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Is the convenience worth 51 cents?

So I needed to replace a burned out 40 watt appliance bulb for our stove range, and I found what looked like two identical bulbs on the shelf at the supermarket, except one was $1.49 and the other, $3.49. So I looked more closely, and saw that the more expensive bulb was a "double-life" bulb that allegedly lasted twice as long as the regular bulb.

But according to the math, I could buy one double-life bulb for $3.49 or two regular bulbs for $2.98. So you'd be paying 51 cents for the convenience of not taking the time to replace a burned-out regular bulb with another regular bulb. What would you do?

I bought two of the regular bulbs. For all I know, the appliance bulb in my refrigerator might burn out next week.

Comments

queenlyzard
Mar. 11th, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
This is part of the problem with free-market capitalism. We're destroying the environment (and in some cases our health) because it's cheaper to make shoddy product that we replace frequently than to make things durable. So we burn through resources faster and end up dumping the results in endless landfills.

Excellent for the economy. Lousy for the world we live in. So ultimately-- your decision shouldn't be based on either immediate cost or convenience, but on the long-term global results of your decision.

Sorry. This argument hardly applies to a tiny fridge bulb, I know, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to make the point. (The crazy liberal will shut up now)
hostirad
Mar. 15th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
Point well-taken. I agree that capitalistic greed is a threat to the environment. Of course it is not simply the responsibility of the sellers to be environmentally conscious. It is also the buyers' responsibility. If we care about the environment we will refuse to buy from irresponsible companies.
queenlyzard
Mar. 16th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
It is also the buyers' responsibility...

Oh, indeed. This is exactly why I disagree with libertarianism, however. The reason we're all still destroying the environment is that 1) the average consumer doesn't really care that much and 2) the average consumer (and even the above-average and caring consumer like myself) just plain doesn't know enough to judge what is the best purchase to make.

I mean, ok, maybe I know that recycling paper is actually an environmental hazard in itself, and that buying things that wear out quickly is a bad idea on the whole... but how can I possibly know one company from another in even a fraction of the cases in which I purchase something? I'd spend all my time doing research! And frankly, convenience and cost matter a lot more to me on a day-to-day basis, much as I wish they wouldn't.

However, if the government would kindly do that research for me and then, say, give tax breaks to the best companies and maybe subsidize their distrubution costs so that those products would be more widely and cheaply available... well, I think everyone would win.

Ok, so it's unrealistic idealism of a different sort. But I think having a system that works this way is more possible than expecting everyone to do their part, honestly. I wish that weren't the case, but I suspect it is.
hostirad
Mar. 16th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC)
Gosh, I don't want to be an apologist for libertarianism because, as I've said on numerous occasions lately, I am not a very good example of a libertarian. I don't believe in property or rights, and I'm not fond of guns.

That said, I do agree with libertarians on many issues. Libertarians believe in personal responsibility, and so do I. Pro-statists say that the average person is not responsible enough to make sensible decisions, so the government must make decisions for them. In other words, most adults are not really adults, and the government has to protect them from themselves. They don't know how to make ecologically sensible decisions, so the government has to do that for them.

Okay. So where do you draw the line about the government making decisions for you? The products you purchase? The drugs you take? The foods you consume? Whether or not to carry a baby to term?

How do you know that another human being can make a wiser decision for you than you can make yourself? Just because they are a government employee?!?!

My personal preference is to allow adults to make decisions for themselves, as long as they are not directly committing violence or fraud against another person. Yes, some of our decisions may be stupid. But what is the alternative? What is the government's track record? Are their decisions wiser than yours?
queenlyzard
Mar. 16th, 2007 05:01 am (UTC)
Wow.. Good points. This deserves a better response than I can give right now, since I seriously need to go get some sleep, but... I think you've listed the reasons why I'm no better a democrat than you are a libertarian :)

I do believe in personal responsibility. I also believe that the government needs to give people the tools to be responsible, because things like decent educations aren't just lying around in the street for anyone to pick up. More than people not being responsible, I worry about people not being informed. Good intentions mean very little without the knowledge to make them effective (see my point about recycled paper, which your average environmentally-minded citizen considers a good thing).

Some people aren't responsible enough, true. My problem with this is how often that irresponsibility has serious repercussions for other people, for society at large, and for the good of the world we live in. And no, I don't have a good answer to any of this: but in the same way you object to one person committing violence on another, I object to letting people drive while drunk, or letting mentally ill parents raise children, or letting a company dump toxic chemicals near a town's drinking water. And, left to themselves, people do things like that. I can give innumerable examples.

My point isn't that I trust any government employee more than myself! But governmental regulations have 2 major advantages over my own decisions. 1) they are made by a group of people rather than just one. This is no guarantee of a better decision, but I think it improves the odds at least a bit. 2) Someone whose 9-5 job is to research the safety of a product knows more about it than I do. Particularly since I don't have the time or energy to research thousands of products, drug companies, nutritional studies, etc. At some point, in any case, I have to trust information from somewhere. It would be great if it could come from a single, relatively reliable source (reliable compared to what? you ask... oh, TV commericals, rumor, pseudo-science studies, horoscopes, and all the similar things so many people base their daily decisions on!)

Hence, trusting things like consumer guides. I'd like to see the government act like one giant "consumer reports" board-- not necessarily making things legal or illegal, but making it easier for me to make good decisions, by providing easy-to-access information as well as financial or practical incentives for doing the right thing. Heck, it would be nice if the government would hire a board of eminent scientists to figure out stuff like this... and then figure out how to spread that information as well as possible. Sometimes this does happen (nutritional information labeling is a great example). But I'd like to see more of it.

Like I said, I know this is idealistic. But darn it-- some organizations, like consumer guides, have pulled off this sort of thing. So if they can do it, the government could too. We just have to get it set up right.

Anyways-- it's not really that I disagree with any of the points you made. But I think this mostly covers my counter-points. Hope it makes sense to you. I need sleep now!
hostirad
Mar. 16th, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
things like decent educations aren't just lying around

As a professional educator, I am of course passionately in favor of everyone getting the best possible education. And I mean everyone, not just the elite. The standard libertarian response to this issue is the same as for all issues: who does a better job providing education, the government or the private sector? Look what people who have money are choosing. The less-well-off have no choice but to use "free" (tax-supported) government education. If the government removed itself from the education business, would the private sector move in to provide affordable, high-quality education for the masses? I don't know. Privatizing education sounds very risky, doesn't it? If education was not compulsory, would enough people want it for their children to create a viable market? Do parents really want their children to be well educated, to learn to think critically, or do they want to have their biases reinforced? (Look how parents are avoiding having their children learn about genetics and evolution by sending their children to religious schools.) I honestly do not know what is the optimal solution to education. I only believe that an educated and well-informed populace is vital to the successful operation of a democracy, and that currently the populace is not as well educated as they could be.

As for the government as a giant consumer reports board--I think I could go with that, especially if competent scientists were used for the board. Libertarians might see this as beyond the scope of government, which would be another reason why I'm not the greatest libertarian in the world.