Archive for the ‘consumption’ tag
Apparently, economists think there are better and worse ways for us to spend our way out of the recession. Some of their most interesting suggestions:
Tyler Cowen, George Mason University: In my view, fixing the banking sector is more important than getting the stimulus right. So if you can afford to lose the money, go to a large bank (more likely to be insolvent), find their most overpriced service, and buy as much of it as you can. That way you are doing your part to recapitalize our banking system.
Ethan Harris, Barclays Capital: Get a haircut. It is a purely domestically produced service with extremely high labor content. This means no drain in spending power out of the country: it is “Buy American” without violating any trade agreements.
Robert Shiller, Yale University: I suggest using it to give an extra-generous tip to taxi drivers. They talk to lots of people, especially active business-oriented people, and they will be feeling more upbeat, sensing that some people are feeling flush, and they will communicate this feeling to numerous people, thereby helping restore confidence.
I enjoyed this remarkably complete — Super Mario Soda, anyone? — compilation of the varieties of branded sodas no longer being produced.
Chipping away at the “to read someday” pile, I found this bit from The Economist.
To be on the right-hand-side of an eye-level selection is often considered the very best place, because most people are right-handed and most people’s eyes drift rightwards. Some supermarkets reserve that for their own-label “premium” goods.
I’m definately going to be thinking about this next time I’m shopping.
What luxuries — nicer versions of necessities — do you think are worth their cost? Also: what recession?
(via Kottke, whose opinions are worth perusal)
For the eco-conscious consumer, there’s a new
time sink aid available: GoodGuide. It’s description of itself:
GoodGuide™ provides the world’s largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of products and companies. GoodGuide’s mission is to help you find safe, healthy, and green products that are better for you and the planet. From our origins as a UC Berkeley research project, GoodGuide has developed into a totally independent “For-Benefit” company. We are committed to providing the information you need to make better decisions, and to ultimately shifting the balance of information and power in the marketplace.
At Snarkmarket, Matt offers some advice I find both intriquing and scary:
If you’re like most people, you purchase Benadryl. A slightly smaller and savvier subset of you will always reach for the drugstore’s “generic” counterpart, e.g. Waldryl. Stop this madness, all of you.
As you might know, Benadryl (available at Walgreens.com for $5.29 for a box of 24 capsules) and Wal-dryl ($3.99 / 24 capsules) are otherwise known as “25 mg. of diphenhydramine HCI.” Compare. Yes, that is 400 tablets containing 25 mg. of diphenhydramine HCI, for about $10 when you factor in shipping. Once more with feeling:
Benadryl - 22¢ / pill
Wal-dryl - 16¢ / pill
True generic - 2.5¢ / pill
While the price is amazingly good, I’m (perhaps erroneously) worried that quality assurance must be much less rigorous.
I sometimes fancy myself rather spartan, but living with only 100 things — as Dave Bruno is trying for — sounds like a bridge too far.
“Stuff starts to overwhelm you,” says Dave Bruno, 37, an online entrepreneur who looked around his San Diego home one day last summer and realized how much his family’s belongings were weighing him down. Thus began what he calls the 100 Thing Challenge. (Apparently, Bruno is so averse to excess he can’t refer to 100 things in the plural.)
All the Cement and Iron
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Rob Walker highlights this interesting business:
Sometimes, it takes a minute for visitors to the Destee Nation Shirt Company in Seattle to understand the common theme linking the wide array of T-shirts on sale. Many have a vintage look and seem to advertise businesses from a bygone era, or to offer made-up riffs on such advertisements — a faux faded logo for Blue Moon Burgers, the dubious-sounding Tractor Tavern and so on. But each has a tag attached, giving the story of each business, as well as its address. “Then it hits them,” says Matt Morgan, the founder of Destee Nation. “These places are all real.”
Nothing in this table about the cost of driving different vehicles should surprise you, but the presentation’s rather clever.
Sounding a tad more conservative than usual, David Brooks laments America’s spending well beyond its means:
Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.
Good Old Op-Eds
Two NYT Op-Eds from last Friday cry out for the good old days (and illustrate how broken my “readflow” is). They both make worthy points.
- Adam Kohen wants to know why states have been stripped of the ability to regulate many things they used to. Through the supremacy clause, the Bush administration stopped them from acting on, for example, sub-prime lenders before the crash.
- Meanwhile, Elizabeth Royte thinks that if big cities had more water fountains — as they did in the old days — there would be less demand for bottled water.
Rob Walker has an interesting, if sometimes shallow-feeling, exploration of the increasingly common practice of reviving old brand names that people remember faintly. It an interesting look at psychology and the logic of branding.
Too many such deals, or the wrong kinds, can boomerang: this happens with some regularity in the fashion world, when a famous designer name gets spread over so many products, with so little regard to quality, that the entire image of the brand sinks. Still, if you see a ladder made by Stanley, you may well think, Well, there’s a name I can trust. What you’re trusting, though, isn’t Stanley workers in Stanley factories upholding Stanley traditions and values under the watchful eye of Stanley managers. What you’re trusting is Stanley’s recognition that a badly made ladder with the Stanley name on it could be highly damaging to the Stanley brand. You are trusting Stanley’s recognition of the value of its brand and its competence in defending that value.
The epic battle that accompanies every children’s toy.
This isn’t so much news as a reminder of long established facts. Americans can love driving far more than anyone else because gasoline here is so much cheaper than anywhere else.
The Economist’s Special Report on China arrives with these contentions:
[C]oncerns about the dire consequences of China’s quest for natural resources are overblown. China does indeed treat some dictators with kid gloves, but it is hardly alone in that. Its companies do not always uphold the highest standards, but again, many Western firms are no angels either. Fifty years of European and American aid have not succeeded in bringing much prosperity to Africa and other poor but resource-rich places. A different approach from China might yield better results. At the very least it will spur other donors to seek more effective methods.
For all the hue and cry, China is still just one of many countries looking for raw materials around the world. It has won most influence in countries where Western governments were conspicuous by their absence, and where few important strategic interests are at stake. Moreover, as China is becoming more involved in places such as Congo, its policies are beginning to change. It has promised to co-operate with the World Bank in its development efforts in Africa. It no longer seems prepared to back its most objectionable allies in the face of international opprobrium. Its diplomats, for example, did eventually stop parroting their line about unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and allow United Nations peacekeepers to be deployed in Sudan.
Though I’m wary of most new organization playing with economics or statistics, this Reuters story qualifies for being both modestly interesting and completely plausible:
At U.S. warehouse club stores, a growing number of shoppers are giving up steak for cheaper chicken. Coffee sales are soaring at McDonald’s, while higher-priced Starbucks slows. Restaurants are serving fewer customers because more people are eating at home.
Stung by the housing slump, tightening credit terms, and rising inflation, U.S. households are finding ways to cut back, putting a damper on the consumer spending that is the driving force behind the economy.