The discreet charm of poverty: Less is the new more


On Sunday, The New York Timesprinted an op-ed by novelist Pico Iyer. In the piece, "The Joy of Less," Iyer explored the wonder of reduced circumstances, suggesting that privation may be the key to physical and moral happiness. In the process, he suggested a likely new direction for mass-marketing: poverty chic.

This change has been coming for a while; a year ago, the exploding price of gas gave the first hint that values were changing. On one level, the rapidly rising popularity of hybrids was pragmatic. After all, with dramatically better gas mileage than most cars and far better styling than old Geo Metros, Priuses were an attractive way to save money. However, a great deal of their popularity came from something a lot less practical: on some level, conservation was starting to become cool.