The Rise of New America: An Interview with Jack Lessinger

An interview with land economist Jack Lessinger who predicts rural America will dominate our country's lifestyle and economy in the 21st Century.


| March/April 1988



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The "Prophet of Penturbia" speaks out on the Careful Conserver.


PHOTO: PHIL SCHOFIELD

An interview with land economist Jack Lessinger who predicts rural America will dominate our country's lifestyle and economy in the 21st Century. 

The Rise of New America: An Interview with Jack Lessinger

In addition to writing and playing the violin every chance he gets, Dr. Jack Lessinger keeps a sharp eye peeled on the nation's economy, looking for indications that corroborate his theory of socioeconomic change and migration. He also publishes a bimonthly newsletter on Penturbia, available for $25 per year fromSocioEconomics, Seattle, WA. Recently re turned from a visit to Australia, Lessinger reports finding numerous penturbias down under, to him a sign that the profound economic changes he sees are global in reach.  

You predict the rise of a new economy, one you call that of "the Careful Conserver." To achieve it, must we pass through an economic depression?  

It is altogether likely, as the weakened dollar and the stock market crash of last October appear to augur. Of course, most economists have banished the word depression from their professional vocabularies, believing that the government can manipulate away such a seemingly unpleasant extreme whenever it chooses. I feel otherwise, that depression is as inevitable as that winter will follow summer. However, the important thing is not to be depressed by depression but to see the event as functional and constructive—painful here and there but only in the short run. Rather it's a sign of a changing of the guard, a transition during which new social and economic solutions and priorities can arise. It might well be regarded as a time for hope rather than despair, the pause between acts as the scenery shifts.

What do you see as the life span of the economy of the Careful Conserver? Will it, too, eventually be replaced?  

The old consumerist economy—that of the "Little King"—reached its peak, and its replacement began to emerge, some time around 1958, which was an important turning point in the U.S. for many trends. Voter participation, for example, peaked then, followed by an increase in voter apathy. It was also the year that U.S. fertility rates peaked. In the 1960s, anti-middle-class and anti-suburban attitudes began to surface (long hair, the Beatles, unisex, ubiquitous Levis, VW bugs), and this emergence was the first indication that the old values were being called into question. In the 1970s, the old, consumption-based economy reasserted itself, but Pyrrhically so. Now we're in a state of rapid transition and the new economy has purchased an unshakable foothold. Though the "Little King" impulse to consume, spend and borrow is still powerful and dangerous, we do have a Gramm-Rudman bill. Also, many people have opted out of the steam-pressure credit/urban economy and have migrated to Penturbia, where they already practice a thriftier, more self-sufficient and appropriate lifestyle. I predict that this new economy will reach its peak in 2010 and that, by 2065, it will have run its course.





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