Friday, October 10, 2008

From Whence This Panic?

We are back in Minnesota this weekend for my nephew's wedding. In the motel breakfast room I am surrounded by Canadians talking about the tanking stock market. They are not surprised that the US economy is faltering; they think that Americans have been living beyond our means for years. But they are surprised that the rest of the world is so linked to the US economy.

The headlines are using the word "panic". I've been surprised at how many of my coworkers -- people who are usually analytical thinkers-- have been contemplating panic moves, asking me things like, "Should I borrow all the money out of my 401K?" I'm going back to my last winter's ruminations on the tendency to base or self-image on our consumption, to identify ourselves primarily as consumers. If spending money is the basis of your perceived self worth, then losing money is more than just a financial problem. It's enough to make a person, or a nation, panic.

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