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Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:30 AM

Planned Obsolescence and why Capitalism Can Never Deliver a perfect product

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time. The rationale behind the strategy is to generate short-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as "shortening the replacement cycle", until customers catch on and move to another product platform.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

This is why pharmaceutical companies have no vested interest in finding permanent cures to any disease. If they did, they would go out of business. Instead, they focus on temporary cures. Why? because money, not society's wellbeing is the primary value in a capitalist society.

This is why we don't have light bulbs that last forever. Why, because once you sell it to one customer you can never sell to that customer ever again.

This is why addictive drugs like tobacco are the perfect product from a capitalist perspective.

If we ever want to solve a problem for good, we cannot rely on capitalism to deliver it; it is not in the best interest of corporations.

To solve it, we must look to the best interest of society and its people first, and that requires a socialist perspective.

45 replies, 1845 views

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Reply Planned Obsolescence and why Capitalism Can Never Deliver a perfect product (Original post)
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 OP
HFRN Jun 2015 #1
swilton Jun 2015 #2
HFRN Jun 2015 #5
laundry_queen Jun 2015 #44
Nuclear Unicorn Jun 2015 #3
Travis_0004 Jun 2015 #4
Nuclear Unicorn Jun 2015 #6
ljm2002 Jun 2015 #10
historylovr Jun 2015 #14
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #16
former9thward Jun 2015 #31
Travis_0004 Jun 2015 #37
former9thward Jun 2015 #38
Fumesucker Jun 2015 #7
Adrahil Jun 2015 #11
Erich Bloodaxe BSN Jun 2015 #36
surrealAmerican Jun 2015 #41
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #15
geek tragedy Jun 2015 #8
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #17
liberal N proud Jun 2015 #9
One_Life_To_Give Jun 2015 #12
Romulox Jun 2015 #13
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #18
former9thward Jun 2015 #19
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #20
former9thward Jun 2015 #22
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #24
former9thward Jun 2015 #25
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #28
former9thward Jun 2015 #33
hack89 Jun 2015 #34
Warren DeMontague Jun 2015 #21
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #23
Warren DeMontague Jun 2015 #26
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #27
Warren DeMontague Jun 2015 #29
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #30
Warren DeMontague Jun 2015 #32
Erich Bloodaxe BSN Jun 2015 #35
The2ndWheel Jun 2015 #39
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #42
Snobblevitch Jun 2015 #40
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #43
Snobblevitch Jun 2015 #45
Xipe Totec Jun 2015 #46

Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:36 AM

1. used car prices reflect the wane of planned obsolescence

 

it used to be that a car (that wasn't collectable) had a value of almost zero after a certain age, even if it was in near new condition, sitting in the garage of a house the same age that had gone up in value

kinda nuts, when you think about it

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:38 AM

2. Capitalism

 

is based upon the false assumption of unlimited resources...

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Response to swilton (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:49 AM

5. capitalism, in it's current form, is suboptimization

 

for the benefit of a minority at a point in time, at the expense of the whole of all life across time

and externalization, of true costs

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Response to HFRN (Reply #5)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:28 PM

44. Well put. nt

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:46 AM

3. "This is why we don't have light bulbs that last forever."

I always suspected the Second Law of Thermodynamics was a capitalist conspiracy.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:47 AM

4. How the hell are we supposed to make a lightbulb that works forever?

 

Incandescent light bulbs didn't last that long, but they were good for the technology we had.

CFL lightbulbs were invented in the 90's and last up to 10 years.

LED lightbulbs have now been invented that can last 20 years. I think we have made huge strides.

(I'm sure somebody will point out that lightbulbs made in the early 1900's still work, but those bulbs are useless, which is why they stopped making them)

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Response to Travis_0004 (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:56 AM

6. Ironically, if a socialist made perma-products of vastly superior quality

They'd make money hand over fist because that would appeal to the market as the best value.

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Response to Travis_0004 (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:12 AM

10. I think it's known as "hyperbole"...

...and is a frequently used rhetorical device.

