Saturday, June 09, 2007

Grumpy old boomers: pencil sharpeners, garbage cans, toasters, DVD/VCR combos and emergent fraud

This morning our last modern pencil sharpener broke. We have only one that works now. It's twelve years old, I remember coming across it in the campus bookstore. Even then reliable sharpeners were hard to find, so I bought several. Only one survives. It was made in Germany. We're going to mention it in our will, it may be worth a fortune thirty years from now. By then billionaires will employ artisans to craft beautiful objets d'art that sharpen pencils, and the rest of us will be using our teeth.

We tossed the broken one in the garbage. Alas, the can was broken. Well, that's almost reasonable. One year in a house with our 3 kids would even have weakened a German garbage can. No surprise this one broke.

We can't replace it. There are no more square, tough cans that use standard cheap trash bags. There are only round cheap things that use exotic bags that will only be sold for the next six months.

Our two DVD/VCR combos limp along. One has a broken DVD player, the other a broken tape player. There's no point in replacing them -- the replacement would only last three to six months then it would break. We won't replace our crummy old toaster, because the modern modern alternatives won't last more than a few weeks.

How to explain this emergent conspiracy of globalized incompetence and occult inflation? Clearly the answer is related to Krugman and Hilton [1] and the reelection of George Bush. The American consumer is simply overwhelmed, unable to process and cope with the complexity of the new age. Consumers are repetitive and consistently making very poor choices, and the market is responding to the frailty of the consumer.

I'm hopeful that a correction is coming. It's too late for we boomers to get our heads around the new world -- we're too old and slow. We can, however, retreat into "grumpy old person" buy nothing, replace nothing stasis -- and that will give the young more leverage. It's up to their minds to absorb the new rules, and reboot the marketplace.

Go for it kiddies, we gomers are depending on you!

[1] BTW, I'm seriously starting to feel sorry for Ms. Hilton.

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