Argument: if you want a Walmart, you have to accept the McMansions and other things that come with it

Henry Briggs argues that the phenomena of Walmart is related to other phenomena like McMansions:

In any event, the idea of paying less and less and buying more and more is a real driver of our economy. As most economists will tell you: unless the US consumer is spending, the US economy tanks.

That is what’s behind the “You deserve it! ” lines in ads, why having a “McMansion” is part of the “American Dream,” and why the American Dream is no longer a dream: “It’s my right, by God!”

That’s why household debt shot up from $734 billion in 1974 to $13.6 trillion in 2009, from 45 percent of GDP in 1974 to 96 percent of GDP in 2009.

We complain about Walmart wrecking communities, even as we go there for the deals, and then we must go there for the deals because Walmart is all we can afford.

If you walk into a house built in the ’50s or ’60s, you’ll find smaller closets, smaller kitchens and smaller garages. This in a time when people were happier, the country was thriving, and the future glowed with promise.

You want things cheaper? There’s a price.

This is a familiar argument about McMansions: they are linked to larger patterns of consumption. But, if the economy really does depend on such spending, can’t buying McMansions, smartphones, and other items and shopping at Walmart be seen as helping American society? Of course, one can choose to buy “better” items than others – instead of a McMansion, perhaps a passive house or a tiny house. Instead of a regular car that contributes to sprawl, perhaps a membership to Zipcar. While some complain about particular kinds of houses, Briggs and others suggest that consumption comes in bundled packages. If this is the case, then McMansions are just the symptoms of a society that consumes and spends too much and likes sprawl.

 

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