If we were reading a paragraph in a book, your critique would be valid. As it is, reading an informal essay on an online discussion group, I think it is appropriate to give a little slack. The overall point is sound: we could have lots of things that last a long time, and produce a lot less waste -- but the imperatives of capitalism work against that, so we don't.

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Response to ljm2002 (Reply #10)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:42 AM

14. +1

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Response to ljm2002 (Reply #10)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:03 PM

16. Eloquently put, and accurate. nt

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Response to Travis_0004 (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:50 PM

31. Oldest bulb has been burning since 1901.



It is in a firehouse in Livermore, CA. Webcam is set up to watch it. http://www.centennialbulb.org/cam.htm

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Response to former9thward (Reply #31)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 08:54 PM

37. Did you read my post?

 

(I'm sure somebody will point out that light bulbs made in the early 1900's still work, but those bulbs are useless, which is why they stopped making them)

Incandescent light bulbs can be made to last longer, you use a thick filament, but the thicker you make the filament, the dimmer the bulb. I know Incandescent light bulbs are not sold, but if you look at the packaging of a double life lightbulb, they put out 10-20% less light than a 'standard' light bulb.

So yes, even in 1900, we could design a light bulb that lasted 100 years. It put used 30 watts of electricity, and put out about the same light as an incandescent 4 watt light bulb.

My living room has 180 watts of lighting, assuming I'm using incandescent. To get the same output, I now have about 30 watts of LED.
If I bought a bunch of centennial bulbs, I would need about 45 of them, and I would use 1350 watts.

So the reason we switched to tugnsten bulbs that lasted 1 year vs 100 is they put out about 15 times as much light.

Even look at some replica light bulbs

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=607167-23915-60WST18TH&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=50277935&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=req&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

They use 60 watts and put out 1/3 the light, and that is using modern manufacturing. If the filament was thicker (which it would have to be given 1900 technology limits), then it would last longer, but be even dimmer.

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Response to Travis_0004 (Reply #37)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:12 PM

38. Yes I read it and agree with it.

I was just showing people who might not believe a bulb that old would be still be burning. I agree the bulb is not really worth anything in terms of light for the modern era.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:59 AM

7. All engineering is compromise, there is no such thing as a perfect product

There are a lot of products that shouldn't need to be replaced for a lifetime, a hand can opener say.. I have one in my camping kit that will in fact last a lifetime but it's not particularly convenient to use and leaves a very jagged edge on the cut. You can still buy them and they will still last basically forever but people don't like to use them.



As far as technology products, does anyone want to go back to black dial phones that weighed ten pounds and were on a six foot cord?

My phone is one I bought off a friend for $20 when he got a new one, it has vastly more powerful everything than my first PC, graphics, sound, memory and so on.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:13 AM

11. This so very much!!!

 

Engineering is a compromise. And the more complex the system, the more compromises need to be made.

My dad used to talk about owning shoes that would last "20 years." But putting aside parental exaggeration, the fact is that shoes used to COST a lot more too. You can still get shoes made that way if you want to pay $200/pr.

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Response to Adrahil (Reply #11)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 08:13 PM

36. Or you can buy them from LL Bean.

The exact pair of shoes might not last 20 years, but they have a no questions asked replacement policy. You buy clothing or shoes from them, you can return them for a replacement if they're damaged or worn out. I haven't yet done it with shoes, but I've done it with shirts I ripped.

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Response to Adrahil (Reply #11)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:28 PM

41. Those shoes were made to be repaired.

Parts of them did last 20 years, and other parts didn't. They also required more care than most people put into their footwear in this day and age.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:49 AM

15. Engineering is the marriage of science and economics

It is science at the service of capitalism.

Of course engineering is compromise.

"Anyone can build a bridge that stands, but it takes an engineer to build a bridge that *barely* stands."

