Thrift has always been among the core WASP values, as anyone of us who has ever been told “Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without,” can attest. Thrift, probably as much as great acumen and great crimes, was instrumental in creating some of the enormous wealth that many of our people possessed until recently. These sensibilities were echoed in the wider society.
However, in the latter-day United States, striving is effected not by adding to one’s bank account, but by adding to one’s closet. Or rather, contemporary Americans attempt both activities, which presents to most a mutually exclusive set of priorities.
Nancy Gibbs, editor-at-large at TIME magazine, has written compellingly on this subject in that magazine’s October 13th issue. It is worth the read.
Steigerwald, David. “Did the Protestant Ethic Disappear? The Virtue of Thrift on the Cusp of Postwar Affluence.” Enterprise & Society Advanced Access. August 25, 2008, DOI 10.1093/es/khn082.