The Less You Pay

In comments recently, Dirigo quoted an advertising slogan that has had me pondering the dreary resignation inherent in our late-stage crony capitalist system ever since:  “The Less You Pay, The Better You Feel.” Left out of this seemingly practical equation is the necessary corollary that this is only a posture taken if one generally expects disappointment when spending one’s hard-earned money.  I hate to wax mercenary here, but shouldn’t one feel better when paying more?  In the more rarified portions of what we wishfully still call a Free Market, sable does cost more than mink, but for the rest or us, the choices are considerably narrower, and the expectations, substantially diminished.

Dirigo’s example pertained to air fares, but virtually any consumer good not exclusively tailored to the 1% will do.  You go into it knowing it will be a ripoff; you just want to get out as lightly as you can.  Watch or listen to any hour or two of commercials, and you will seldom be offered (as you might have been in the past) quality, status, or perhaps the vague prospect of sexual fulfillment for your money, but who cares, as long as it’s cheap. (Viagra/Cialis ads are one notable exception, but only to the last part…)

Everyone knows that the car insurance they’re forced to buy will be stingy and unresponsive should they have the temerity to ever make a claim, so why not get the cheapest one?  Why pay more for that appliance, since they all have the lifespan of a goldfish?  Since virtually every bank, telecom, and chain retailer only offer horrendous service and crummy products, isn’t price their only possible selling point?

Amidst simultaneous and ridiculous claims that “free markets” were the worthy, much-improved successors to those more “quaint” things we used to associate with freedom, a grim and determined phalanx of financialization and monopolization has trampled even that once-Edenic garden of consumer choice in America; all that’s left is a barren tarmac littered with shoddy factory seconds, reduced for quick sale.  In the relentless pursuit of ever-greater profits, corporate behemoths have steadily abandoned any remaining notion of higher value for higher price as purposefully and uncoincidentally as they have crippled the ability of most people to pay for such frippery.

Thus, the once-ridiculed “Populuxe” of the more egalitarian 1950′s, in which ordinary people were profitably lured into purchases usually considered above their class is hopelessly out of date in the new century. As a six-dollar glance at any given week’s New York Times Magazine will tell, the depressing story is that there is one market for the wealthy, where money is no object, and they do seem to have a lot of choice, be it in military schools, real estate, or dressage horses.  Yet there remains another market, diminishing though it is, for the rest of us, in which the only choice boils down to, “Which one’s cheaper?”

True, there are undoubtedly some minor inconveniences with this system for the rich, too.  Sometimes even they have to fly commercial and endure the flimsy silverware and cramped conditions in First Class,  AT&T drops their calls as reliably as those made on month-to-month flip-phones, and their luxurious cabinetry always long outlasts the appliances for which they were custom-built, but in the end they can confidently conclude that such sacrifices are worth it.

The rest of us, not so much.   On my more optimistic days,  I hope this glaring disparity might someday sow the seeds of meaningful dissent in a society devoted to consumerism, if nothing else.  On my more pessimistic days, of which today happens to be one, I see that Madison Avenue has already adjusted its goals to the new reality.  Money can buy love, but if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.

Thanks for pointing that out, Dirigo.





    • cocktailhag says:

      I could have come up with something better, if only I could art-direct a competent photoshopper….. But several of those were very cute. Although I’m loath to admit this, Jamie Dimon is, despite his many glaring flaws, cute, too. Increasingly, I think all politicians are just spokesmodels doing an infomercial for the 1%, current President included. Yeah, they’re lying assholes, but if I were drunk enough I might cough up a credit card number.

  1. Bill Schee says:

    Have you ever thought about writing a blog?

  2. Bill Schee says:

    Just kidding.

  3. dirigo says:

    Hey! – I’m trying to do comedy here. This is my open mike; and don’t even THINK of pulling the plug.

    Back to reality:

    Gen. Wesley Clark is the lead in a new network television show, a “fierce and emotionally charged competition show” based on faux military exploits. Todd Palin co-stars.

    Roger Clemens walked after the government spent millions trying to prove he had steroids shot into his butt.

    Dottie Sandusky, like Sgt. Schultz, knew nothing.

    Eve Ensler has been hired for the duration as a consultant to the Michigan women’s caucus at the state capitol.

    Sen. Scott Brown says he will debate Elizabeth Warren during morning rush in the Ted Williams Tunnel.

    And Sen. Harry Reid has finally admitted that congressional reporters are clowns.

    I could go on, but I’m still waiting to be paid for CHNN east coast desk coordination of the Berlusconi bung bunga era.

  4. dirigo says:

    Would I lie to you?

    Here’s another: Nancy Pelosi says she could’ve put Karl Rove in irons in the House jail a while back, seeming to suggest she regrets she didn’t when she had the chance. Oh what a tangled web …

  5. mikeinportc says:

    Along those lines, does anybody know the source of a good telescoping rake? Had one for ~ 10 years. Used it while helping my brother with his new (to him) house. He really liked it. Gave it to him, figuring I was due for a new one. That was 5 or 6 years ago, and haven’t yet found one that lasted a day , or on one occasion, a minute . Difficult to make people feel better about paying more, when your tools don’t work, or don’t have the proper one altogether. :(