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the story of stuff

If you haven't seen the story of stuff, you need to.

Lucid, brief, and compelling.


Uff da. Let me list off just a few of the things that made me grind my teeth.

1. Government's job is not to protect us from ourselves. Government's job is to take care of high-level needs that can't be reasonably scaled down to a more local level. An example would be printing money -- this isn't scalable to a lower level because the inefficiencies of having, say, fifty different dollars, would cause economic failure. Another would be defense -- large-scale defense is not possible for, say, Rhode Island. Or San Francisco. We have traditionally fared best when we had the smallest government -- both in size and in scope, meaning local government with few responsibilities.

2. I hate it when people describe corporations as gigantic sentient entities. Corporations are made of PEOPLE. I work for one. So do you. So, presumably, has the narrator. It's not like "oh, Dull-Mart made a decision". The people in charge of Dull-Mart made the decision. Anti-corporation laws drive me nuts because the target is wrong.

3. Really? Pillows are horribly toxic? Why aren't there large-scale death rates for people who use pillows?

4. So if you take away the jobs in the third world that are in factories -- and yes, there are human rights issues big-time in factories -- what will those people do? Just go back to being medieval tribes?

5. The $4.99 example has a lot of flaws. Perhaps it's a loss leader being made up by something that has a much fatter profit margin. Who says that the price has to reflect everything in it anyway? It's not quantifiable to the individual unit level. That's not a zero-sum process. It never will be -- profit plays a part and throws out the zero-sum argument.

6. The 99% trash vs. 1% used after 6 months assumes that all products were meant to be durable goods. A cheeseburger is not a durable good. Neither is a ream of paper. That's not to say there's not a point there -- a lot of things that SHOULD be durable goods are pitched out -- but the exaggeration only hurts her credibility.

7. I find it hard to swallow that our ultimate purpose is justice, or charitable works. I could almost buy health care, because it speaks to the evolutionary tendency to want to prolong life, but it just all sat wrong.

8. Wow, computer oversimplification much? You are continually upgrading the weakest link. It doesn't always work that way, so people tend to buy a large number of upgrades at once. Computers, though, are too expensive to be thrown out often. The average workplace replaces a computer after between 3-5 years. The average home, 5-7 years. It was on Slashdot, but I disremember when.

9. Perhaps the 1950's happiness quotient was taken after the US won a war. Or perhaps it was because surveys in that era tended to elide the contributions of minority groups and fringe opinions. The 1950's was a conformist time. Perhaps it was the sexual revolution in the 1960's that contributed to the decline in the happiness quotient; or the lack of leadership in the US (doves vs. hawks).

Those are just a few of the things. She has a really valid premise to all of it -- we consume too much stuff, and our lives are driven by the desire to consume, just like some sick real-life interpretation of Huxley's Brave New World -- but it was overblown. She could really have drawn "middle-of-the-roaders" into her fold with a lot less of the unnecessary liberal ranting.

It wasn't a waste of 20 minutes, but it was definitely not inspiring.

Or perhaps I'm just jaded and conservative.