Great recession and U.S. consumers' bulimia: deep causes and possible ways out
This paper attempts to shed light on some aspects of the U.S. consumers’apparent bulimia that was at the origin of the recent global crisis. We seek to show how different characteristics of the American society and economy, which are usually considered separately, are consistently related to such a multifaceted phenomenon. Hence, we illustrate some structural features of the U.S. economy and public policies that may contribute to create a difference, in terms of patterns of consumption and participation in market activities, between the U.S. and some other advanced economies (in particular, the major economies of continental Europe). We then proceed by presenting some explanations of the U.S. hyper-consumerism. We do so by introducing concepts and analyses elaborated by psychologists and sociologists that may help relating this phenomenon to the decline in subjective well-being and social capital documented in the U.S. over the period preceding the crisis. Moreover, we discuss how the NEG (Negative Endogenous Growth) paradigm can account for the recent U.S. consumption boom by treating it as part of the typical reinforcing loop that characterizes the U.S. pattern of economic growth. Finally, we focus on how the U.S. can exit from the current crisis: we underline some weaknesses of the two politically more realistic policy alternatives, and we outline a third exit strategy, which would possibly be preferable in terms of people’s long-term well-being.
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