneses, while he strives as hard as he goddam can for fame by, say, writing columns for the LA Times that every last one of his friends and acquaintances will surely read and/or hear about.

The problem is that just about everyone feels a need to attain some kind of recognition and status among his peers. For all but passing few, writing columns for the LA Times is not among the possible avenues for success. For most, it is far more viable to try to achieve a modicum of status by a little conspicuous consumption.

Of course, the real moral and psychological trick is to find a way to be comfortable with your lot in the absence of any real distinction acknowledged by others.

The obvious self-satisfied smugness and phoniness of Ezra Klein and his ilk when they, in effect, declare their moral superiority on the basis of their non-materialistic inclinations is, for me, always a mite hard to take.

You really want to prove your alleged point? Become a carpenter or an EMT technician, live in obscurity, and be a genuine example to your friends and acquaintances.

Otherwise, you know where I'd like you to put your morally superior advice -- back where it came from.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 24, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I have felt like Ezra has for years. Of course, with a weekly newspaper editor's salary, I'm not the richest person in the world, anyway.

RonK: You're committing the same fallacy of some people who read evolutionary psychology too lightly. Just because "We're not built" for some social/ethical function doesn't mean that "We can't learn" how to engage in a new behavior, because we most certainly can. There's even a field within evolutionary biology, connecting with ev psych, called "social learning."

Fighting Words: Not quite. Rudd has promised to remove Aussie combat troops. Noncombat troops will stay.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 24, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

But franklyO, buying less doesn't have to mean doing less. You can soar like an eagle professionally, and still use some restraint in your material life. When I mentioned above how satisfying it is not to buy stuff, I meant just that -- it's just as enjoyable as stuffing your SUV with Wal-Mart bags. It's not showing off.

Posted by: snarkworth on November 24, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

France!!!France!!!France!!! Mr. Klein is so Gallic. And as far as the "hardwired" aspects of our human nature, what anyone who can effectively step outside the overdetermination of our oh-so-wonderful system of eat or be eaten can see, especially via anthropological research, is the "hardwired" tendency of humans to work only as much as is necessary to get by. And if we want to talk about being "naturally" inclined to the herd instinct, then perhaps the answer is to change the narrative, and thus change the goal of such "instinct." Mr. Klein is right, though; until Americans' lifestyles shift from trying to ameliorate the soul-sucking effects of pure materialism with consumptive consumption, an empire we shall always be.

Posted by: Conrad's Ghost on November 24, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

We did not do what most military/GSA retirees do and set about a second career. We took stock and decided that we would rather continue to live within our means and play with the grandkid and spoil her. Someone else can have those jobs we would be taking and don't really need.

The problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you are still a rat. --Lily Tomlin

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ezra sez:

"Seriously ask whether you want to continue trading away your time for your stuff."

There's a "collective action" problem, though, in labor markets. In most fields, it is not possible to decide to cut your hours down, in exchange for less pay. A significant amount of people might wish to work, say, a 32 hour week for less pay, but the option doesn't exist (outside of very low paying service jobs). I'd like to work 32 hours/week, but in my field 45-55 is the norm. I'd probably have to leave the field entirely, and likely take a 2/3 cut in pay, to work less.

It requires people banding together collectively, or a governmental solution to make the option exist (France's 35 hr. week).

"It's fine for Ezra Klein to declare the absurdity of keeping up with the Joneses, while he strives as hard as he goddam can for fame by, say, writing columns for the LA Times that every last one of his friends and acquaintances will surely read and/or hear about."

I also remember that Klein went right along with his peer group (Ivy league wanna-be serious pundits) in recommending the Iraq War. He couldn't resist the peer pressure there, in his striving for serious pundit status, and the TNR-type gigs that go along with it.

Posted by: luci on November 24, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I like Ezra's work, but seriously, he's 23 years old, appears to be unmarried and childless, and has known nothing but success in his professional life. In other words, he doesn't have the first idea what it's like for most of us, trying to earn a living and make a nice life for our children and, incidentally, trying to find a little pleasure and self-esteem for ourselves.

