Don\'t Fix What You Can Buy New For Less

Ryan offers an everyday parable exposing the foolishness of conservation for its own sake.

The takeaway:

People like to lament the throwaway culture of modern society. Really it's just that we're so efficient at producing things and labor costs are so high that sometimes it just doesn't make sense NOT to throw something away.

Share this

"The market prices resources

"The market prices resources accurately enough for us to be confident that if the materials used to make any items that are not now recycled become sufficiently scarce, the prices of those materials will rise. These higher input prices will raise the prices paid by consumers for these items, giving consumers greater incentives to recycle them."

This sounds like a good rationalization, but I don't think it's accurate. This is because there is not perfect information about the things that we value, so there will always be positive and negative externalities with respect to every economic decision like this that is made. Public resources like oxygen, and biological entities like forests, which this argument takes for granted, have not yet been effectively commodified, and thererefore I conside such analyses naive because I think they gloss over issues that are important. But I'd appreciate dialog on the topic.

This insightful commentary

This insightful commentary on recycling by Don Boudreaux (of Cafe Hayek fame) elaborates on much the same theme.

And now for the deluge of

And now for the deluge of examples. The most prevalent case of "sheaper to buy than fix" is consumer electronics. Our el-cheapo DVD player constantly skipped. We took it to the shop, and could buy a new one (later model and and better quality) for $20 more than it cost to fix.

Of course, while much of

Of course, while much of this stuff is too cheap to repair for it's origional purpose, often such throwaways make lovely raw materials for one-off noodling, custom engineering and other personal R&D. An inventor's best friend is a well-stocked junk-box. Makes me wonder how much creativity is being spurred by the flood of well-engineered raw material in the form of such cast-offs.