Thank Heaven the Market Isn’t Worthy of Our Money

Sure, the economic boom was nice while it lasted. But from the standpoint of people who love to spend, there was a downside: Stock prices were rising so vigorously that even diehard hedonists felt obliged to defer some consumption and invest the cash. After all, they didn’t want to be left mute when others bragged of how much loot they were making in the market. Shares in an IPO became as much a status symbol as an investment, thus taking some of the shine off tangible status symbols. Now, however, we’re approaching nirvana for the American spendthrift—a period in which investing looks rash, but spending does not. Serious souls like Warren Buffett warn that stocks are still overvalued, so consumers who’d like to spend every cent they’ve got feel under no duress to invest. Nobody will look askance at them if they gravely declare they’re staying out of the market for the time being. At the same time, there’s a gathering consensus (for the moment) that maybe we’re not plunging into a dire recession. Last week, op-eds in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal’s online OpinionJournal spoke of the “recession that wasn’t.” Right or not, fears of unemployment are muted, as you can gather from the chart here, which excerpts a Gallup poll fielded in April. And a piece in Time announced “there are still lots of jobs” for this spring’s crop of college graduates. If nothing else, people will feel free to buy new mattresses—under which they can stash all the money they won’t be investing in tech stocks.