He really has no basis whatsoever for trying to tell me how I should go about making myself happy.

Posted by: Boots day on November 24, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

al...

looks like you phoned that one in...

Posted by: mr. irony on November 24, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Look douchebags - Our Founding Fathers wrote black friday into the constitution to strengthen America by getting our corporations out of the red at the start of the fiscal year. President Bush recognized America is only as strong as its economy thus hired Santa Clause to move us past deficit spending by (1) authorizing credit agencies to work out of stores, (2) setting up those stores everywhere, (3) reconfiguring our Nation's labor laws to make them more efficient by basing them on His "Toy Shop of America" practices.

That's just like macro economics 101 or something. You people suck.

People who also suck: Hilary Clinton, George Soros, Kevin Drum's cat inkblot, and the media.

Posted by: The One And Only American Hawk/Al bot/Greatest American Ever on November 24, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Don, I would have thought you would have learned to expect a reflection of Al's fantasy world in his posts.

Posted by: stumpy on November 24, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

So Ezra has discovered the 'dropping out' ethos of the 60's and 70's? Good for him. My husband and I have continued to live pretty much like we did as students although his job would have allowed us to join the rat race (we're now in our mid-50's). We're still in our 'starter' home, a little worse for wear, and drive our cars until they die. We just got rid of a 1990 Subaru a few days ago. What interests me about Ezra's column are the psychological aspects of consumerism. My daughter has a part-time job doing real estate photography, upper end stuff. I get to see all her digitalized shots and am ashamed to say I feel a twinge of jealousy at the absolutely luxurious places that some people call home. Then I realize I would feel like a fish out of water in these places. But, even for an old died-in-the-wool drop-out like me, it seems I'm not completely immune to the siren's song (and competitive aspects) of consumerism.

Second point. It seems to me that something's missing in the social fabric of the US. Yeah, we have our nuclear families and our individual interests, better attended to without the rat race for sure, but I miss a feeling of community and communication here in the suburbs. Maybe it's just suburbia, or are people more involved in their private rat races these days at the expense of social interaction?

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I get to see all her digitalized shots and am ashamed to say I feel a twinge of jealousy at the absolutely luxurious places that some people call home.

That surprises me, Nepeta. My first thought is always "Jeebus! What does it take to heat that place???"

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

haha, BGRS. Not to worry with these places. These are an order of magnitude above MacMansions.
Homes of the elite.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

I see a carbon footprint that could (should?) flatten a subdivision.

When we first retired and bought a Kansas City Shirtwaist (an architectural style unique to this city, so far as I know - a masonry first floor and clapboard on the upper floors, and it flares out over the stone or brick) I about fell over when I opened the first power bill, after living my adult life on base and paying cost for heat and electric.

We do have a second home in the country - but it is 1200 square feet, built on family land that was deeded to us when we were ready to build. We opted for a smaller home and put the rest of the money into three windmills to power the joint.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously ask whether you want to continue trading away your time for your stuff.

I just stopped in for my occasional dose of pessimism, but now it's back to work: some unpaid like gardening, some required for work like reading, and some paid, like computer programming.

It's ok with me if you don't want to trade your time for your stuff, as long as you don't feel resentful at the stuff other people have. Or feel the need to tax their stuff so that you and the "right" people can have more. For others, the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of stuff, and the pursuit of the ability to get stuff, and the pursuit of the ability to create new stuff. It's helpful if you, now again like day before yesterday, remember to feel and express gratitude for your attainments. You are probably more dependent than you care to admit on the legions of others whose pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of stuff. they provide food, fuel, homes, clothing and electricity, and they clean the hospitals where you get care. Be thankful for them too. Some of them create pollution, and others of them clean it up.

See you around.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 24, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Two quotes...

"Money can't buy happiness"

"The more you want the less happy you'll be"

Don't remember who said them, though....

