In the fall of 1783, having vanquished the British and delivered his farewell address to the Continental Army, George Washington's thoughts turned toward his Mount Vernon home--and his pressing need for a new silver coffee and tea service. The conquering hero preferred to buy American for items he could get "on tolerable terms," and he made a Zhangjj2804 point of wearing an gucci outlet uk American-made suit to his swearing-in ceremony as president. paled when quality was lacking. "He's the father of our country," says Carol Borchert Cadou, curator at Mount Vernon. "But he was also a shrewd consumer."
Though not America's first. His countrymen's need to consume was awakened nearly a century earlier as part of a drive michael kors outlet handbags toward gentility. It's the same desire, economists say, that today motivates us to supersize our television screens, splurge on a Kate Spade handbag, and line up at michael kors handbags outlet Starbucks for $4 lattes. By 1690, mansions had begun to dot the colonial landscape, and with them, Bushman writes, came "new modes of speech, dress, body carriage, and manners." Though the lives of the upper crust were polished to a high gloss, even the "middling people" could count a silver spoon among their possessions. By the mid-19th century the rising middle class were acquiring carpets, mahogany furniture, fine fabrics, books, and other michael kors outlet online trappings of refinement. "You have to have a cheap gucci handbags market for capitalism," Bushman says, "and the aspiration to gentility provided that market."
As America became the economic leader around the turn of the 20th century, it also took the lead in consumerism. By 2003, personal consumption accounted for 70 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Columnist Robert Samuelson points out in the Wilson Quarterly that Americans register a high level of personal spending partly because we foot the bill for more health and education costs than our counterparts in other advanced countries. We also work longer hours. And if income falls gucci outlet short, Americans satisfy their wants by incurring debt, which now accounts for about 110 percent of personal disposable income.
Garbage. We are a nation that believes in having it all. In 1950, American families owned one car and saved for a second. In 2000, nearly 1 in 5 families owned three cars or more. And while some other countries pride themselves on thriftiness--any French cook worth her salt has the knack of transforming the leek in the back of the refrigerator into a bowl of vichyssoise--Americans shell out more for garbage bags than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend for everything. Indeed, America has double the number of shopping malls as it does high schools.