Today, savings rates are climbing and smart advertisers emphasize small-town restraint and respectability. The Tea Party movement is militantly bourgeois. It uses Abbie Hoffman means to get back to Norman Rockwell ends.
Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize.
The United States once had a Gospel of Wealth: a code of restraint shaped by everybody from Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie. The code was designed to help the nation cope with its own affluence. It eroded, and over the next few years, it will be redefined.
This is not some Upton Sinclair jungle but a noble lineage of craftsman sausage makers, and we the members of the educated elite are willing to pay $29.40 for 24 little links in order to tap into this heritage. Shopping, like everything else, has become a means of self-expression and self-exploration. "Happiness," Wallace Stevens wrote, "is an acquisition."