Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Parable about Irons

     My husband and I have been married for almost 27 years, and in that time we have been through five toasters, five irons, and five vacuum cleaners.  They call this "planned obsolescence".  It allows companies to make cheap products - usually overseas where they pay their workers a fraction of what an American is paid for the same work...oh, except we don't HAVE very many of those jobs left because they've nearly all gone overseas.  And because the products are so cheap in price, they're also, well, CHEAP.  They don't last.
     So recently, on one of my vintage treasure hunts, I came across an iron made in the late 50's.  I paid five bucks for it at Goodwill.  The cord and plug looked to be in great shape, so I took my courage in both hands (I'm a real chicken when it comes to things that heat up) and plugged it in.  It heated up in a fraction of the time my most recent one took, and got truly hot, so that starched cottons got that wonderful crisp feel and look.  I've been using it for about a month now and I'll keep you posted.  A friend of mine has one that was her mom's and she's STILL using it, after all these years.
     I looked irons up in an old Montgomery Ward catalog (1958 - 59) and found my same iron.  It sold for $9.95 then.  With the change in monetary values since then, that same iron would sell for about $75 now.  An iron - any electric appliance - was an investment in those days.  You saved your money, you waited, and you bought when you had the money in hand.  And here's the important point - that item was WORTH the money you paid.  Now people can - and do - argue what's the difference between buying one iron at $75 and five irons at $15.  The difference?  It's that the $75 iron would provide a living wage for an American.  It would last 30, 40, 50 years.  There'd be less waste.  Less discarded junk to make our garbage dumps overflow.  We MUST rethink our values.  And this is why, beyond all other considerations.
     Someday we're going to have to fight another big war.  The last really big war - World War II - was won for a lot of reasons, one of which was that we had the factory infrastructure available to change over to war materiel.  We produced an unimaginable amount of STUFF in the five years of the war.  Where would we get that STUFF now?  China?  What if we're at war with China?  Think they'll sell us the stuff to beat them? 

No comments:

Post a Comment