Long before U.S. consumers racked up $11.3 trillion in aggregate debt, people used to save money for things they actually needed.
But in the age of plenty that followed World War I, corporations countered the threat of overproduction with a manipulative psychological strategy.
"We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture," wrote Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers. "People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man's desires must overshadow his needs."
This conspiracy, enabled by new sophistication in
For more on the origins of consumer culture, we turn to the BBC's excellent documentary, "Century Of Self."