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:00 AM

8. Don't pharmaceutical manufacturers make vaccines? nt

 

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #8)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:18 PM

17. Orphan Drugs

An orphan drug is a pharmaceutical agent that has been developed specifically to treat a rare medical condition, the condition itself being referred to as an orphan disease.

Since the market for any drug with such a limited application scope would, by definition, be small and thus largely unprofitable for pharmaceutical companies, government intervention is often required to motivate a manufacturer to address the need for an orphan drug.


The Orphan Drug Act (ODA) of January 1983, passed in the United States, with lobbying from the National Organization for Rare Disorders and many other organizations, is meant to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for diseases that have a small market.[9] Under the ODA orphan drug sponsors qualify for seven-year FDA-administered market Orphan Drug Exclusivity (ODE), "tax credits of up to 50% of R&D costs, R&D grants, waived FDA fees, protocol assistance[5]:660 and and may get clinical trial tax incentives.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan_drug


Bottom line, when the profit motive is not sufficient to obtain results, the state intervenes to create an artificial profit.


Pharmaceuticals do not generate vaccines except with direct subsidies from the government.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:11 AM

9. You couldn't afford the perfect product

Or at least wouldn't be willing to pay for it.

To make the product last forever, it takes engineering which cost money. It takes quality resources which cost money, and it takes efficient production which cost money. Then it has to be a safe product which cost money.

What you end up with is the most cost effective, safest product that the consumer is willing to pay for.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:39 AM

12. Ineptitude and Short Sightedness

Ineptitude and Short Sightedness as opposed to Planned.

It takes work to make a product fail on schedule. Most company's are not going to spend the $'s on Engineers to have them develop a product that fails in a somewhat precise and predictable matter. Occams Razor suggests the culprit is the attempt to make an item ever cheaper than either it's competition or it's predecessor. When all you care about is being certain it doesn't fail excessively during warranty, it's no surprise that failures start to become significant shortly there after.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:41 AM

13. Everything in this life is limited. There is no perfect product. nt

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Response to Romulox (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:22 PM

18. The Einstein Refrigerator: Built to Last 100 Years

In 1926, five years after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics, Albert Einstein read a news story about the death of a Berlin family, killed by toxic fumes that leaked from a broken seal in their refrigerator. Dangerous leaks like this were becoming an alarmingly frequent occurrence as old-fashioned ice boxes were replaced with modern refrigerators that used poisonous coolants.

Einstein became preoccupied with this tragedy, insisting that a better refrigerator design must be possible. He and former student Leó Szilárd – a gifted young physicist who went on to conceive the nuclear chain reaction and electron microscope – set out to find one.

Their approach to the problem sidestepped all conventional thinking about refrigeration. Because refrigerator leaks are usually caused when bearings and seals wear out, the team believed they could prevent this danger by designing a device with no moving parts: no motor, no mechanical motion, nothing to wear out. They used their knowledge of thermodynamics to produce an absorption refrigerator, a device that drove a combination of safer gases and liquids through three interconnected circuits. It required only a small pilot light as a heat source and was hermetically sealed and safe — so safe that some experts estimate the casing could last 100 years.



https://blog.etsy.com/en/2012/the-einstein-refrigerator-built-to-last-100-years



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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:24 PM

19. So there is no smoking in socialist countries?

Have socialist countries ever produced a light bulb which goes forever? And the products they produce are pretty much junk.

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Response to former9thward (Reply #19)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:28 PM

20. You're confusing socialist countries with the concept of socialism

Obfuscating, really. But that's another topic.

We're talking about profit as the prime motor of all 'good things'. That, given enough time, all problems will find an optimal solution if profit is involved.

I maintain that that argument is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #20)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:30 PM

22. Its not a perfect system.

But it is the system which brings the biggest amount of wealth to the biggest amount of people in the shortest time.

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Response to former9thward (Reply #22)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:34 PM

24. Are you one of the 1%? Because if not, you're absolutely and unequivocally wrong! nt

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #24)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:40 PM

25. No and No I am not.

Countries that institute socialism end up making their whole population poor with the exception of connected party members.