Posted by: mfw13 on November 24, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta: Places like this?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

this was a cute stunt:

http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Lions_68th_Thanksgiving_Day_Game_Will_Be_100_Percent_Carbon_Neutral_999.html

Follow the links to where you can buy your own CO2 offsets, including new trees in Wales, if that appeals to you. Instead of "stuff", buy your children, parents, conservative and liberal friends, their own CO2 offsets for Christmas.

My wife and I get live trees for Christmas, which we plant on our lot afterward. Plus, we have replaced the invasive ice plants that came with the place with CO2-offsetting (and flame resistant) native bushes.

If all the global-Warming true believers buy their own Co2 offsets, that will be a measurable step in the right direction. but check out the company first, because some of them are just scams.

"Money can't buy happiness"

True, but it has a higher success rate than the alternatives.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 24, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

More about CO2 capture here.

http://www.ghgworks.com/

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 24, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, that's the idea although most of the homes my daughter shoots are modern and more to my liking personally, walls of glass, amazing views of the Hudson or the Catskills. And you're right about the carbon footprints.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Check out this place for green living. This is what I drool over, but I can't find the scratch for the $2.7M. Anyone want to share and split the costs?

3,000 sq. feet, energy costs: $0
45 acres too.

Check out the kitchen:

Easy Living in a mountain cave

The mile-high property is home to more than 400 native plant species, including some rare orchids and passion flower vines, 79 species of birds and 113 butterfly species. It also teems with mammals, reptiles and amphibians, including the tree frogs whose tadpoles share the main pool with the daily influx of the couple's friends who come for a swim after work this time of year.
On a sunny day last week, water roared into the pools. The stream dries up seasonally in spring and fall, said Wertz, but is reliably cool and refreshing when the monsoon comes.
The presence of water, acorns and piñon nuts attracts foxes, ringtails, javelina, and coatimundis, for which the couple named the place Chulo Canyon.

Posted by: jerry on November 24, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS,

Wonderful about the windmills! I love windmill farms. Three is a 'small' farm but most of the ones I've seen are small groupings like yours. Their design fits in so beautifully with the environment, unlike most human technology.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

We did three so we could go all-electric. This is how we heat the place.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta: Social interaction takes time. Agreed with the turning inward replacing a sense of community. But time is the one thing we just don't have! (/capt kirk).

See the nirvana of the American vacation: ten days off (if your employer feels like it and you aren't needed to cover, don't leave the state and carry your pager) whether you need it or not.

The would-be ratchet-back types are a very few who get a certain sum of money and can move
down to a middlinger middle class setting. (I'm thinking, guessing really, at the demographics;
correct as needed.)

The remainder of us work an average of 39.5 hours: Full timers put in ~60 because that's what a team player does. Part timers put in 19 because at 20 the benefits start.

Posted by: ThresherK on November 24, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Seriously ask whether you want to continue trading away your time for your stuff"

Sounds like the book "your money or your life" by Joe Dominguez. Excellent book.

Posted by: sanfermin on November 24, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I suppose Ezra is yet another upper class type who just can't imagine, that so many of us must put in that extra effort to pay bills and get by (or just literally survive) - not "keep up with the Joneses" for vanity's sake!

Posted by: !!! on November 24, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew Tobias makes the key point more frequently and clearly than most, including thusly on the day before Thanksgiving: "[A]lmost all of us live better than the kings of England, czars of Russia, pharaohs of Egypt ever did. We have magic carpets with seats that recline; we have jesters, bards, gladiators and orchestras on instant call (with volume control and a pause button). We have cell phones, antibiotics, zippers -- Velcro, even -- Novocain and aspirin." http://www.andrewtobias.com/newcolumns/071121.html
There is nothing terrible about wanting more, but for God's sake and your own, appreciate what you've got.

Posted by: Ken D. on November 24, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Next editorial from Ezra Klein: "Houses in the suburbs all look alike!"

