The article I have analyzed was written by T. H. Watkins, an author and professor at Montana State University in Bozeman, and is titled, "The Boom Generation." In it, he describes how he sees his students spending money that they don't have on things they really cannot afford, foolishly expecting the future to always bring prosperity. Although in the article Watkins does cover some very good points, I, however, feel that he has, in a sense, missed the mark. It seems that he has failed to take into consideration the sociological changes that have ensued in this country since the great depression. The youth of today are not so much perpetually optimistic as they are actually lacking the foresight of what the future is to bring, which has been caused by several occurrences, though mainly modern marketing techniques are to blame.
We are a capitalist society; this gives us, its citizens, the distinction of being consumers.
Because of this distinction, markets are created which are purveyed through modern media outlets, and are chosen based upon the target audience, such as MTV for generation Y. The goal of these ventures is to urge consumers to purchase products with as little thought as possible in regards to the consequences of the purchase.
people tend to purchase more when they have more money to spend, this isn't quite so with credit. The idea of credit is that it enables us to have more purchasing power at times when we may in fact do not. The problem with credit arose when it became convenient and readily accessible to even those who shouldn't have it.
Modern marketing is an amazing thing. It combines social psychology with economics and science in order to deliver a message to a target that is unaware of its capabilities to receive these transmitted messages. Marketing is essential to the growth and procurement of the modern American business, and because of its necessity it has been honed to an exact science that can deliver any message to nearly anybody. This is a force that just wasn't present in the years leading up to the great depression.
Because marketing invokes desire in people, especially those impressionable young minds away from home for the first time, consumer credit is thriving among college students everywhere in the U.S., including those in rural Montana. people tend to purchase more when they have more money to spend, this isn't quite so with credit. The idea of credit is that it enables us to have more purchasing power at times when we may in fact do not (college years). The problem with credit arose when it became convenient and readily accessible, even to those who shouldn't have it, college students for example.
The fact that the economy is being portrayed as infinitely bright and sunny is only part of the problem. The portrayal of our economic future has very little to do with consumer spending. The actual cause of our benevolent spending is an utter lack of foresight. I would say that the mantra of today's young consumer is BUY NOW, pay later, rather than "limitless prosperity, endless economic growth" as was stated by Watkins.
Today we are stuffed with so many options and decisions that it can become quite difficult to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of every choice we are given. In our fast-paced world, it quickly becomes habit to choose the one option that has the most instantaneous gratification, totally disregarding the endless possibilities that the economic future may hold.
This can also be compounded with the old ClichÃÂ© of "keeping up with the Jones", which is derived from the notion that we have to keep up, materialistically, with those that surround us. This clichÃÂ© is ever more present now than it ever has been before due to the standing of U.S. in terms of power. We now have no common enemy, thus making the material wealth of our neighbors our common enemy. Because of this constant race, it is easy for average people to over-exert themselves financially. Many times this overexertion is caused by heavy credit card use.
Excessive optimism is another downfall that afflicts today's younger generations, although not in the sense that Watkins implied. These generations have been taught that through hard work and dedication one can achieve anything desired. This is true in terms of knowledge but in terms of the modern social hierarchy one can only hope to escape from their level to the next in their lifetime. Although some may be luckier than the rest, this is of course an exception and not the rule.
These lucky ones--for example, professional athletes or pop stars--become an idealistic role model for every person who is suffering from an average life. There is nothing wrong with an average life, but through media portrayals and marketing we are taught that our lives are pathetic and meaningless unless we accumulate more material wealth like that which our idols have, this was not so much the case in the years leading up to the great depression. Without modern technology, these media role models couldn't exist. The only access the average person has to their role models is through modern media devices, such as television and top 40 radio. Because this is so, the modern media companies are the ones who pick and chose, for the most part, who is going to be the next great role model and how that person shall be conveyed to the common public.
This is a lot of power for one group to have, which is quite similar to those of investment wealth in the 1920's. With power comes greed, and with greed will definitely come corruption, which will--as it always has before--lead to disaster. This time, because of the individual involvement (credit cards), the outcome will be much more devastating and will result in further social destruction rather than the hospitality that was so common among ethnic neighborhoods during the first great depression in the 30's.
Though many in the emerging generation have very little idea of the vast effect that the great depression had on the country, many are aware of its eminence someday, although to most that someday is forever next year. The 1990's were not unlike the 1920's. Several fortunes have been made because of advancements in modern American business. With these fortunes comes as sure as Saturday the flaunting lifestyle of the Nuevo riche and subsequently the re-ignition of consumerism among the average.
. Watkins concentrates much of his essay on his familial experiences that resulted from the great depression, if our nation faces a great depression today it will be much more devastating then it was then. This is due to the fact that families are not together like they were at that time. Instead of one financial burden being concentrated onto one family unit, there will now, in many cases, be two burdens on the same unit because the parents are no longer together. For the most part the great depression was as severe as it was because of wide spread abuse of credit, albeit was a different kind of credit than consumer credit. It was credit such as mortgages. Today there are many times two mortgages brought into one family because of separation, possibly doubling the financial burden of one family.
Abuse of credit systems is not new to the U.S. Today, we are again seeing widespread credit abuse, although this time the abuse is concentrated on the individual purchaser rather than the lending institutions. For the national economy, this is a better position to be in rather than the one that we faced in the 1930's. However, this is much more serious for the individual credit user in the way that their debts are their own fault and therefore, in most cases, inescapable until paid in full.
Many have argued that in the long run the individuality of the situation will spread into the lending institutions themselves and from there will grossly affect the national economy. To some extent this is true but it is doubtful that the effects will be large and wide spread. In fact, due to the great depression of the 30's, lending institutions have already enacted safeguards against this for themselves, but do very little in the way of protecting the individual credit user.
The social problem at hand is a lack of foresight in regard to what the future might bring to them instead of wealth. Instead of buying on credit and consequently tying up their entire income, they should learn to save as much as possible and only spend what on what is truly affordable. Life is so much less stressful when we do not caught-up in consumerism. It is possible rise above the average life-style if patience is employed and interest payments are calculated. Our economic future is not, nor will it ever be certain. So be weary and be wise in order to become prosperous.