For the past several years I have been trying to find a relatively cheap watch that does not break or die after a few months. I am not convinced that I will never find one. I am going to have to invest in a good watch much in the same way that I have decided to bite the bullet and invest in a nice pair of shoes or quality winter jacket. You get what you pay for.
Over Salon, David Sirota writes about American’s obsession with “bargain culture,” especially as it relates to the electronics industry. Here is a taste:
Whereas Great Depression America valued well-made utilitarian products and understood the inherent danger of bargain culture, Great Recession America prioritizes discounts at the expense of everything else.
This shift from heirloom sensibilities to today’s throwaway mind-set has brought us a full-fledged ethos of cheap — one that offers both a self-reinforcing logic and an illusory promise of social status. We can see this most clearly in the ubiquitous realm of electronics….
Cheap, in other words, is operating most powerfully at the subconscious level, where semiotics reign supreme. We can no longer afford to show off with Corvettes and McMansions, so we now show off with less expensive smart phones and home theaters. In that sense, the bizarre obsession with moderately priced vanity gadgets is part of a living-standard masquerade at the twilight of middle-class prosperity. It doesn’t matter if the electronic bling works well or lasts long. Its value is not utility — it is the ability to feign class equality in a country of crushing stratification and rising poverty.
All of this, of course, comes with serious consequences. Some are obvious — for instance, environmental degradation from excessive waste or larger long-term expenses from repeated replacement purchases. Some are more indirect — such as low wages from the low-price business model. And still others are nearly invisible — say, the deleterious psychological effects of a society trying to keep up with the Joneses….
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