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In the past much of a consumer's purchases were made using cash that was actually...

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In the past much of a consumer's purchases were made using cash that was actually available or on very short term credits at stores.  How and why do you think there was such an increase in consumers spending without having the income to back it up, leading to an increase in debt?  Do you think it was creditors' lax policy or do you think there was a change in culture for consumers where spending became a priority?

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I would argue that the boom in consumer credit was caused by both of these factors and by another factor as well.

The other factor that I would cite is the increase in consumer income.  In the last few decades of the 20th century, people’s incomes rose.  More people had steadier sources of income than in times past.  This meant that they were good risks for lending. 

Because people were good risks for lending, the credit card industry started to boom.  This seemed to be a good thing for everyone.  The credit card companies made money.  Retailers made money since the increase in credit allowed more people to buy.  Therefore, the credit industry got to be more and more lax about the people to whom it was willing to give credit.  This was done in pursuit of profit.

At the same time, there has been a change in consumer culture.  As we have gotten used to being rich, and as the number of things like consumer electronics have boomed, we have become much more obsessed with material goods.  We want to have everything, regardless of whether we can afford it.

Thus, both of the factors that you mention, along with an increase in consumer income and wealth, have helped to bring about an increase in consumption fueled by credit.

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