Feature

The spiritual poverty of recession

America’s animal spirits—our vitality and optimism—are now at the lowest ebb in memory, and we are all poorer as a result, said Gregory Rodriguez in the Los Angeles Times.

Gregory Rodriguez
Los Angeles Times

Recessions are devastating for those who lose their jobs, said Gregory Rodriguez, but they haven’t been the only casualties of three years of hard times. America’s animal spirits—our vitality and optimism—are now at the lowest ebb in memory, and we are all poorer as a result.

When the economy began unraveling in 2007, critics told us “how a little belt-tightening would be good for our consumerist souls.” Instead, it was enervating. Money, studies show, may not buy happiness, but “what such studies don’t measure is the happiness we derive from dreaming about that money and scheming to get it.” Americans work not merely to survive but in pursuit of better, richer lives. Recessions “kill that thrill and diminish that joy.” Instead of cooking up new ideas, reinventing ourselves, and taking risks, “we spend more energy trying merely to survive or hang on to the gigs we have." We become more obsessed with money “when there’s less of it floating around.”

Let’s hope 2011 brings a real and lasting recovery. “We need the money, but we also need the excitement of possibilities, the optimistic embrace of risk to re-enter our lives.”

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