The Planned Obsolescence Of America
Once in a while, someone offers a new insight, or a new way of looking at our World. Tom Chatham has such an insight. It is not a totally new idea, but it is a different way of looking at our World, that incorporates ideas from a new perspective, that deserves attention, and thought. – Shorty Dawkins, Associate Editor
by Tom Chatham
Planned obsolescence is the act of designing something to become obsolete or self destruct at a certain point in the future for the purpose of replacing it with something else. We see this with many of the things we use today, especially appliances, home furnishings and technology. We are expected to upgrade at regular intervals to keep up with the times.
It was not always this way. In the past many things were built to last, in some cases for many generations. There are many homes in the world that were built centuries ago and are as functional today as the day they were built. There are appliances built almost a century ago that still do what they were designed to do. There are cars and tools that are decades old that still function as intended.
Many of the items that were built in the past were overbuilt and as a result maintain their function. They were built at a time when society demanded and expected the things they used to last a lifetime. Many items were built to be repaired many times in their functional life extending their usefulness and making them a good value to the owners. At some point, that mantra changed.
As society grew some people realized that they could sell many more items in the future if the products they built only lasted a short while and required replacement. During the 20th century industrialization ran head on into planned obsolescence. Things could be made cheaper and profit margins would expand.
This can be seen in society today in the many things we use. Granted, technology is constantly improving making some things less useful but many of the things we use still work as they always did. Homes used to be built of solid timbers making them last hundreds of years. Today the standard building materials are cheap imitations of that bygone era and modern construction is not expected to last for more than a generation as old buildings are torn down to make way for new and improved designs and tastes.
Society has been conditioned to want and expect change. How many times have you seen mobs outside a store waiting for the release of a new product. They wait to buy a replacement for things that still work fine but are not new enough. They tear down old buildings made of brick and mortar and replace it with one made of tin and particle board. They are on a constant quest to replace the old with the new.