Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Will the Express Lanes Run Red?

I recently watched this clip of stampeding Black Friday shoppers. Its Armageddonish voiceover warns of the "complete madness of the populace of our lost society." The voiceover also laments the "wanton lustful commercialism" on display.

Timing is everything. Had the clip circulated pre-credit bust, the shoppers' madness would have been blamed on the fake wealth effect caused by easy credit. Because it circulated post-credit bust, the madness can instead be blamed on the hardship created by the bust and on the change in mentality--consumers' presumption of entitlement--created by the preceding credit boom. Not the first time such patterns have been dissected. Economic thinkers like Mises were analyzing them long before there were Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, or Buyer's Remorse Saturdays.

The voiceover says the avarice-adorned shoppers exhibit "No outrage over the bankers raping them."

Outrage abounded over the bailouts. There was a noisy campaign against them as they were occuring. Not surprisingly, that outrage made all the difference of earmuffs in a nuclear winter. The outraged were ignored and the bailouts prevailed. But the outrage was widespread and widely broadcast. Maybe some were too busy reading the Mayan calendar to notice.

People like to riot, in good times and bad. They riot at sporting events. They riot at concerts. They riot because they have no bread. They riot because they have too much bread. There were riots at the beginning of America, when government was slimmer. There will be riots at the end of America, when government gulps us whole. And with each riot in our history, there have been commentators warning us that the end is near. In a sense, they're right. The time period in which these commentators commentate and the sensibilities they define as "the present" are always nearing an end. Every era is fleeting. This is one of the inevitabilities of the Human Predicament, whether there are Festivus Day sales or not.

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