But there's a bigger problem looming with shoddy goods, services and infrastructure. They have an extraordinarily high maintenance and replacement cost, measured both in dollars and in hours of work. When the economy is humming, this is manageable. But what happens when an economic collapse occurs or a permanent resource scarcity emerges? What if suddenly people cannot afford to replace last year's load of crap with this year's? What happens when the cost to transport the raw materials stolen from struggling nations to the Chinese slave-labour factories, and then to transport the manufactured crap from China to centralized super-warehouses and then to super-stores in distant mega-malls and then to your home and then to the toxic landfill sites back in struggling nations, suddenly becomes prohibitively high? What happens when the phone lines and servers and networks and power grids go down and the utilities can't afford to pay workers to fix them because none of the customers can afford to pay their bills? Or because some new disease has so spooked everyone that the people who maintain the shoddy, vulnerable, fragile, under-serviced infrastructure on which we depend so heavily just refuse to show up for work at any price?
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Dave Pollard of Salon.com is asking some good questions: