With retailers already cowering in fear over the results from Black Friday already, this is a good time to step back and look at this unofficial national holiday. Every year millions of people wake up early, drive to the mall or Big Box Store, and spend, spend, spend. People will be injured and feeling will get hurt, someone will go to jail, and there is always the sad possibility that someone will be killed. Of course, this year spending is expected to fall. This appears to be somewhat of a surprise even though hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs this year.
I know that the retailers will start freaking out after Friday; stock prices will drop, CEOs will be fired, and we will hear that the end is near. What should really happen is Congress declaring a national Blue Law on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The only thing that should be open are grocery stores and Chinese takeout places. I'm not an economist but I think forcing people to drop the retail habit would be a healthy way to go. It may cause our recovery period to take longer, but if consumer spending was no longer the prime economic indicator, we would be better off. It might even force corporations to start trying to sell good and services to other countries, something that this country stopped doing.
Instead, people will do what they always do. They will go out to get the "best deal" of the holiday season and put it on their credit card. What does this say about our country? If anyone really understood why we are in this mess, everyone would stay home Friday, enjoy spending time with their family, avoid crowds, save gas money, and save on interest payments. One of the major causes of this crisis is everyone took on too much debt. We went from a culture that saved, allowing banks to lend our savings to people and businesses to a culture where a good portion of our money was tied up into overvalued and mysterious financial instruments. Spending is only a short-term solution; we need a solution that leads us to saving again.