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Wanting More in an Age of Plenty
The Paradox of Our Time in History is that
we spend more, but have less;
we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
more medicine, but less wellness.
We read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
These are the times of tall men, and short character;
steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce;
of fancier houses, but broken homes.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life;
we've added years to life, not life to years;
we've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
Excerpted from a 1999 Internet chain mailing, usually attributed to an unknown source.
The past four decades have produced dramatic cultural changes. Since 1960 we have been soaring economically and, until recently, sinking socially. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan's famous question,
"Are we better off than we were 40 years ago?"
Our honest answer would be: materially yes, morally no. Therein lies the American paradox.There is much to celebrate. We now have, as average Americans, doubled real incomes and doubled what money buys. We own twice as many cars per person, eat out two and a half times as often, and pay less than ever before (in real dollars and minutes worked) for our cars, air travel, and hamburgers. We have espresso coffee, the World Wide Web, sport utility vehicles, and caller ID. Democracy is thriving. Military budgets are shrinking. Joblessness and welfare rolls have subsided. Inflation is down. The annual national deficit has become a surplus. The rights of women and various minorities are better protected than ever before. New drugs are shrinking our tumors, ...1