Giving America Credit

Jun 1 2012 @ 7:36am

Louis Hyman profiles the credit card's early adopters – and abstainers: 

The optimism that underpinned the credit expansion in the postwar period found its native expression in the credit card. Users embraced the good life, confident in a progressive future of prosperity — and willingly borrowing from that better tomorrow today. The swingers embraced the new turbulent era and charged up the difference between what they had and what they thought they would be getting very soon. Those who lacked that optimism continued to find credit use "unwise."

They may have had a point. Perhaps we would have been wise to use means other than credit cards to adapt to the swinging economic fortunes of that postwar world. And perhaps we would have been better off if the practical and moral impediments to widespread credit-card use hadn’t been quite so malleable. Because once you start using credit – as a consumer or as a nation — it’s hard to stop.