mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

In praise of the throwaway society...

Yesterday, I heard someone use the phrase "throwaway society"- which got me thinking. Usually, the term "throwaway society" is used as a put-down, as a way of saying that we are too materialistic/consumeristic, that too much of our stuff today is crap instead of being built to last.

I tend to see things the opposite way. The fact that we live in a throwaway society isn't a sign that things are worse than they used to be, but rather better than they ever have been. True, we don't repair things as much as we used to - but that's because we don't have to and don't want to, not because we can't. And it's better that way.

And I'm not saying this simply as a beliver that manufacturers are involved in schemes of making things intentionally obsolete, but rather because being able to replace instead of repairing is a sign of wealth.

What would you rather have - a repaired 27" TV or the latest plasma? A pair of patched/darned socks, or a fresh-out-the-package pair? Your beat-up toaster with a new cord or a shiny new toaster with bagel-sized slots and burn control?

Most people would answer the latter, and vote with their wallets. I would theorize that there are three reasons for this:

1)lower prices. Thanks to free(er) trade, advancement of assembly-line production technology, and increased competition, it costs less to make an item and thus they sell for less. When the price difference is small (or it costs more to fix an item than replace) people will naturally decide to buy a new one. Much of this is the efficiency of mass-production - it's easier for a bunch of people in an assembly line to put an item together quickly than some guy taking apart with a screwdriver.

2)Increased wealth - people have more money than they did in the past, and because of #1 lower prices, they have more things. A hundred years or so ago, most people had 1 or two sets of clothes, and they made up a significant part of their budget. Now, you can get a decent sweater for a couple dollars, and it makes up a tiny part of your budget. So when that sweater snags, you'll toss it and buy a new one instead of sewing it - because you can afford to.

3)Increased features - products are getting better all the time, and especially for electronics, chances are the latest model has some neat features that didn't exist when your couple-year-old broken one was made. So that's an added incentive to go new.

Some will argue that the throwaway society has been bad for other reasons - increased trash, loss of old-school charm, ect. The "landfill crisis" has been debunked by many, such as Bjorn Lumborg in the Sceptical Enviromentalist. And if people cared about old-school charm, they wouldn't vote with their wallets for assembly-line products.

So throw something out today - the throwaway society is a sign of how good things are.


At 7:49 PM, Blogger Muneer said...

In my house, alot of times a thing really won't get replaced unless it breals. Would of bever bought that new blender if the old one from Yonkers (yep, that old) never broke.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Puggard said...

I accept that the Throwaway Society have been good for many reasons as you mentioned above but for some other poor people, they would not able to spend their life by this way. Sometimes something can repair rather than just throw it away. I am the person who not always repair things but in my opinion I think this is another way to save your money.

Miss.Natthida No. 4

At 2:57 AM, Anonymous Miss. Weeraya No.39 said...

I agree with you. Because today the technology is very effective and competition marketing.The products are effective and cheapen.If repair some products to not may be worthwhile.New product more worthwhile.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I do not agree with that "Throwaway society" of Mad anthony Because some things can not be repaired rather than a need to buy new. But for some people may choose to purchase in order to reflect the higher society. But if you can repair them. Shall have the option to make the course more than throw the metal is collected until it was sold out. Use of resources is not worth it. Inefficient And the many environmental pollution problems.


At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't agree with the writer because i think people are materialistic and they throw old product because of bad quality.

At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with the writer because the fact that we live in throwaway society isn't a sighn that thing are worse than they used to be

At 3:29 AM, Anonymous chris chipperfield said...

I agree with the writer about that replacing the products is better than just repairing them

At 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with the writer because people are very rich today.

At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in my opinion the writer is right when he said that people spend more money on new products because they are better

At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont agree with the writer when he said that people are so materialistic .

At 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that the writer is right when said the new products are of good quality.


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