I am so glad that Walter is being mainlined like this; he is a real treasure. I hope that he DOES last a bit longer than he seems to indicate. Who else can chit chat about kitchen gadgets and product reliability and tease out a thread that ravels all the way back to the underpinnings of our society? AND make it easily accessible and humorous and engaging? His (I am assuming pronouns here) mind works in a surprising and delightful manner and he illuminates and elucidates with some real gut level homilies and such that can have a bit of a bite. I await Fridays eagerly for the discussions he has with Matt Taibbi about current goings-on too. My only quibble is that his words aren't nearly as glib as his prose, but that is as much about me as him. Thanks Walter, and thanks Bari for platforming so many talented people. Keep up the good work.

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"and the evils of capitalism itself"

This is your answer, it is planed obsolescence and corporate greed. You mentioned yourself that old citrus juicer still works after over 80 years. Its not just your juicer, but old washing machines, dishwashers, fridges all old house appliances and tools.

Problem is, since our economy has become financialized to that extent that companies only care about next quarter, there is no interest in producing longlisting products, because if they did, people would rarely buy new stuff. So new stuff is made to last 2-3 years, just enough to keep customers returning for more, if they break earlier than 2 years, customer will go to other brand, but 2+ years is long enough for customer to keep brand loyalty.

Same thing happened to electronic, majority of phones/laptops have non replicable batteries for same reason, they make it very expensive to replace battery, our impossible to do so. Repairs on modern electronic is very difficult in many cases impossible.

Sadly, it is in corporate interest to make low quality products, and it will continue to be so for forseable future (sure there are exceptions, but those are far in between or very expensive ).

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The worst of these offenses is the previously high quality products that now are cheaply made so the CEO can pay him/her self a bigger bonus. (Wow am I a genius!! cheaper materials = more money for me!! the fools buying won't even notice!!)

I have lived my life in Levis - they used to last years, now six months until a hole in the knee.

Totes umbrellas were once a great gift, now they are the same cheap umbrella as sold on the street.

And don't get me started on Krups coffee makers... whatever happened to "German engineering"?

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Nice article, and a real interest of mine.

I think we're seeing the difference between the days people made something because they wanted to make it and so the natural approach was to make something you're proud of and charge what it cost plus something for yourself; and (now) when people make something because it's a way to make money and so you (or your company) naturally makes it as cheap as possible, which leads to people competing on price and the buying public using that as their only selection criteria, which drives quality ever-downward. I don't see how we get out of this, and the environmental impact is huge. Even electric vehicles are becoming cheap flimsy things based on software and madly expensive batteries. They're like iPhones, and will just get thrown away in a few years, not worth repairing or upgrading.

As one bright note, I believe there is a growing slice of the population who do see through this - who are realising that anything made before about 1990 will be of an entirely different quality, and is worth grabbing if you find it, because you simply can't get stuff like that any more. It will be made of slow-grown wood, not fast-growth timber; made more by hand than on a CNC machine; use British or German or US steel rather than cheap imported. Use enough materials to do a proper job, rather than as little as they can get away with. And the final difference, which you allude to early in your article, is that these old things are fixable. They come apart, they use straightforward components, they can be mended. if you know how to look after them, they will go on virtually for ever.

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Dec 21, 2022·edited Dec 21, 2022

I have an electric skillet I don’t use often but it works perfectly and is over 40 years old. It’s made in the US so that proves how old.

Here’s some comments on your troubles

The mittens were most likely made in Asia. So what if they were cute. You should have known. Besides a mitten is just a mitten

Get some dark nail polish Redo the numbers on your measuring cups and washer. And quit whining

Anything you buy pitched to save the earth really doesn’t.

Finally, what kind of pens are you buying? Change brands for heck sake.

Oh, you need to understand that the more bells and whistles on something, the more things that can go wrong. Go as unfancy as possible.

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Dec 21, 2022·edited Dec 21, 2022

Awesome essay. But look, this is primarily due to the State, it’s monetary inflation and it’s war against public consumer goods in the guise of environmental regulations. Do not discount this. It’s real, and it’s pervasive.