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Response to former9thward (Reply #25)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:46 PM

28. Really? Scandinavia?

Denmark, Norway, Sweden?

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #28)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:54 PM

33. Those are not remotely socialist countries.

They are all market based capitalist countries. They all have more social welfare programs than we do but they are capitalist. You don't get to redefine what socialism is and that is what you are trying to do.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #28)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:59 PM

34. All of which have free market capitalist economies. Nt

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:29 PM

21. We've gone from lightbulbs that last 6 months to ones that last 10 years.

So I'm not sure what your point there, is. Also, the fundamental concept your thesis is missing, is competition. Yes if there is some grand conspiracy on the part of all makers of all products to deliver things with deliberate defects or stunted lifepsans, sure, this will work.

But the minute people figure it out and someone else starts selling something that actually lasts, all bets are off.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #21)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:33 PM

23. The competition is between two economic theories.

Pure capitalism leads to monopoly. We already figured that out.

In order for competition itself to survive, we have to break monopolies.

Microsoft rescued Apple because it knew that if Apple fell, they would be a monopoly and be broken up.

So enlightened self interest drove them to rescue their competition from oblivion.



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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #23)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:40 PM

26. Economic theories which exist only in pure form, in the realm of thought

Like platonic solids.

If you want to criticize the real-world failures of the regulated capitalism we have, fine, but you ought to be prepared to demonstrate how real-world implementation of socialism*, communism, or planned central economies have done a better job of bringing quality products to the public.

* i will add that in the real world i do think some markets or sectors benefit from additional collective involvement, health care - and specifically insurance or coverage, (because, among other reasons, it is precisely when people are suffering large economic hits due to health that they most often incur onerous health expenses) being one notable example. However, health care is not light bulbs.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #26)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:44 PM

27. Don't make me quote Bernie Sanders, please.

You ought to be familiar with his position by now.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #27)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:49 PM

29. Maybe try quoting yourself, instead, if you want to make your own argument.

I mean, at the very least come up with a better example than light bulbs. The new LED ones, while expensive, last practically forever.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #29)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:50 PM

30. #10. You're grasping at straws - Talmudic quibbling. nt

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #30)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 07:53 PM

32. Um, That doesn't even make sense.

As for the odd reference to the talmud, if that's a sideways attempt at a swipe at my Jewishness, dude... you can find a helluva lot more observant ones than me.

If anything my holy book is the tao te ching. Or the onion.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 08:10 PM

35. Not everything is made that way, but far too much is.

When I shop, I look for the opposite of 'disposability'. I want items that will outlast my lifetime, so I never have to buy them again. Preferably things that will still be usable a hundred years from now.

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:19 PM

39. Well demand creates jobs right?

We have demand creating jobs. We have products that people wish would last forever. We have more and more people needing jobs. We have more and more technology taking the need for people out of the equation. The list goes on and on. More people going to college, decreases the value of that education. It just keeps going.

It's all a very complicated situation, and nothing about it is as easy as just having a socialist perspective, a capitalist perspective, a mixed perspective, or whatever else. It's just not that simple.

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Response to The2ndWheel (Reply #39)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:47 PM

42. Rich people don't need jobs. They do just fine living off the rest of us wage slaves. nt

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Response to Xipe Totec (Original post)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 09:21 PM

40. I use my great-grandmother's cast iron skillet every week.

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Response to Snobblevitch (Reply #40)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:28 PM

43. Bare cast iron vessels have been used for cooking for over two thousand years.

Cast iron pans were used as early as the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC – 220 AD) for salt evaporation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cast-iron_cookware

If you want to cite that as a triumph of capitalism, go right ahead.


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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #43)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:29 PM

45. I thought I did.

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Response to Snobblevitch (Reply #45)

Mon Jun 29, 2015, 10:33 PM

46. Capitalism in the Han Dynasty.... Who knew. nt

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