Saturday, July 26, 2014

Be For Real

I was in the car, listening to and interview about the need to change our economic model on the radio, and the interviewer asked the guest why so many people felt strapped for cash, and the guest chalked part of it up to the fact that people now pay other people do things that once were "free" (in that people did them for themselves) and that people personally own things that they don't use very often and thus could be shared among a number of people. As examples, he mentioned food preparation (restaurants and grocery store delicatessens) and ownership of power tools.

Now, I completely understand the idea that spending your own time to cook and sharing power tools with everyone in the neighborhood would save money. And my standard objection to this is not that there's anything wrong with it per se, but what then happens to the restaurant workers and the power tool makers? But I think I've flogged that horse enough, so I'm going to leave it alone and simply approach this from another angle.

Consumerism = Bad. I get it. No, seriously, I understand the concept. But - I don't think that consumerism is that bad. As in so bad that we need to do something about it right at this very second. And so we have time to do things in a way that's less likely to blow up in our faces. If you really think that people should be doing more of their own cooking, there's a simple answer to that - find the people who are willing to prepare food for money, and give them better jobs than food preparation. As the price of labor goes up, people will do more of their own cooking. It's what happened with the Dot Com Bubble was still in full swing. Restaurants needed to raised wages to compete with technology companies for workers, and some closed down (local take-and-bake pizza and causal dining places immediately come to mind) because they couldn't find enough people to staff the place at and stay competitive.

In the end, expecting people to take something that's inexpensive and treat it as if it were expensive doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. If that's what we need to rely on to create a sustainable economy, then we're in trouble, because the approach artificially creates and exports poverty. A more organic shift in prices of goods and services seems to be more in order.

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