Welcome to the Simple Life?

It's one of the bits of conventional wisdom now accumulating about how the economic downturn will affect people's behavior: After years of frenzied getting and spending, Americans won't be sorry to simplify their lives. The catch is, most Americans already believe they lead simple lives.

In a report summarizing a couple rounds of polling last year (one in January, the other in August), The Barna Group says 84 percent of respondents think they "live a simple life." This suggests that additional simplicity, compelled by economic circumstances, might strike people as being too much of a good thing.

In any case, the self-perception of simple living does not mean many Americans have taken a vow of poverty. The same research found 68 percent of respondents saying they're "totally committed to getting ahead in life." Ah, so Americans are frankly materialistic? Well, not quite, as 71 percent characterized themselves as "deeply spiritual." Even more, 78 percent, believe they're "making a positive difference in the world," and 71 percent think they're "fulfilling their calling in life." So, it's not as though they feel the need of a deep recession to rescue them from lives of meaningless self-indulgence.