There are a lot of logical fallacies that rely on our unwillingness to think for ourselves (like Appeals to Authority, Jedi Mind Tricks, or The Fallacy of The Single Cause). One logical fallacy that REALLY bugs me is the Appeal to Statistics, using a plethora of numbers to blind-side someone into another way of thinking, whether those numbers are accurate or not.
People who know me personally, know that I rarely take anything at face value. If there’s a “widely accepted fact” out there, I tend to question it, mostly because I know that despite the “wisdom of crowds,” there’s a big danger in group-think.
Before I go any further, yes, I know that inflation is simply an expansion of the money supply by artificial means, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to refer to price inflation … what the average person thinks of when they see a gallon of milk double in price.
I was thinking about a television I currently own – a 19 inch traditional set that I bought with my roommate in college back 24 years ago. I still own it! How much did we pay back in 1986? If I remember correctly, somewhere in the neighborhood of $139. Today, I can buy an HD flat screen LCD 19 inch model at Walmart for … you guessed it … $139. The temptation I’m facing is to replace my old beat up set with a sleek newer one. But what if that new set was MUCH higher in price? What if it had actually kept up with inflation and was $268? I think the temptation wouldn’t be there as much.
What if EVERYTHING were much higher in price?
What would happen tomorrow if the price of everything went up 50% but your paycheck remained the same? I know a lot of people claim that scenario has already happened, but apparently not with televisions.
If the price of everything suddenly went up by a significant amount, you and I would:
1. Stop throwing away so much food. I think we would become better at preparing meals at home, at learning to love leftovers, and at using the coupons we blithely throw in the trash.
2. We would demand higher quality products all around. Today’s television sets (in keeping with the TV theme), are designed to only last 5 years or so. That’s just the nature of the technology. The automakers called it “planned obsolescence” and it eventually came back to bite them in the rear when people realized that foreign made cars were higher quality. It’s taken years for the big three automakers to mount a comeback, and two may or may not make it.
3. We would fix what was broken rather than rush to replace it. Today, we’re too easily tempted to just throw out the old TV, the old bicycle, the old hairbrush, the old vacuum cleaner, or the old radio and run down to Target or Walmart and buy a new one. If the new price were twice what it is today, I think we’d be much more willing to learn how to repair things … kinda like our grandparents did several generations ago.
4. We would stop buying disposable anything. Have you ever though about everything you and I buy that’s disposable? Diapers, razors, eating utensils, cameras, ponchos, toys, wrapping paper, bows, tissues, shopping bags, ink cartridges, pens, or any very cheap item that we find easier (cheaper?) to toss than repair.
If inflation doubled the price of everything, we would become much more conservative in everything we do. From the way and amount we drive, to the amount of energy we consume, to the style and type of houses we buy, everything would change. We would take different vacations, live more closely to family, and consider the consequences of our decisions (financial and otherwise) much more carefully.
I know inflation is the bane of a politician’s existence, but there could be a silver lining to this coming cloud. It all depends on how you look at it.