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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.
I don't usually agree with David Brooks, and like Kevin Drum I think it's pretty likely that he and I wouldn't agree at all on the solutions—but I have to say I think he's mostly right about identifying a huge problem in the culture of debt in post-Fordist America. Still more, and charts!, from Ezra Klein.