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Planned Obsolescence

Dr. Sardonicus


As American automobile manufacturers prostrate themselves before the US Congress, let us muse over the circumstances that destroyed them.

In a free market, the best product normally wins.  But when the automotive field narrowed many years ago, Detroit began milking customers by teasing them with new styles, or building defects into their products to make them obsolete.  When manufacturers began to control consumer choices, the car market began rotting from the inside.

Today, similar “monopoly” arrangements are hurting consumers everywhere.  Billions teeter on the release of Microsoft’s latest flawed operating system.  The media spotlight of our entertainment industry incessantly focuses on a handful of mediocre artists.   Clear Channel Communications dominates the airways.   We live in the era of Wal-Mart and McDonalds where small players are crushed by the economics of scale.  In a monopoly marketplace, nice guys always finish last.  The market does not reward small manufacturers who make perfect products that don’t need replacement.

There is nothing new about this.  In a fire hall in Philadelphia, a light bulb manufactured in 1901 is still working after 107 years.  Needless to say – the company that made the perfect light bulb went out of business long ago.


Should Americans pledge their children’s tax dollars to resuscitating fossils of 20th century commerce?  It is the nature of all industry to go through the stages of birth – struggle for acceptance – wild growth – bloated senescence, and finally – death.    Dr. Sardonicus thinks a better role for the US Government is break up monopolies, and invest more in grass-root industries like Tesla Motors. Perhaps Tesla can avoid the fate of the innovative Tucker car – crushed in the 1940s, or the EV1, strangled in the cradle by GM in the 1990’s.    A diversified car market would re-ignite the entrepreneurial spirit that is the root of the American dream.

Or we can accept the ultimate fruit of the monopoly-driven  business model.    A new kind of consumer --short-lived, debt-ridden, mindless and impulsive – the final step in planned obsolescence.


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