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America’s junk epidemic

The Week: “No matter what President Trump says, the decline of American manufacturing won’t be reversed by modest tariffs on aluminum and steel. There is more to this issue than industrial metals. Perhaps the largest structural economic crisis this country faces — one that encompasses everything else from outsourcing to stagnant wages to the environment — is the decades-long epidemic of cheap crap. “This is why we can’t have nice things” is a cliché that has lost its meaning. The reason we can’t have nice things in America in 2018 is that we don’t want them. Think about the last pair of socks you purchased. Unless you spent upwards of $25 on them, they were probably made of Chinese acrylic. Getting them on your toes resembled an attempt to strangle a zebra with a sandwich bag. And afterward you couldn’t shake the feeling that your feet were encased in a substance not unlike paint. They probably had a hole in them after a single wear. But, hey, who could pass up 12 pairs for $12 with Prime shipping?..Most Americans would rather have junk, though. Given a choice between purchasing a handful of moderately expensive items and buying replaceable crap whenever they want — and probably having it shipped rather than entering a store — people will choose the latter unless they are very rich. Luxury goods are now the only way around the cheap stuff quandary. It’s fine that very nice things exist and that some people can afford them. What’s crazy is expanding the definition of a luxury to include things like socks made of actual wool rather than plastic or a flip-phone whose battery lasts for more than five hours…”

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