Posted by: The November Fool on November 24, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

ThresherK,

You're right about the demographics which raises another issue that I think you alluded to. Although I choose to live in a simple, nonconsumerist fashion, I can't crow too loudly about my lifestyle choice and its advantages because the money saved as a result offers a sense of security that others who work +/- 50 hour weeks don't have. There's a big difference between 'choosing' a nonconsumerist position and being forced to live without 'stuff.' Actually, though, my situation has changed in the past five years when my husband was laid off after 23-1/2 years of working at IBM Research just 1-1/2 years before pension benefits kick in and 6 months before bridging to benefits is possible. Suffice it to say that he wasn't the only one at this career point who was screwed. IBM sucks. There's actually a class action suit in the works but no one holds out much hope for success. The employees left behind are working well over 60 hrs/week, including weekends. Morale is low. So, in fact, it is a stroke of good luck that we chose the life style we did. I don't take credit for this choice out of moral rectitude; it's just a personality preference and my roots in the 60's rebellion against consumerism. We all do what we gotta do based on strong influences we've encountered in our lives as well as the social pressures and messages that we're surrounded with on a daily basis. Remember Bush's advice post-9/11? Go shop! Ugh.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

'Well, I suppose Ezra is yet another upper class type who just can't imagine, that so many of us must put in that extra effort to pay bills and get by (or just literally survive) - not "keep up with the Joneses" for vanity's sake!' - !!!

I'm sure Ezra understands that many, many people are in the situation you describe. The average US income, around $45,000/yr, doesn't go far with kids, college costs, housing, energy costs, etc. He's definitely talking about middle class and beyond. And then there's the whole group of people who earn less than the average. For those people, worrying about the rat race means worrying about holding down at least two jobs and spending a major part of their lives working just to exist. So, yes, I agree with you that Ezra's comments relate to problems associated with consumerism in the middle to upper classes and to that extent ignores the vast gulf between those classes and lower ones. And that's a big, big problem.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly, I have a couple questions for you.

1. Does anything in the literature suggest that any of this class of solutions are "easy"?

2. Does anything suggest "social learning" occurs asocially, i.e., by an isolated individual changing his/her ways? (Note: It's not like anti-materialist, anticompetitive example-setting is a novelty.)

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on November 24, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Money can't buy happiness" - mfw13

My father used to say "Money may not be the most important thing in the world but it's way ahead of whatever's in second place." No wonder I turned out so screwy, but this is what I meant by 'influence.' Btw, I loved my father enormously, but our philosophies differed on materialism and, of course, politics. Later in life after he became ill he switched to "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." An interesting change in POV.

PS: I'm talking way TOO MUCH today.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Look douchebags - Our Founding Fathers wrote black friday into the constitution to strengthen America by getting our corporations out of the red at the start of the fiscal year." - One and Only American Hawk & Pals

I think you've hit the nail on the head in a general sense.

Posted by: nepeta on November 24, 2007 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

My first thought is always "Jeebus! What does it take to heat that place???"

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 1:47 PM
------------
Me too! But, imagine for a moment that instead of using firewood or relatively inexpensive natural gas they had to use heating oil and the house was in Minneapolis !

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 24, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

This is how we heat the place.

Windmill-driven resistive heating? Holy crap, to an engineer, that is just sinful, to turn that beautiful electricity into heat. Couldn't you get a little better bang for your kilowatt with a heat pump? Or solar-heated something?

Posted by: dr2chase on November 24, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

A few years ago PBS had a reality show called Frontier House where three families agreed to live for about six months in Montana like people did in the late 1800’s. One family of six lived in a tiny log cabin, while their new home back in California was being built in Malibu.

They bitched and moaned the whole time about their crowded living conditions and the hard work needed to survive. But, when they got back to their HUGE new house in California, the kids were lonely in their separate wing of the house and the teenaged girls, who had to milk cows twice a day during their stay in Montana, were now bored out of their minds. They were no longer needed and they spent their days hanging out at the local mall.

Posted by: emmarose on November 24, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Dr2Chase - We are very happy with it. The air inside the house isn't dry, and 65 degrees feels like about 72 when your feet are toasty warm. And there is nothing like stepping out of bed onto warm ceramic tile in the morning.

