The Changing Times
The Distinction between “need” and “want” is determined by the economics of the times. For most of our country's existence, human consumption was need based. There was little surplus for what we today call luxury goods. As a child of the depression, I lived a comfortable life without restaurant dinners, paid entertainment (except for the Sunday comics) or electronic gadgetry.
Perhaps I was self deceived but it never occurred to me that we were deprived. My mother canned home grown vegetables, made sauerkraut and grape jelly. We had a few chickens for eggs and made soap out of lard. She mended our clothes and even made my pajamas from a bleached Purina feed bag. It was itchy but I liked them because she made them.
The world’s largest store, Chicago’s Sears & Roebucks, was twenty miles away and I can recall being there once only, just to see it of course.
All the people we knew were in the same boat and it was not until the 1950’s that consumerism became the means of achieving for the “good life." Although there have been dips in our economic trajectory, our current dip is far and away the most profound in my adult experience.
These times may well lead to a fundamental and permanent shift in our habits of consumption. What has given us meaning in the recent past, big houses, big cars, big price tags, big debt, may give way to a focus on quality and a more personal (make that emotional) connection to the objects that surround our lives. There is a movement away from profligate spending.
What we make and sell surely falls within the definition of a luxury product. What gives our work a chance to survive this move away from consumerism is the permanent nature of its utility and pride of authorship. We build furniture here in Maine and we sell it for more than one life-time of use. Our work will be here long after we have as a nation returned to the values of that simpler time.
Until next time,