I recently went through a two month process to replace an A/C coil from a top manufacturer, a simple product. Why? Because, not China, but all such manufacturers are moving their lines to the new products as environmental regulations are putting the “older” ones into forced obsolescence. They are forced to do more with less. The net effect is anti-green. Waste, useless products, less real wealth, and as you point out brilliantly in this essay, social degradation.

Inflation then rears its head as an entirely monetary phenomenon, and leads to inevitable need by suppliers to cut cost. The ill social effects of guaranteed inflation are legion and understood by only 0.001% of the population and even less so by economists. But there is one! I urge all to read Jorg Guido Hullsman’s magnificent “the Ethics of Money Production” and see what has been obvious all along.

Our culture has degraded too, outside of all this, but I’m not convinced people don’t want well made things (yet), but simply have this issue of affordability and constant attack from the State’s nudges on all of our products.

Lastly if I may add to the rant, what rent seeking behavior from private industry? How about cars? Do people appreciate that if you put a modern gas engine in a 1985 Honda Accord, that thing might get 65-70 mpg? And of course that car would be illegal today and yesterday because “crash safety”, a set of standards entirely defined by industry to kill foreign competition and its lighter cars. But the State did their bidding in a classic example of fascism that we pretend isn’t fascism.

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I truly like the way this piece was structured and it had a Rooney-type quality about it - which made it, along with the juicer, feel old and timeless. It had a nice beat and you can dance to it - or something like that. It made me remember what it was like to watch Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon with my grandfather while he chewed mixed nuts in his dentures that never failed him. As I dig out my mother’s 1979 Cuisinart mixer to make cookies this week, I will remember this missive as I marvel at the “on/off” lettering still visible after 40-odd years. Cheers Mr. Kirn. May your future driving experiences be electrified.

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“It’s important to get to the essayistic part, where I ask what it means when the objects in our lives demoralize us in a blizzard of malfunctions that seem to be hastening by the month.”


The disdain I have for ‘free trade’ ‘libertarians’ cannot be matched. Doing business with Communist China isn’t trade, it’s criminal activity. Often those crimes are human rights violations.

But it’s fine, you see, because it is fReE tRaDe because we put a container ship in between the crimes and the end consumer. HERP DERP.

Obviously, a larger downside, somewhat more significant than your blender falling apart, is that ‘free trade’ has proven to be the most grave national security threat in the history of the United States. Your blender money helped buy a chubby psychopath named Xi some hypersonic nukes. Smart.

Even if you take the assbackward shitholes that we are propping up with ‘free trade’ out of the discussion, you still must wonder, how did they ever sell people on the idea that getting a 14% discount on televisions is a good deal when the result is that you have a bunch of unemployed neighbors and you now can’t access modern medicines like antibiotics.

Good job ‘libertarians’, you psychotic grifting frauds.

(I am generally predisposed to libertarian principals but I am not a fan of behaving like a heedless buffoon, which is what libertarianism often leads to because it becomes a utopian ideology)

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“Potemkin Pens” is a good name for a band.

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First, I am grateful to not be bickering over identity, political alignment , the general misanthropic discourses of our discontented age. Instead, a near universal problem for those accustomed to Western ease. Your assertions and testimony , spot on; only this week, a treasured toaster, nearly 25 years old- so a "newish" one, appeared to be in its death throes . We panicked for no repair shop would touch it- for if it isn't a SubZero refrigerator or a Wolf range, society does not consider it worth a repair. Mournfully we purchased an expensive replacement , it sparkled with the gloss of newness but promised nothing- thankfully the household gods shone and the "problem", one we overlooked, was simply a minor household electrical one. With great glee I shipped the flashy usurping toaster trash back to its maker and my creaky old toaster now receives the homage of a dowager.

The truth is unless you are willing to go down the SubZero/Wolf route, which we do frequently, you cannot possess the most reasonable expectation that carrots will actually be peeled nor expect reasonable responsibility from its makers. We've become so accustomed to the insubstantial, materially , culturally and spiritually that as you mention Morris' dictum (of which I have spent my life heeding) is near impossible.

