Awkward Quibbles

There’s a wonderful post over at The American Catholic that you should go read.

I don’t just like it because they were kind enough to ask me to blog over there– no idea why, I’m no good, sometimes folks are just too nice– but because it’s got Kipling and thinking. Go read.


That said, one of the problems with the way my mind works– it was there before I ever heard of blogs– is that when I really enjoy and agree with something, a little divergent thought will distract me.  I don’t even know if it’s a disagreement, so much as a wild hare.

At one level the poem is a fairly straight-forward paean to John Bunyan, the English writer who penned Pilgrims’s Progress, which every school child used to read back in days when schools spent far more time on academics and far less time on political indoctrination and fake subjects like “Consumer Ed”.

I have no idea what they mean by “consumer ed;” I’d suspect it ends up being “anti-organizational hogwash.”  That said, consumer education could be a GREAT class!

What does a consumer need to do broadly?

  • Evaluate what is inherently required in an item– food must be safe to eat, clothing must be wearable, vehicles must be something you can drive.  Deciding point: at what point would you not buy it at any price due to inherent characteristics?
  • Evaluate what is inherently desired of an item– beef over chicken, low fat, low sodium.
  • Decide what things that aren’t inherent characteristics that are at least mostly required/banned: I won’t buy Chinese made items, or companies that support immoral causes, or highly negative associations.
  • Decide which non-inherent characteristics are desired: name brand, place offering them, etc.
  • Budget out how much you can afford, and how much you value each aspect.

What does a consumer need to do specifically?

  • Know how to calculate cost for comparison.  (This can be as simple as dividing total cost by ounces, or as complicated as figuring out the value of your time and the stuff you have on hand vs buying pre-made for, say, a pumpkin pie.)
  • Know how to know what they value enough to pay extra for, rather than going off of impulse– advertising is the art of encouraging impulses. 
  • Understand how to read labels.  Serving size, actual size, and reading what they say instead of what your think they’re implying.

There are other things, like figuring out what can be repaired and what can’t, figuring out what is worth repairing vs what isn’t, knowing how to find someone to provide what you’re looking for, understanding garantees, reading contracts, recognizing non-shopping costs (planning out shopping trips– there are nonmaterial effects to shopping, so at least recognize if you enjoy walking around the grocery store, or would rather save cash by driving as seldom as possible.)

There’s a LOT of good stuff that would fit under “Consumer Ed.”

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