Cheapskate Wisdom … About the Limits of Willpower

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“It’s not that we have less willpower than we used to, but rather that modern life immerses us daily in a set of temptations far more evolved than we are.”

The quote comes from Daniel Akst, in his new book We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess, and it was cited in a BusinessWeek story about how Americans have “evolved” into consumers who constantly want more and more of everything—even if it’s bad for our health, personal finances, and the earth.

Another expert quoted in the story, Sam Pizzigati, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, points out that the constant striving for more and more stuff is just not sustainable in the long run. There have to be limits, Pizzigati says:

“At one level, social progress amounts to making the luxuries of the few the staples of the many … But at the environmental level, our earth cannot sustain unlimited excess. The planet cannot survive five cars in every garage.”

Likewise, few household budgets can survive with five cars in the garage.