I've resorted to anachronisms, I now use a fountain pen, an aesthetic experience that slows one down and reveals the grace of cursive ; bar soap only, liquid soap are an insult to our ancestors who spent countless generations perfecting the hardening of fat into solid; thrift and antique shops as often as poossible- the perversity that an 18th century chair can be found far cheaper than a landfill bound Target seating is a testimony to our decline.

And I try to chuckle at the fact that at long last I am the grumpy old man I always wanted to be and that I have so much to gripe about . God bless, Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, happy New Year 🕊

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You're singing my song, Walter. I'm so dismayed by the poor quality of clothing, even brands that previously were of "good" quality, which is to say, are not "cheap" dollar-wise. I'm sick of pilling shirts/tops, of colors fading, of jeans wearing way too quickly. It's beyond disturbing.

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When I moved up to NH a few years ago from Princeton NJ and needed to obtain a snowblower, a local steered me to a small-engine dealer and told me I'd regret buying the same model from a box store. Manufacturers use cheaper (i.e..: more likely to fail) parts in the models they ship to box stores in order to keep their products price-competitive and use more reliable (and expensive) parts in the models they sell through dealers. As he put it, the box store price will ultimately be more costly than the dealer price. My Ariens has been kicking butt on my driveway for four years now.

This formula does not work on everything, of course, but any product that is sold both in box stores and through manufacturer's licensed dealers is always better from the dealer. As Peter Venkman said to Egon, "Good safety tip."

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Quality of people has gone down as well. Concepts like integrity, honesty, consistency, professional pride, loyalty, customer service sound like anachronism.

To those blaming capitalism, the issue had surfaced during the sad attempts at communism first. I fear return to that evil experiment.

Personally, I believe that the reason lies within cultural lines of different civilizations. That's why some used to be more successful than others. Globalization has mixed it all up and now we are witnessing the decline overall.

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Absolutely so true and reminds us that the old shit you use works better and could care less what others think. That's why I drive a 20-year-old vehicle. No payments and it works just fine. No need to be like the pretend clowns in commercials. My electric car I can't afford and the high cost of electricity. The batteries that are toxic and a shelf life for each vehicle. No thanks.

What is even more sad is that so few people realize that we are committing environmental destruction on a greater scale with green energy. See the wind generator blades kill large birds and the blades when they need replacing, are cut into approximately 23-foot sections and buried in landfills to be there for eternity. Solar panels, expected by 2050 to have 250 Million Tons in landfills leaking lead and other elements into the ground. Ethanol that uses fuel to make and costs maybe more per gallon (Gasoline is more efficient than ethanol. One gallon of gasoline is equal to 1.5 gallons of ethanol.) to make than sells for. If it leaks into the ground, it is really, really bad for the environment. But the government subsidizes it.

So, we out-source our production to China and other third world countries with forced labor and crappy labor and environmental laws and procedures. Then wonder why it breaks and falls apart. Raise your hand for that item you opened, and it actually didn't even work. Low cost, shit, throw it away. Well thank you Congress and Senate for your caring. Make sure the corporations' pony-up for campaign donations. Maybe bobble head AOC and her lemmings can figure out how to re-cycle all of the green energy crap that continues to flow into our land dumps. Naw, never mind, the green energy sector has bought the so-called law makers and owns them. So welcome to the new perfect caring world.

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A toaster that doesn't toast despite the quality associated with brand name, a door knob with plastic inner parts so the brand name can meet a Big Box store price point, but then breaks, damaging the brand name...but my real complaint is the online reviews. They are paid for reviews, and some read so repetitively across the various sites that I wonder if they aren't all written by the same writer. I'm not even sure if I can believe in the granddaddy of them all, Consumer Reports.

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I'm betting nearly all of that junk was made in China, shipped through California, and ended with profits for New York.

"Capitalism" isn't the problem, the problem is greed and an ignorant population that rewards it.

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