Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves | Wilson Center

Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves

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This seminar will discuss the transnational history of how Europeans, Japanese, and other Asians came to promote saving by means of savings banks, postal savings, and war savings campaigns over the past two centuries. Historically, U.S. policies increasingly encouraged mass consumption and borrowing. After years of near-zero saving rates and growing household indebtedness, Americans are beginning to save again. What might we learn from other countries that boast much higher saving rates?

Sheldon Garon is the Dodge Professor of History and East Asian Studies in the Department of History at Princeton University. Garon studies modern and contemporary Japan, with research interests in relationships between state and society, the links between culture and popular economic behavior, and locating Japan within a global or transnational history of ideas and institutions. Garon was born and raised in northern Minnesota; he graduated from the University of Minnesota, and went on to receive a master's degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in history from Yale. His publications include: The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West; Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life; and The State and Labor in Modern Japan. In his current book project, Garon continues to study the impact of state-directed moral suasion on popular behavior. Fashioning a Culture of Thrift: Promoting Saving in Japan and the World is a comparative history of various governments' efforts to encourage saving among their citizens. Comparing Japan with the United States and several European and Asian nations, Garon argues that in their high rates of saving and cautious approach to consumption, continental European countries have much in common with Japan and South Korea, and it is the Americans who are exceptional. Garon is also co-editing a collection of essays, Consumer Culture and Its Discontents, that examines ambivalence toward American-style consumer culture in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Garon frequently comments in the media on contemporary developments in political economy.


  • Sheldon Garon

    Dodge Professor of History and East Asian Studies, Princeton University