After signing off yesterday, I realized that I forgot to mention one of the most subtle forms of infantilization of American adults, one that has led to the current deep recession (which I won’t believe is over until there is some job growth).
It’s the “buy now, pay later” mentality that makes people use high-interest credit cards or take loans on their houses to buy something now instead of saving up the money and not having to pay interest later. Let’s amend the phrase and call it what it really is: “buy now and pay more later” because of what are sometimes exorbitant interest charges.
Infants and children can’t wait. One of the signs of adulthood is being able to delay gratification. Buy now, pay more later is about instant gratification. It’s about behaving just like a child.
Yet the “buy now and pay more later” ideology permeates our culture more than any other ideological principle, more than even the superiority of the free market or the blessedness of monogamy. And it has all happened since the end of World War II.
Most advertising is about making people want something right now so people will buy right now!! If people stopped behaving like children when it comes to satisfying urges, many of which television and other mass media artificially inseminate into viewers, the U.S. economy would come unhinged.
On the other hand, when sub-prime mortgages brought down housing values, literally millions of people who had solid jobs and good mortgages suddenly owed more money than their houses were worth, all because as the value of housing had become inflated, they had borrowed more on theirs so they could buy now and pay more later.
So indeed, the U.S. would be better off if we weaned ourselves off the “buy on credit” mentality completely, except when it comes to buying (not fixing up) homes and paying for college for kids who deserve to be in college. The economy would shudder if we all woke up one morning and decided to become adults, and then it would adjust.