If you really want to make the world a better place

Planned Obsolescence: A Lament for Quality Amid a World of Junk.

Don’t get me going!

Imposing a tax on those products that have their obsolescence built in might be one alternative. However, it isn’t a necessarily straightforward project.

Over the past 40 years, vehicles have become much more reliable and last longer. My Civic has over 100,000 K on it, has never given me a problem and is just getting started! It did, however, cost more up front than the equivalent North American model. This change may be a combination of market competition and higher prices for gas and servicing. Back in the day, many families would buy a new car every year or two – don’t see that much any more.

I suspect that the new hybrid and alternative fuel models will see more turnover. The fundamental technology is still in development. Battery and other energy storing issues haven’t been solved.

On the other hand, most consumer appliances are a complete ripoff. It is almost axiomatic that buying new makes more sense than paying for expensive repairs. Similar commercial equipment (ranges, ovens, laundry, etc.) lasts forever. However, it also costs at least twice as much and is meant for much higher volume use.

Other manufacturing practices are down right criminal. I’ve been collecting “wall worts” for the last 15 years on the theory that I could easily replace a 15 volt, 300 ma, center pinned power supply. That would be the theory – it almost never works out in practice. There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be otherwise. The technology hasn’t changed and the fundamental power requirements are pretty much ubiquitous.

Capitalist theory says that the marketplace functions most efficiently when the consumer has the right information. While there are sources of information that rate quality and reliability, they are often times problematic. For instance, using Consumer Reports in Canada comes with a host of model number and brand issues. I’ve also found that many of the consumer rating websites are not that authoritative.

We would, I think, spend $1,000 on a dishwasher that lasts 25 years instead of $500 for one that will last five years. But which is that dishwasher? Industry and government have mandated and encouraged energy efficiency standards – why not the same for quality standards?

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