Thursday, December 29, 2011

Muddling through

Megan McArdle argues that most people do not save enough.  We hear that a lot and it's probably true. It is also true that many of us are less than perfect in forecasting our future wants, capabilities, successes and failures.  Nevertheless, sage advice cannot hurt.

James Surowiecki writes about the return of lay-away.  When borrowers and lenders were optimistic, credit cards were easily available and widely used.  But mood swings and business cycles have pushed many the other way.  Now many borrowers as well as lenders have opted to trade for big-ticket items via commitments to save rather than commitments to re-pay loans. 

But I wish the author had avoided "... our economic system is set up to encourage overspending."  Who "set up" the "system"?  As a rule, whenever "the system" gets mentioned, I wonder where the story is headed.

It makes sense to recognize that in a world of semi-myopic savers, borrowers and middlemen we will muddle along -- and necessarily wander from the "best" path.