The Consumer in the World After Finance

Living Within Our Means

The notion of defining human beings as consumers is very American and very recent. For all of history up to the 20th century, men and women were primarily defined as producers. We see this in surnames such as Taylor, Weaver, and Smith. Before production and daily life became divorced by industrial organization and urban life, only a small elite of landholders and officers of church and state were in any sense consumers of anything but the staples of life. Most people worked to survive and little else, and generation after generation lived the same way their forebears did.

Two things changed all that: the New World with its bounty of resources to be seized by the adventurous ...

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