Too Much Quality: A Profit Killer

Thorstein Veblen saw capitalists as saboteurs of modern science and industry.  Their pursuit of profit obliges them to select wasteful product varieties, and then to refrain from maximizing the unit-quality of what they choose to produce.  That’s because too much product efficiency and longevity hurts business.

And so it goes.  Consider this July 14 item from Advertising Age:

The shaving business is slowing down in the U.S., even shrinking by some measures.

The economy isn’t helping, but the real factors behind the slowing of the $3 billion-plus shaving business are an aging population, a decline in men shaving and better products that last longer, according to a recently released report by market-research firm Mintel.

The fact is that “better products that last longer” are, contrary to the public professions* of the system’s executives and apologists, nothing like a top priority in corporate capitalism. Instead, they are a last resort in the ordinary course of big business.

Multiply this reality by the number of industries being allowed to organize production on behalf of private saboteurs, and you begin to see yet another dimension of why this social order will not make it through this century. The Earth and its people can’t stand it.

*”The chairman of the board will always tell you that he spends his every waking hour laboring so that people will get the best possible products at the cheapest possible price and work in the best possible conditions. But it’s an institutional fact, independent of who the chairman of the board is, that he’d better be trying to maximize profit and market share, and if he doesn’t do that, he’s not going to be chairman of the board any more. If he were ever to succumb to the delusions he expresses, he’d be out.” — Noam Chomsky

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