April 24, 2013 by Liberty
I’ve read hundreds of articles attempting (and, to me, succeeding) in proving inflation. The government statistics are heavily skewed. I don’t want to get into all the boring economic numbers that can be explained just about anyway someone wants to try. I’m going to be looking at it from a bit of a different perspective.
Last week, I visited the home of a friend of my girlfriend. It was the first time I ever visited the place. It was an older home. The home is located in a small city. It was one of the smallest homes on the block. When I walked in, I was stunned at the details. If you’ve never seen tin ceilings in a home before then I highly recommend finding some. (Especially if you’re a bit of an architectural geek like myself.) These are obsessively detailed ceilings that were prominent around the late 19th century.
These days, you don’t really see details like that going into home building. In fact, as I looked at all of the details incorporated throughout the building (hand crafted rails, detailed back splash, etc.) I started to realize that most of what people do today is the exact opposite. Some of the most “style conscious” people look to make as many flat surfaces and simple designs as possible.
This is an odd thing because, short of the richest buildings in the world, architecture is actually becoming less and less impressive. It’s almost like a dystopian dream coming true. Surfaces are becoming cheaper, simpler, and less interesting. While it used to take days to craft many of the individual pieces of the home, now it takes 30 minutes in a factory’s machine.
Is It Just Our Styles Changing?
Styles are something that naturally evolves with the society. When the society has excess resources those styles tend to be more elaborate. When the society is thriving those styles becoming cheaper and less elaborate. You might think of it like the comparison between the roaring 20’s and the Great Depression. Style actually changed during those periods based on the economic requirements.
Style has always been an accessory and it always will be. While individuals sometimes treat it like a necessity, the majority of people balance their financial situation and style well based on their own position in society.
Yes, style is changing but, as always, it’s partially a consequence of the changes to society. When society changes, style follows suit.
The Death Of Craftsmanship
Most people no longer have the resources to keep a craftsman employed for a full day on each of the details of their home. The home I was looking at was one of the smallest on the block. It was a lower middle class home by modern standards. I imagine it was owned a mid level manager at one of the local mills (at best). This building was crafted with details that the vast majority of homes today can’t even dream of. (Even with all the advances in technology.)
If I wanted to build the same home today it would cost me an absurdly high amount of time invested working at a job compared to the time investment required when it was build. You can’t really make the comparison with money because of all of the economic changes but the amount of time I would need to spend working makes the old builder of the home look rich.
The cost of craftsmanship is going up and up. People can’t afford the luxuries that they’re ancestors lived with in the past. One of the number one arguments that is made against this is to compare life today to life then.
It’s easy to say that we live better because we all have cars. We have computers. We have this. We have that but it doesn’t really matter if living life costs more time investment than before. (New cars are great but now we have to live farther from work and face hundreds of other risks. Computers are great but now the expected output per person has increased equally. Hours worked has also gone up.)
Technology Versus Societal Weakness
Technology has the ability to carry society. A technological improvement can make it possible for any society to become better. We could be living in a monarchy with decisions made by a king’s obsession with monkey’s banana eating habits. As long as the discovery and use of computers is not violently restricted, society could improve itself with the technology. When technological advances aren’t being violently slowed down, dramatic “improvements” or potential improvements (like what we have) in lifestyle can be made fast.
We’ve been lucky enough to have been protected by technological advances for the last 50 years but the restrictions are slowly building on them. With every restriction added the potential improvements for society are limited.
By this I mean, seatbelt laws are okay but car companies have limited incentive to make their car safer when the law gives them a specific line like that. Their money goes into adhering to the laws (lawyers, engineers) instead of research and development. They also can’t provide a cheaper car that doesn’t include that safety feature. (Don’t forget the increased deaths from cars after it’s introduction.)
Compared to the 19th century, we’re in a very bad position. The great thing about technology is that it can improve the products you receive and lower the resources needed to produce them. In the 19th century that can be seen clearly. Prices consistently went down on just about everything. The quality went up. People invested in details. Today, the exact opposite is occurring. People are paying more and more for less.
People are better off than they were in absolute terms but in relative terms, our economy is crap.