NP(B)F

Posted in No Politics Friday on November 27th, 2009 by Ed

If any country could make a holiday out of going to the mall, it's the U.S.

On Black Friday I suppose I am expected to deliver some sort of trenchant anti-consumerist monologue. Unfortunately I think that the lack of consumer spending is exacerbating our current economic difficulties. This leads a lot of dolts to claim that spending money is intrinsically good and should be considered a patriotic duty, or they advance the notion that we can shop our way out of a recession. This fails to draw the crucial distinction between spending money you have, which is a good thing, and spending money you don't have, which merely digs us into a deeper hole individually and collectively.

The more interesting question on Black Friday is whether one enjoys holiday shopping as an experience irrespective of ability or desire to buy lots of crap. Since I am financially able to afford some gifts for the first time in five years I would be a candidate to hit the mall tomorrow – if not for the fact that I finished shopping a week ago without leaving the comfort of my home.

You and I both know that internet shopping makes a lot of sense. We get the best prices and devote nearly no time at all to what could otherwise be a long day in and out of the car. For me the choice was simple. But I can't shake the feeling that the last thing Americans really need is another way to avoid having contact with one another. More retail activity migrates online every day, though, and it is only a matter of time until the only people doing in-store holiday shopping are like the people who ride Amtrak or pay for things in cash – people who either fear change or love nostalgia. It's very difficult to construct a valid argument in favor of participating in the Black Friday mob without resorting to one or both.

I'm not criticizing people who choose to join the crowds. If you enjoy it, go for it. I do not. I do wonder, though, for how much longer this phenomenon can hold out in the face of relentless pressure from cheaper and easier online shopping – not to mention from our increasing aversion to leaving our homes and interacting with one another.