I like to think that the poor economy has not lead to a society full of hesitant consumers, but rather that the slowdown in consumption came first, and then the economic slowdown followed as a result. This chicken and egg theory of mine, if true, would make a huge difference, no matter what reason consumers had to change their habits, as long as there is a conscious decision behind it.
Possible reasons (besides a bad economy) to consciously decide to stop shopping:
- consuming a lot of material goods is bad for the environment. Consuming less is better.
- the 80s and 90s were a time of overabundance, and maybe people are just sick of it.
- the sharp realization that there is a difference between want and need.
- the realization that what you already have is good enough.
- the desire to save money.
- pure rebellion.
Any combination of these reasons (and countless others I haven't thought of) that result in a slower consumer-driven economy would make me happy. It means that people made the choice to consume less, rather than being forced to do so by higher prices and a bad economy. That choice means that these changes are lasting, and that the economy had better adjust. The possibility of this economic theory having any truth makes me hopeful for society... something today's economists are having a tough time feeling.