Purchasing Power

Written by Lisa Mastny

"Wanted for Victory: waste paper, old rags, scrap metal, old rubber". In the early 1940s, at the peak of the Second World War, colorful posters with messages like this adorned building facades and lampposts across the United States. Commissioned by the federal governement, they urged citizens to ration paper and metal, grown their own food, join car-sharing clubs, and make other sacrifices for the war effort. At a time of heightened global instability, resource conservation was the order of the day.

How things have changed. More than a half a century , following the terrorist attacks of September 2001, o­ne o­n the strongest messages the Bush administration sent to the American public was not to economize but to consume. By buying new cars, houses, and other goods, consumers could do their part to boost the flagging U.S. economy. The way to minimize the domestic impacts of rising global instability was not to conserve energy and other resources, but to use even more of them.

The U. S. government is riding a powerful wave. The United Nations reports that global consumption spending has increased six-fold since 1950, reaching $ 24 trillion in 1998.

P.7. "Purchasing Power", WorldWatch paper 166. 7/03.

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