“It is the veneer, rouge, aestheticism, art museums, new theaters, etc. that make America impotent. The good things are football, kindness and jazz bands.”
— George Satyana
I didn’t have a dog in yesterday’s Super Bowl — not even Snoop Dog, so I didn’t have all that much interest in the game. If pressed, I was rooting for Cincinnati, the AFC champs, because if pressed also, I’m a Patriots fan by birth. The Patriots also play in the AFC. So…
I watched the game with my wife and daughter. We made a nice lasagna. Had a few glasses of wine. But who are we kidding? The public spectacle of it all is what they were really interested in: the halftime show and the commercials. Our collective attention is what makes the economics of the Super Bowl work.
Advertisers spent a record $6.5 million to hawk their goods for 30 seconds during the broadcast. Amid the usual beer and movie ads, we also watched celebrities tout electric cars… smart devices… and cryptocurrency wallets.
Popular crypto site Coinbase paid to air nothing but a scannable QR code for 60 seconds. Curiously, the ad worked. The sudden influx of traffic overwhelmed the app. Maybe the company should have spent a little more time bolstering its servers before dangling a mystery in front of 117 million viewers.
But Charles Hugh Smith, my guest for this week’s Session, believes that kind of poor planning is by design. He recently posted an essay about U.S. consumerism on his blog, https://www.oftwominds.com. Just think about it: the fact the ad overwhelmed servers is getting more attention than the pattern-interrupt of a bouncing technicolor QR code.
If you’ve read any of Charles’ works before — including books like Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It or A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All – you know it’s not a fuzzy billet-doux.
You’ll find an excerpt from Charles below. Enjoy! — Addison
The “Crapification” of the U.S. Economy Is Now Complete
“Only a psychopath would ever think of doing these things, only a psychopath would dream of abusing other people in such a way, only a psychopath would treat people as less than human just for money. The shocking truth is, even though they now have most if not all of the money, they want still more…”
― Arun D. Ellis
The U.S. economy has fundamentally changed, and not for the better. There are numerous dynamics behind this decay, and I’ll discuss a few of the more consequential ones this month in my blog, www.oftwominds.com.
One consequential dynamic few mainstream pundits dare discuss is the “crapification” of the entire U.S. economy. That isn’t my description; “crapification” is now in common use. If the word offends you, substitute terminal decay of quality, competition, utility, durability, repairability and customer service.
One aspect nobody seems to notice is the transformation from a society that once drew its identity from producing quality goods and services to a society that draws its identity from consuming crapified goods and services. Now that Americans define themselves by consuming, they are enslaved to consumption: to limit consumption is to disappear — and “spending time” on social media is a form of consumption, even if no goods or services are purchased directly, as one’s attention / time are valuable commodities.
In other words, Americans have been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to consume, no matter how poor the quality and service. We just buy it anyway, and grumble over the decaying quality and service — but we won’t take the only action that would impact corporations and the government: stop buying the products and services. Opt out, drop out, make it at home, cancel the service, just stop buying abysmally made junk and pathetically poor services.
Corporations and the government are monopolies or quasi-monopolies, and so they don’t have to care whether customers are appalled by poor quality and service: they know the customer has to consume whatever is offered, no matter how crapified.
Go ahead and issue worthless warranties, products designed to fail, products designed to be unrepairable, software that is routinely declared obsolete so we have to buy the new crapified version that demands insane amounts of memory and processing power — go ahead, because the herd will continue buying the same garbage products and services because to stop consuming is unthinkable: I consume, therefore I am.
Governments know we have no choice and since we continue electing the same “best democracy money can buy” politicos, nothing will change. Those in power know the grumbling is just background noise because the herd will dutifully vote for the same crapified, corrupt, dysfunctional system every two years…
Since Corporate America is now nothing but a collection of rapacious cartels and quasi-monopolies, they don’t care about the terminal decay of their quality or service, either. They know we’re going to show up and buy their garbage anyway because we have no choice, and they know the quality of their “competitors” (hahaha) products and service is equally noxious.
They can count on well-trained Americans continuing to fly, eat out, sign up and buy, buy, buy no matter how wretched the quality and service because consumption is all we have.
In the Technicolor fantasy of corporate promoters, enterprises gain sales by making higher quality products than competitors. Two generations ago, this was still a cultural / economic dynamic.
But then everyone with a line of credit bought everything, and so now everyone owns everything. This saturation of all demand means sales can only decline, since durable goods last a long time. The only way to juice sales higher is by making insecure consumers crave the latest fashion, but this artifice has limits.
The solution was to crapify all products and services via planned obsolescence and endless loops of lousy, over-priced service. Products are now designed to be impossible to repair (eliminating cheapskate do-it-yourselfers) and by using the lowest-quality, lowest-cost components, manufacturers guarantee that the entire product will fail once the lowest-quality component fails.
And since many components are now digitized, the cheapest electronic component failing will cause the electronics to fail — a $1 chip fails and the entire $600 product fails — and so the entire product is then destined for the landfill…
Discerning consumers have long noted the crapification of ingredients and the accompanying decline of value via shrinkflation. Discerning DIYers have noted how products are sealed, warranties voided and simple maintenance jobs like changing the oil in a vehicle are now complicated by various perverse means.
As for service — Corporate America doesn’t have to care about poor quality because they know we have no choice. All the members of the cartel offer the same rapacious pricing and pathetically poor service, so no corporation or institution (hospital, university, local government agency, etc.) has to fear a competitor might disrupt the cozy profiteering — there is no real competition in healthcare, higher education, defense contractors, telecom providers, pharmaceuticals, fast food, agribusiness, etc. — none.
I discuss the end-game of these dynamics in my new book, Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States.
The crapification of the U.S. economy is now complete. The only thing left is the tiresome waiting for the implosion of the entire travesty of a mockery of a sham.
Charles Hugh Smith
Special to the Financial Reserve