Other Notable Deaths


August 03, 2009


Economist who favored consumer culture

Stanley Lebergott, 93, a retired economist and professor whose influential books and articles maintained that consumerism had brought positive changes to the American standard of living, died July 24 of cardiac arrest at his home in Middletown, Conn.

Mr. Lebergott, a former government economist and Wesleyan University professor, took issue with those who disdained "consumerism" as wasteful, pointless, even immoral. Consumption, he maintained, has always been an expression of human longing rather than mere acquisitiveness.

Reviewing his book, "Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century" (1993), Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley praised Mr. Lebergott's "lucidity, wit and forthrightness."

"Lebergott argues that the great American shopping spree is not mere self-indulgence but an essential part of what has been a remarkably successful pursuit of happiness. ... We do better service to the truth if we credit it with permitting Americans to liberate themselves from the onus of repetitive, unrewarding labor," Mr. Yardley wrote.

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