New Depression Trendwatch: Suddenly It's Cool to Live Like a Homeless Person

The New York Times continues its endless parade of recession porn today, this time with a story about how some weird people like being poor.

Now that everybody's unemployed, no one can spend money on fancy things like paper towels anymore. So they have to learn to live like almost everybody else on the planet and use their scarce resources wisely. According to the Times, many people are happy that they have been wiped out, because they get kicks from swapping used clothes with one another:

"I'm enjoying this," said Becky Martin, 52, who has cut up her 10 credit cards, borrows movies from the library instead of renting them, and grows her own fruits and vegetables - even though her family is comfortable.

This is of course incoherent. Anybody who enjoys conscientious frugality would presumably be practicing it irrespective of the state of the economy. The notion that people who like living cheaply are happy that they've finally been forced to live cheaply doesn't make any sense.

The real story, arrived at low in the Times piece, is that a bunch of smug—and often pretty well-off—people who have always avoided conspicuous consumption are delighted that everybody else is being forced by circumstance into a way of life that they've long advocated.

"There is no joy in other people suffering, but this validates the choices I've made," said Vicki Robin, author of "Your Money or Your Life," a guide to saving money that was a best seller in the 1990s and was re-released last year.

So there is validation in other people suffering. We're all for not being an asshole and driving Hummers and such. But why should people who don't like to spend a lot of money be happy that everyone else has been brought low? Is it a good thing that more people are darning socks, or growing their own vegetables? Sure. Is it a good thing that the reason they're darning socks or growing their own vegetables is that they lost their job and are running out of money to buy food?

It's kind of like saying every generation needs a good war to whip them into shape.

[Photo by mjb84 via Flickr.]