December 8, 2009


I have a friend at church by the name of Ben. Really good guy. He's a salesman for a living. In fact, he sell electronic equipment (the guy really loves cameras).

This past Sunday he shared with me that this is the past two weeks have been the best two weeks, in terms of sales, that he has ever had. Well, to some degree, it is unsurprising that the two weeks after Thanksgiving are the best two weeks of the year, but that's not really what caught my attention. What I zoned in on was that these were the best two weeks of his career. I mean ever, and he's been doing it for a few years now.

Question: does anybody recognize the significance of that? That this year more people are buying TVs, DVD players, I-pods, etc... than they have for the past few years? Does that seem odd to you? It seemed odd to me. Think about it for a moment. No really, think.

... I thought the economy was bad.

My wife and I don't own a TV. I'm addicted to television, so we don't keep one so that I don't obsess over it. However, whenever we tell people, guess what their reaction is. Shock! Surprise! I mean everyone has a TV, why don't I? But what's really weird is that many of them get offended. That's right, offended. They're annoyed that I don't own a luxury electrical appliance, as if that were a socially reprehensible thing to do. They try to insist on giving us their extra one, and are amazed that we turn them down.

Am I the only one that thinks that this is messed up? Is it just me? What's more annoying is that I don't own a TV because I can't get enough of it, and I know it is unimportant.

There is something that is really off in our culture where those of us barely struggling to get by still go out and buy a big screen TV. That we are barely managing to buy food, but still are able to go out to the movies. We have really messed up priorities. We don't seem to recognize that entertainment is a luxury.

To be fair though, I don't really think our culture still retains the notion of luxury. A luxury, you see, is something that you don't need, and you don't deserve, but enjoy. Therefore, it is something that you are only able to have with your extra resources.

However, we think that we deserve whatever we want. We are kids in the candy shop demanding that we get candy, and so we look to our parents for guidance. The only problem is that we have been adopted by daddy media and mommy credit card. Daddy tells us that we deserve whatever we want, and Mommy reaches in her giant purse, and buys it for us. At least, this is what we seem to think the situation is.

In reality, we give more money to the banks every year for interest on loans, and we spend more money on things we don't need and don't last than we do on anything else. Why primarily buy brand names, not because they are the best, but because those are the things that we see on TV, and they are therefore familiar and comfortable.

Now I'm a capitalist. Do I think capitalism is a great system? No. It just happens to be the way the world works, so deal with it (After all, Adam Smith wasn't trying to come up with an ideal economic system, but was just studying the way the economy already was working). As such, I don't have a problem with companies doing everything that they can to get our money. They're greedy selfish people (a.k.a. people). What I have a problem is that the absolute stupidity of us who actually trust them. We who think that banks help us by giving us credit cards. We who actually think that a truck being built Ford(c) tough is a good thing (in reality, it doesn't say anything about the quality of the truck).

Why are we so addicted to entertainment? Where did all this hedonism come from? Why the self-indulgence? We all see it. We all know it's bad, yet we can't seem to combat it. I do know this: if America doesn't learn to say no, and learn the value of the honest dollar, then we are going to collapse. We'll be a people who starved to death, holding on to our remotes.


Kevin Jackson said...

Loved this post, you are spot on. Debt is a big problem in America, from the little guy up to the Federal government. It is not sustainable.

I think a large portion of America sees premium cable as a necessity. And of course everyone in the family needs a cell phone. Another necessity. :)

I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan. He teaches to save an emergency fund first and then to buy no luxury items unless it is with cash and an emergency fund is is place. That is sound advice. I wish congress would take it as well.

We've been on the Dave Ramsey plan for three years. It has really improved our marriage. We've gotten out of debt (everything but the house), have a 3 month emergency fund, and are saving cash for my wife's future master's degree.

Oh, and I work for a credit union, so I'm probably biting the hand that feeds me. :) Still, Credit Unions are generally better than banks though, because they market debt less aggressively and are more interested in what's best for the customer. And (most) credit unions weren't stupid enough to get into the sub prime mortgage industry, and hence are doing quite well without bailouts. :)

Jc_Freak: said...

Actually, Esther and I started the Dave Ramsey course a couple of months ago. We are still working on getting the $1,000 dollar emergency fund financed, but should be done with that by the end of the year. Next we start tackling our student loan debt.

Kevin Jackson said...

That's cool. It is a good feeling to kick Salle Mae out of the house (as Dave would say). :)