The Opulence Bubble

Over at Harvard Business Review, Umair Haque talks about the opulence bubble we’re in:

To illustrate why I ask, consider this set of questions: How’s your house price doing? Where would your 401K be, if central banks withdrew life support for banks? How steep is a college education this year (hint: on average, 10-15% more than last year)? How are weekly grocery and gas prices doing? Where are commodity prices — not to mention gold — headed? Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble: these days, it seems, everywhere you look, there’s a bubble inflating — or popping.

I believe the mini-bubbles above are different ripples in what might call the surface of a superbubble: an opulence bubble. Here’s what I mean by opulence bubble: our conception of the good life, as I’ve discussed with you, has been centered on what I call hedonic opulence — having more, bigger, faster, cheaper, now. But we might be finding out, the hard way, that the pursuit of lowest-common-denominator industrial age stuff might have been steeply overvalued, in terms of its social, human, and financial value. And now, it’s coming back down to earth.

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