Beyond greed: Spending to keep others afloat

Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for doing the right thing. The news of late has focused on how selfish everyone has been. In tough times many small acts of kindness and giving are alive and well. They are just harder to identify as a trend because by their very nature they are not as visible. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Donations to many charitable institutions are down, but that may not be the correct measure of the nation’s philanthropic impulses. Writing a check to an institution is impersonal, abstract and easy to quit. Far more difficult is canceling the kids’ weekly music lessons when you know the piano teacher’s husband just lost his job. Or firing the house cleaner who greets you every week with a new photo of her baby.

The Guilted Age: Spending to Keep Others Afloat – WSJ.com

The story goes on to describe how many people continue buying from more expensive mom-and-pop shops or maintain expendable personal services because they worry about hurting the other person’s economic well-being. Perhaps this is the little guy’s version of the shadow banking system — giving to others with no expectation of repayment. Only that selfless act doesn’t bankrupt the system, it enriches it.

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