Lower living standards aren’t all bad. This MSNBC report on pawnshops contains some pretty good news.

For one thing, with suddenly-less-prosperous people willing to sacrifice their luxury goods for some cash, thrifty people can now expect fancier items when they make their weekly trek to the pawnshop:

The average pawnshop customer has an income of $29,000 and is 39 years old, according to the National Pawnbrokers Association. But in recent months, as the economy has weakened, pawnshop owners report seeing more affluent and older consumers in their stores.
. . .
“The fact that our customer base has expanded more recently because of the economic situation [means] we might be seeing better-quality goods than what we might normally see,” Adelman said.

And then there’s the encouraging uptick in sales of power tools, which suggest that “more customers are being forced to do their own home repairs because they’re strapped for cash.” There was, I’m told, a time that the popular understandings of individual “independence” included wide-ranging resourcefulness, and not just purchasing power. This kind of independence seems a necessary part of what Centisimus Annus calls “the subjectivity of society.” Our newly-minted plumbers and carpenters are probably not doing unimpeccable work, but they’ll get better with practice and may find the sense of achievement addictive.

The spike in gun sales (“We can’t keep guns in stock,” says one broker) may reflect dark premonitions about the coming years, but I prefer to think of this, too, as tending towards the general independence necessary to keep the tutelary state at bay.

But the happiest possibility of all, in my view, is that “increased interest in musical instruments may [mean] consumers [are] looking for low-cost ways to entertain themselves. ‘It’s about simpler times . . . . You stay at home, playing your guitar.’”

It would be totally obscene for me, with my warm gloves and three square meals per day, to claim that this recession thing really isn’t so bad. But I hope it will remind us that we don’t need to outsource our entertainment, and that energetic and creative collaboration with those closest to us is generally far more satisfying than pricier amusements.

Articles by Stefan McDaniel

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