We’ve all heard that the “housing bubble” is to blame for the current economic disaster — well, the bubble and global shuffling-about-of-subprime-loans-from-one-investment-house-to-another.
Maybe. Maybe not. Might be that the housing mess simply proved the tipping point for something deeper that had been rumbling about underneath for a longer time. Think about it:
Ten years ago, we bought plane tickets from travel agents. When’s the last time you did that? Ten years ago, we paid for newspapers.
Ten years ago, Amazon’s 30% discount was just gaining “lift.” Most people bought books at full price in a store.
Ten years ago, if I wanted to buy a pair of shoes, I went to a shoestore and paid (usually full price) for the shoes and a sales tax. Now? Zappos. Where I can buy and try on ten pair of shoes and return all of them — pay zero for the privilege of doing so. No shipping to me. No shipping fee to return. No sales tax.
Translation: The digitization of life-as-we-know-it has nibbled away at our financial underpinnings for years. Nibbled. Rearranged. Undermined. Eliminated.(*1)
We live in a capitalist economy. Ain’t supposed to be no free lunch. Something was, eventually, bound to give………
*1: Apropos of nothing, it reminds me of novels set in 18th and 19th century England. When a monied character wants a suit altered, he assumes the tailor will provide the service, without asking for money upfront. Monied character pays tailor when he damn well pleases, if at all. Ditto for landlords and the always-present “char lady.” They dole out the services, but mysteriously, buyers often neglect to pay. And everyone assumes, ya know, it’ll all work out. (Usually the char lady and tailor are left holding the jacket, er, bag, pushing them deeper into poverty.)