Robert H. Frank, a Cornell University economist, is a visiting faculty member at New York University?s Stern School of Business. His next book, The Economic Naturalist?s Field Guide: Common Sense Principles for Troubled Times, will be published in May.
The economic bonfire fueled mostly by consumption in recent years has ended. As we have watched the familiar statistics plummet, with credit cards maxed out and home-equity loans a thing of the past, the reality has slowly become clear: We won't return to the economic world of 2007 anytime soon, if ever.
But would we want to? In the boosterish world of CNBC, life without an ever-rising Dow Jones average and year-to-year gains in holiday-sales figures would self-evidently forecast protracted misery. Yet matters are less hopeless than they seem. There is an easily attainable future in which we consume less than at the peak of the boom and yet still enjoy far better opportunities to construct a fulfilling life for ourselves.