Sunday, July 4, 2010

The “Where Did Everybody Go?” Weekend

As I’ve been out and about during the extended holiday weekend, I’ve seen unusually light traffic, not just on the roads, but in the stores, restaurants, and parks. I believe some people have left town for the weekend, but from everything I can tell, the crowd at the beach is also smaller than you would expect for a peak summer weekend. The question, “Where did everybody go?” has come up at more than one place that I’ve visited.

It seems to me that many people are just staying home. They haven’t gone anywhere, but by staying home and not going out shopping for a few days, it gives the impression that they’ve disappeared.

If that is indeed the story, it is another example of the way that large economic effects result from small personal decisions. If someone says, “I’m just going to relax for the whole extended weekend,” it is not a major or consequential decision at the personal level. But if most of the people in the area are taking that approach, then it represents a big short-term decline in the level of commercial activity.