There is no need for air conditioning, the place is built into the side of a red clay hillside, with the exposed side facing east. The floors are ceramic tile, and an attic fan keeps us plenty cool in the summer.

The local Rural Electric Cooperative buys our excess power, so every quarter we get a check for right around a couple of hundred bucks.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 24, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Of the suburban Washington, DC counties four are in the top 10 wealthiest counties in America. The love of money and power that infiltrates everything that happens in Metro Washington is really sickening. I'm a product of schools in Denny Hastert's district -- and I have to say the last 3 years in Washington have made me want to be an anarchist. The greed and self-entitlement is enough to start though bricks through shop windows.

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on November 24, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" Isaiah 55:2

Posted by: mdl on November 24, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

America is populated by people who voted for Bush twice, and who believe that fairies made a woman pregnant two thousand years ago. Is it any surprise that, when their TVs tell them to go out and buy crap they don't need, they go out and do as they are told?

I fail to see what the relevance of DC to this topic is. It's not like DC is the only place in America populated by people who spend half their lives complaining about their jobs, and the other half scheming about the car or house they plan to upgrade to.
Everyone in America (heck, everyone in the West) should read a book like Daniel Gilbert's happiness book and act on it. But most of them won't.
In the same way that they couldn't be bothered to spend a week learning about finance so that they can arrange their futures well, they also couldn't be bothered to spend a week learning how to live their lives well. Their is, after all, so much TV to watch, so much alcohol to drink, so much pot to smoke.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on November 24, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Ezra is single and paid too much. Many of the rest of us are running as fast as we can just to keep from slipping back."

Many of "the rest of us" chose to have children, and usually not just one, even though it's no secret that children cost a freaking fortune. What did you expect when you had children?
And children are not "a natural right". At some point reality kicks in, no matter whether your religious tradition is catholic, communist or libertarian. There's only so much stuff to go around.

Next up: how much of that "running as fast as we can" is REAL. How much of it is that you have to have a yard because, god forbid, we can't live like animals in an apartment? How much of it is an insistence that every bedroom have a bathroom, rather than a shared bathroom like was standard until recently? How much of it is a requirement that the car be less than five years old? etc etc.
I live in LA and it is astonishing, driving the highways, the shiny newness of the cars. Of course you see the occasional clunker, but it's like nowhere else outside the US (and Japan, for strange legal reasons, and, I suspect, the gulf states) in terms of newness of cars.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on November 24, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

The love of money and power that infiltrates everything that happens in Metro Washington is really sickening.
Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on November 24, 2007 at 8:15 PM
----------
Interesting that Bill Clinton brokered a Balkan peace in Dayton, OH (which was successful) and GWB is going to attempt to broker a ME peace in Annapolis, MD. I wonder if GW was to hold this in Flint, MI if the sense of place would lend anything to a successful outcome?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 24, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

This is the most treasonous, seditious thread I've ever seen! If people stop mindlessly spending and consuming, our economy will collapse, Wall St will crash and the banking system will be finished! The planet is ours to consume. Consumerism is our national religion. You heard what Bush said after 9/11 - Get out there and spend! It's your patriotic duty.

Posted by: Speed on November 25, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

"The reason why America has the strongest and most widely admired economy in the world is because..."

Whoever is trolling as Al will have to do a better job than this.

Posted by: Rex on November 25, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

How about keep the $100,000/year salary but spend it on insulation (to actually be comfortable), on donations to the public library, on a class at a college, preservation of a local park, and investment in a green venture fund (that invests in home improvement, responsible transportation, intelligent media)

Posted by: Richard Witty on November 25, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Grass looks greener on the other side. On the one hand we want to be freelance writers; on the other hand we want food and shelter.

Posted by: Luther on November 25, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I posted a comment on former senator Corker's comment on another Drum post.
It has been deleted.
Not surprised. Once a shit for brian coward like Kevin Drum, always a shit for brian coward.
You stink Drum. Asshole.

Posted by: Chaufist on November 25, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

Make that "brain" instead of "brian".
Sorry about that.

Posted by: Chaufist on November 25, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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