Previous Page An Issue 90.
People often complain that products are not made to last. They feel that making products that wear out fairly quickly wastes both natural and human resources. What they fail to see, however, is that such manufacturing practices keep costs down for the consumer and stimulate demand. Question
Which do you find more compelling : the complaint about products that do not last or the response to it? Explain your position using relevant reasons and/or examples drawn from your own experience, observations or reading. Analysis
This topic raises the issue of whether, on balance, consumers are damaged or benefited by quality-cutting production methods. Indisputably, many consumer products today are not made to last. Nevertheless, consumers themselves sanction this practice and they are its ultimate beneficiaries-in terms of lower prices, more choices and a stronger economy.
Common sense tells us that sacrificing quality results in a net benefit to consumers and to the overall economy. Cutting production corners not only allows a business to reduce a product's retail price, it compels the business to do so, since its competitors will find innovative ways of capturing its market share otherwise. Lower prices stimulate sales which in turn generate healthy economic activity. Observation also strongly supports this claim. One need only look at successful budget retail stores such as Wal-Mart as evidence that many and perhaps most consumers indeed tend to value price over quality.
Do low-quality products waste natural resources? On balance, probably not. Admittedly, to the extent that a product wears out sooner, more materials are needed for replacement units. Yet cheaper materials are often synthetics which conserve natural resources as in the case of synthetic clothing, dyes and inks and wood substitutes and composites. Moreover, many synthetics and composites are now actually safer and more durable than their natural counterparts especially in the area of construction materials.
Do lower-quality products waste human resources? If by waste we mean use up unnecessarily, the answer is no. Many lower-quality products are machine-made ones that conserve, not waste, human labor-for example, machine-stitched or dyed clothing and machine-tooled furniture. Moreover, other machine-made products are actually higher in quality than their man-made counterparts such as those requiring a precision and consistency that only machines can provide. Finally, many cheaply-made products are manufactured and assembled by the lower-cost Asian and Central American labor force-a legion for whom the alternative is unemployment and poverty. In these cases, producing lower-quality products does not waste human resources. To the contrary, it creates productive jobs.
In the final analysis, cost-cutting production methods benefit consumers, both in the short-term through lower prices and in the long run by way of economic vitality and increased competition. The claim that producing low-quality products wastes natural and human resources is specious at best.