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The Vanishing American Adult (Part VIII) – Chapter Six: Consume Less

In another chapter perfectly fitting the current crisis, Senator Sasse writes that we need to teach our children to exercise self-control in what they consume and train them to seek happiness in non-material things.

He says that we must draw a firm line between things that help us to survive, to learn, to live a fulfilling life, and those that are merely wants. We need to teach our children this by not over-consuming ourselves. We also need to consciously instruct our children how to resist the strong forces in our advertising and popular culture that push us in the direction of immediate and over-gratification. Instead we need to teach our children self-denial and deferred gratification. The idea of limitless acquisition is a soulless idea; limits are real and often good.

There are many people that have uncritical views of consumerism. They fail to ask whether our affections are rightly ordered, whether all of our appetites are necessarily healthy. Instead they think: whatever makes you happy is good.

This is leading to economic hardship for many people. 30% of Americans today are not credit worthy. A lot of this is due to technology that allows us to buy things quickly. A sandwich beyond the reach of kings is now available to us by the push of a button on a phone.

Markets are good. Poverty rates have fallen faster than even the most optimistic writers and thinkers predicted a century or even 50 years ago. Yet despite the expansion of our wealth and leisure Americans report being less happy than they were 50 years ago. This is because we are looking to things to make us happy. They never will. If the unexamined life is not worth living, neither is a life of passive material appetites.