Economics is all about consumption. People either spend money now or they use financial instruments - like bonds, stocks and savings accounts - so they can spend more later.
When you see a merger between two giants in a declining industry, it can look like the financial version of a couple having a baby to save a marriage.
'Reinventing the Bazaar,' by John McMillan, is a great and fun introduction to the wild variety and importance of markets throughout history and around the world. I finally understood how a Middle Eastern souk actually works economically and how to compare that to modern-day telecom-spectrum auctions. I love that book.
If the American government can't stand behind the dollar, the world's benchmark currency, then the global financial system will very likely enter a new era in which there is much less trade and much less economic growth. It would be, by most accounts, the largest self-imposed financial disaster in history.
Holiday binge-buying has deep roots in American culture: department stores have been associating turkey gluttony with its spending equivalent since they began sponsoring Thanksgiving Day parades in the early 20th century.