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Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is the purposeful planning of limiting the useful life of a product or design. The purpose is to stimulate and perpetuate product consumption. This has short term benefits for companies in their profitability and long term consequences for resource capacity as continued consumption leads to resource depletion in many cases. The only exception would be in how renewable or sustainable a product line is.
Planned Obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence

The main point we need to be contemplating as we assimilate what this article means is how great is planned obsolescence if the end result is that we  make our economy obsolete? Yes, "it's the economy stupid." And if we don't protect the economy we might lose what we have. Said another way, 'if we forget about the economy, maybe it will just go away'.

Planned obsolescence is how corporations ensure that they can make more money on their product lines by lowering quality to maintain profit premiums. By designing failure in the useful life of the product, as well as marketing products out of fashion in short cycles, the producer is able to train consumers to buy earlier and more often (in any given product line). That's great for the bottom line of the producers but in a world of increasingly limited resources due to increasingly higher demand, is this as great an idea as they promote it to be?

'Planned Obsolescence' suffers from the law of unintended consequences or better said intended consequences. It promotes a system that essentially and eventually eats its own tail. The end result after massive resource depletion is a general degradation of the resource capacity through resource depletion and a side 'dis-benefit' is that the consumer suffers from the global depletion and availability of those very resources.

Think about it this way: is planned obsolescence a good idea for our economy? Is it good for your personal ability to maintain your standards of living and pay your bills? Is it a good idea for your savings account? In other words, do we really want our economy to become obsolete?

The history of planned obsolescence is relatively modern. In 1932 Bernard London wrote a pamphlet called 'Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence'. The essence of this plan was to have the government impose a legal obligation for consumer articles in order to increases and perpetuate consumption.

Sounds nice for producers, but it is an imbalance stress on the pocket books of consumers forcing them to become the supporters of corporations rather than supporting free-market mechanisms of trade competition that drives market development and advancements.

In 1954 Brooks Stevens popularized the phrase when he titled his talk at an advertising conference in Minneapolis 'Planned Obsolescence' for which his definition was:

"Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary."

By reducing the time between repeat purchases companies were able to increase profitability through increased sales volume. Good for the company but increasing the cost to the consumer. The company argues that the consumer is getting an increased benefit through newer more stylish and better functionality.

The problem is that such general methods promote oligopoly, and a propensity toward anti-trust violation to protect the profit rather than benefit the consumer.

The concept of free-market is to enable the 'American Dream'. That is hard work and progress based on achievement not entitlement.

Planned obsolescence suffers from the law of unintended consequences or better said intended consequences. It promotes a system that essentially and eventually eats its own tail. The end result after massive resource depletion is a general degradation of the resource capacity through resource depletion and a side 'dis-benefit' is that the consumer suffers from the global depletion and availability of those very resources. The end result is less products will be able to be produced due to economic degradation over time.

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