We are now entering the Age of Conspicuous Non-consumption (don’t blink or you’ll miss it)

Remember how, after September 11, there were all those stories and essays declaring it was the end of the age of irony. After the tragedy, we were going leave behind that smug way we used to think that “even the most serious things should not to be taken seriously.”

I can’t remember how many weeks the Age of non-Irony lasted.

Over the weekend, I noticed what will likely be a similar trend where we’ll read about, “The end of the era of conspicuous consumption.” The New York Times set the tone with this piece about teenagers who’ve never been told no who are now having to learn to be frugal. And I noticed yesterday in an article in a local Nashville newspaper, some quotes from Bob Allsbrook, chief economist for Regions Bank, who claims the credit crisis and market crash will mean that the conspicuous consumption of the “entitlement generation” has ended. “It’s now being ridiculed,” Allsbrook said of such spending. “It’s going to be that way for a decade now.”

A decade?

We should hope. Belt tightening is good. Simplicity is a virtue. I’m all for conspicuous non-consumption. However, I’m reminded of a scene from a movie I’ve mentioned on this blog on many occasions — a classic film from the early days of the Era of Irony: The Jerk.


It’s the scene that is suggested on the cover illustration that appears on the DVD box pictured at the left in which instant millionaire Navin R. Johnson has lost everything. As he is exiting his mansion, he is declaring the following:

“And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.”

As for me, I’m definitely not going to be buying anything soon. I have everything I need. I don’t need anything else.

Except for maybe something Steve announces today.

And only then, because it’s my patriotic duty to help unfreeze the economy.