FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Serious Price of the Hyperconvenient Economy

Apart from sensual appeals, the chief marketing wave in our country is selling convenience. It has reached a level of frenzy with companies like Amazon and Walmart racing your order to your doorstep (with Amazon now wanting the electronic key to your house).

Ever since the industrial revolution, when the division of labor between consumers and producers widened and deepened, the convenience of not having to grow your own food, weave your own clothes and build your own shelter have become a given of economic progress. Expert specialization has tended to make products better and more standardized as well.

But, in recent decades, adding tiers of conveniences touted by the vendors’ television/radio/print advertisements has rarely mentioned the downsides.

For example, consider the fast food industry. Fast food was sold to the American consumer as convenient, tasty and always available. For these shallow advantages, many consumers chose to give up home-made and nutritious meals for those with heavy doses of fat, sugar and salt—all deadly when taken in such excessive amounts by tens of millions of children and adults. Food that “melts in your mouth,” and “tastes great” usually comes with additives that turn your tongues against your brain and bodily health.

There is the convenience of credit and debit cards. It started in the nineteen fifties when a businessman found it inconvenient in restaurants to have to make sure he had enough cash. Why not sign up restaurants to take the Diner’s Card? Before long the question became, why not take it all the way to enable massive impulse buying, massive invasion of privacy, revolving debt traps, bankruptcies, and the iron collar of unilaterally determined credit scores ratings? Why not deliberately overextend  credit and turn consumers into hooked supplicants who won’t complain  to their car dealers, insurance agencies or landlords for fear of a complaint lowering scores and ratings?

What could be more convenient than signing on the dotted line of fine print contracts or click-on agreements? You don’t have to read, understand, bargain or reject. It’s easy, if you don’t mind having your rights taken away on page after page as fees, penalties and other overcharges plus closed courtroom doors plunge you into contract servitude or peonage.

Like any steps of “progress,” convenience taken too far induces dependency, ignorance of the product and service and more loss of voice, self-determination and self-reliance.  Today, rampant advertising and telemarketers tell  you to sign up to have your groceries be home-delivered. For some people with disabilities, this can be a plus, if you get what you ordered. For most people, the price is a loss of sociability, of going to markets where real people have meaningful interactions with learn from one another.

The promotion of touted quick-fix drugs, when successful, less invasive treatments are available with fewer deadly side-effects (note the pain-killer epidemic that will take 60,000 American lives this year) is accelerating beyond tranquilizers and sleeping pills. The advance of biologics could make Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) an understatement of silent manipulation and mind control.

How about the convenience of online gambling, pay-day loan rackets and cosmetic surgery—all loaded with their unpublicized and underreported costs or r the “convenience” of outsourcing your judgement and self-control by omnipresent apps?

But surely the “free” Facebook and Google do not come with such costs, do they? In return for this “free” service, you surrender your most personal information, which they turn into massive profits without giving you a share. Then they data-mine your buying profile for in-house use or outside sale; they select the news you get and expose you to anonymous, and often fraudulent, solicitations and propaganda. If these violations are invasive and omnipresent for you, just consider how it will affect your children and grandchildren?

Technology driven by narrow commercial interests needs to provoke us into asking, “What’s all this convenience doing over the long run? What kind of community and society is coming out of this unassessed marketing?” For a better future, we must mobilize, community by community, for some inconvenient thoughts and organization. Unless, that is, the corporate future doesn’t need us.

To get started, encourage your friends and neighbors to sign up for Jim Hightower’s Hightower Lowdown newsletter.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savoir
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail