Letters to the Editor: Issue 16

Examining the shortcomings of capitalism

We will begin with the premise that everyone has the inherent right to own property in a capitalist society.

Ownership of land, resources, technology, and intellectual property is a very detrimental component of capitalism for several reasons.

Why allow companies to buy patents in order to suppress technology as exemplified by the electric car? Why research a cure if profits from treatments outweigh the profits from that cure? Why does everyone on a suburban block need their own lawn mower if one is only used for twenty minutes a week?

Ownership in this day and age stimulates the unnecessary extraction and production of natural resources while the required amount of utility is less than what is actually produced.

Furthermore, this need for “one of everything” is exaggerated in commercial advertisements, indoctrinating a society full of greedy, self-serving individuals; it inherently contrasts with the principles of sustainability.

As technology progressed through the 21st century, complex economic models and algorithms were derived in order to outcompete other businesses. These models were also designed to keep the consumption of the economy always running, also known as cyclical consumption.

Intrinsic and planned obsolescence are two of the processes in which this consumption never comes to a standstill. Intrinsic obsolescence occurs when a company cannot use the best materials available in building their product in order to remain cost efficient. From this restraint of cost efficiency, the product is not at its best possible condition in regards to its longevity.

Planned obsolescence on the other hand, is the deliberate attempt to reduce the life expectancy of a product through use of malware, glitches, substandard software, and such so that consumers will continue the cyclical consumption.

How does this the affect the environment? We have thousands upon thousands of waste electronic depots filled with products whose longevity could have easily been doubled if they were designed properly.

Cyclical consumption threatens the world in two major ways. First, we constantly have to keep extracting resources at a very fast rate, and secondly, the companies who produce these products are not responsible for the proper disposal of them after they are no longer useable. This creates vast landfill sites all around the world in which “poorer” areas are disproportionately affected more.

– Scott Dowle

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