Tuesday, 18 November 2008

How a problem turns back the clock

Late in September, after excellent service for a decade from a Sunbeam cappucino machine, my mother bought me a new version of much the same model when we had a problem with the froth.

To my horror, this morning the machine broke down so that the water that was put into the container flowed out whenever I switched it on. I tried to fix it up, but it is clear that the machine is ruined because the problem could only be caused by an electrical fault causing what should wire to the heating element to burn the pipe that normally holds water in the container.

When I noticed the fault, my immediate response was to recall the radical socialist site Wallace's Corner, who claim that under socialism with no profit motive every consumer good produced would be of exceptional quality and would never break down.

In my past experience I have always dreamed of things being warranted for fifty years
and the writings of Wallace's Corner make me feel as though if capitalism were demolished such high quality could become normal. Despite having become more suspicious of radical socialism's ability to solve such problems, the fact that the Mises institute at the other end of the political spectrum has written an article "In Praise of Shoddy Products", which is surprising given they do focus on maximising quality in many of their writings.

Whilst I feel very much that going back to becoming a socialist is a retrograde step, I still feel cheated. If Sunbeam's products really are declining in quality as rapidly as my experience suggests, then one really will have to pay very large prices for decent quality cappucino machines. This morning I told my mother that paying for an $1500 machine that lasts decades rather than a few weeks will be expensive initially but - as I have known before - very cheap in the long term. So, maybe the socialists point that capitalism cheats the poor who cannot afford the best is right even should their remedy be impractical.

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