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I think putting the blame on the greed of the few lets everyone else off too easily. We are the ones who buy the SUV's, who buy bottled water, who demand McMansions and who expect 15% annual returns on investments.

Have these demands been manipulated by big businesses looking to increase their sales? Of course, but we are the ones who decide that Prada is cool this year and old hat next.

As for the behavior of large firms, I think that much of the blame goes back to average investors. Most people putting money in the stock market expect to see returns of 15-30%, in spite of the fact that long-term rates are more like 7-8%. What happens as a consequence is that firms which fail to deliver these sorts of unsustainable returns find themselves under pressure from mutual funds and corporate raiders. The managers either start pumping up the stock price or are forced out and replaced by less prudent ones.

There are people on this site, for example, who are relatively immune to consumerist pressures, which shows that giving in to excess is still an individual choice. By blaming the corporate leaders who are just responding to the demands of investors we are diverting attention from the real problem.

We all have to change our behavior and lifestyles and we have to demand that others do so as well, otherwise there will be some nominal changes directed at the management scapegoats and the reforms will be misdirected and inadequate.

To quote the sage Pogo, once again: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Let's hear some ideas which are feasible from technological, political and cultural points of view. All I see is a fearful populace (and I don't just mean in the US) saying "do something" instead of "what can we do?". This is the whole zeitgeist of the Obama campaign: a new leader who will lead us out of the wilderness. We don't have to wait to be led, we can do it ourselves, but so far we aren't motivated.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 09:58:20 AM EST
Sorry, but who is we? I do not buy a SUV nor do I have a 15% return for my investment, nor do I own a McMansion.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 10:04:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
I did say:
There are people on this site, for example, who are relatively immune to consumerist pressures, which shows that giving in to excess is still an individual choice.

However, we in the west still consume at rates unheard of in most of the world, so even the best of us are only relatively virtuous.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 10:51:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, seemed to have skimmed over that part. But if I look at the people I know, the same goes for most of them, no return on investment, or SUV's, etc. so there are a SUV's on the street, but they are in the minority.

And I do agree, though they are not huge consumers, they still consume to much and carelessly. So there is room for improvement and this level too, but it is much smaller than for the McMansion and SUV types.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 10:59:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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