And so the massive grab-fest begins

I must have nothing but conservatives for friends because nobody wants to go blow a wad of money they don’t have. Everyone was talking about Buy Nothing Day on Facebook today.

I was torn — being deeply conservative, I am loath to spend money I don’t have also, but I also battle the lingering fear that anything I buy in the popular culture market is going to be junk in two years.

That digital camera I boought 6 years ago for $400? Check. Every computer I’ve ever owned? Check.

On the other hand, so little actual consumer manufacturing is done in this country any more that, perversely enough, we all need to go out and spend money to keep the economy going. That’s because, since nobody makes anything nor can they make a living repairing broken stuff,  more and more people have to make a living getting people to buy the stuff made somewhere else, then get them to buy some more. It is convenient that the stuff made elsewhere is such cheap crap that it does not last and is not worth fixing, but it is hard to see this all as a good situation in the long run.

And since sales jobs pay less than manufacturing jobs, we need them to buy even more, and more often, just to make enough to live, but since the people doing the buying are also making less because THEIR manufacturing jobs also disappeared, well, you see the problem. The housing bubble, which created trillions of dollars out of smoke and mirrors, was only a temporary solution and, as we have seen, ended up making things worse.

All of this is explained nicely in The Story Of Stuff (click) which shows the insanity without explaining how we are supposed to get out of it without shutting down the country entirely.

The real problem is that, while everyone was talking about not buying stuff today, my elder son was standing around the flower shop he works at with nothing to do because nobody was buying stuff. This is a locally owned business that needs to sell flowers and home decore to stay in business to provide jobs to people like my son, so how can I, in good conscience, advise anyone not to buy, at the very least, his stuff?

(And, no, I’m not going to give that shop, Olive & Dahlia, 215 25th Street, Ogden, convenient parking, a free plug. What do you think this is?)

On the other hand, the whole season is just a bit silly — I’ve never done any Black Friday shopping because I get claustrophic in crowded stores anyway, plus I always end up feeling as if I’ve really wasted all that money.

Actually, I have wasted all that money. David Pogue, the tech columnist at the New York Times, discussed his decade of writing columns about technology, admits even he can’t keep up, but notes especially that virtually none of the things he wrote about 6 months ago or more is still for sale, or is even being made. His readers, we must surmise, are in a race to see who can throw the most money at the most junk that will be worthless very soon, so they can throw even more. Well, Pogue does make his living writing about “new” tech stuff — if the market were to slow down, he’d be out of work.

A lot of the things he wrote about in the past do have descendents for sale, but they’re also rapidly becoming more and more obsolete, to the point that some things are not now obsolete the minute you buy them, but were obsolete — Internet TV anyone? — before they even hit the store shelves.  How scary is that?

This is very hard for me to accept because I am old enough to remember when — old person rant alert!!! — you could get things fixed and they actually lasted a while.

“Yeah yeah, go buy a vinyl record, gramps” you may well say — but I am actually a grandpa and vinyl records are coming back again, so there!

So, moderation in all things. The knowledge that new stuff will be junk in months, or even weeks, ought to induce you to stay home a bit more, spend a bit less (except on flowers) and be happy with what you’ve got.

ps. For the record, I do learn. My 2nd digital camera was a $70 used point and shoot off ebay, and the camera I am carrying with me to take actual pictures is a 60-year-old Leica that, yes, is still worth having serviced. Wish I could say the same thing for Leica’s digital cameras, but ce la vie….

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3 Responses to And so the massive grab-fest begins

  1. William Kershaw says:

    C’mon Chuck, since when can you call yourself a conservative? I once was your paper deliverer and have read your column for too long to allow this to go unchallenged.

  2. ctrentelman says:

    a conservative is someone who is — among many many things — conservative with his/her money.

    I have no debt, a paid off house and don’t spend money I don’t have. I am slow to adopt new things that cost money (as well as things that don’t cost money.) When I owe money, I pay it and don’t cut my own income until I have, if then.

    I firmly believe the government should do the same and, yes, that includes not cutting taxes when it’s running a deficit.

  3. stratslider says:

    Dear Chuck, it’s “c’est la vie”.

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