How much is enough?

One of the questions I often ask myself is How much is enough?

For example, I have been fortunate to have jobs that have enabled me to buy a car I enjoy. What I have seen myself doing over the years is buying better and better cars. I enjoy cars and the technology they have, but at some  point it has to stop. I just can’t continue to spend money on better cars or I won’t have money for other things that are more important.

How much is enough?Don’t misunderstand. I am buying cars that I can easily afford and that are fun to drive on my 2 hour daily commute. Having a reliable, safe and comfortable car is logical and reasonable. However part of me that researches new cars always says “Wow what if you tried this car or brand instead?” It might be fun, but it is not necessary.

Why not spend money on cars if you have the money? I have seen that when I go to extremes I am not happy. I have seen this in others as well. I once worked for a boss who had a wife, mistress and saw other women on the side. I thought that was interesting. I am not judging him for this, but he was very unhappy and that clearly didn’t help him.

If money was no object I would want to drive and experience the most expensive cars. Would that make me happier? Not really. It would provide me information that I don’t have, but often that information comes at too high of a price. For example, I bought a luxury car once and it was a complete waste of money. It wasn’t the experience that I thought it would be, and what others said about it. For me, that knowledge wasn’t worth the price I paid.

So I have had the curious experience that it is often more satisfying to rent a nice car. I am able to drive it for a while, and decide if it really makes me happy or not. I have rented many cars in my life, and I am so grateful for that opportunity. Why? Because I know many cars and manufactures that I would not want to buy. If I hadn’t rented those cars I might have thought a test drive was ok in them, but a test drive really isn’t enough to make you decide on buying a car.

I had the great experience once of having a weekend test drive of a luxury car. In fact, I later bought that car. I was so impressed with that short experience that it seemed like the right decision at the time.

The question is though How much is enough? What do we need to be happy? Isn’t it interesting that we only ask this when we have more than enough to satisfy our needs? Asking what we need to be happy is so first world isn’t it? The rest of the world is focused on getting the basics of shelter, food and income and we can’t be satisfied with all that we have?

Every time I want to buy something better I take stock of my life and feel grateful for the things that I have. I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams of my youth to have the life I have now. Not because of the material things that I have, but because of my maturing personality.

A luxury car is nice if you enjoy that, but the true luxury is to be at peace with who you are.

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The lie of handcrafted goods

I have a friend who buys handcrafted goods and it turns out that they are not better made after all.

If you look at this article 11 Benefits you will see the lies that are often discussed. I am going to show you why those are not true.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS ARE GREEN.

Truth: China manufactures things by hand in factories because of the large abundance of cheap labor. Most US citizens buy goods made from China in Wal-Mart and other retailers. This hand production causes more carbon emissions due to its inefficient nature. Instead of a machine that can produce hundreds or thousands of items at a time, human labor is slower and less precise.

For example, luxury cars and goods say how they have “hand crafted stitching” and other silly things. When most people who buy luxury cars switch them every 4 years on average, this is a meaningless metric. It is gold-plating that doesn’t improve the value in any way other than the ego of thinking that someone who owns that car or product is more special or exclusive.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS ARE GOOD FOR THE JOB MARKET.

The lie of handcrafted goodsTruth: This is really old thinking. People are still trying to push products instead of experiences. What is higher value and less stressful and sustainable is to allow people to have the ability to learn services. Service jobs are ultimately more  profitable and better for everyone else.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS ARE WORTH MORE.

Truth: The “perception of value” is what caused the bubble in housing and other markets. When we value something more than it really is worth that is a distortion of the value of the free market. Isn’t the idea of a free market that prices are determined by what people will pay for them, and ultimately the market corrects. With the type of thinking in this article, they would want you to buy something and when the value deflate “oh well the perception of value has changed”. Is that a wise way of making decisions?

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS ARE ALSO JUST BETTER.

Truth: Based on what? I could not find any studies that support this. How is someones skill automatically make something better. Yes it is true that some goods like a Stradivarius violin or something has value due to its rarity and technique. However it does not follow that goods are automatically better because they are handmade. Yes there are people with great skill, but given the vast majority of goods are not made by elite craftsmen, it does not follow that the average handcrafted product is better. The industrial revolution brought a standard of quality with factory made goods, and that standard has given us the standard of life we have now. I would not want a handmade car. People can not perform at the level of automation and robotics.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR PURCHASES.

Truth: Feeling good should be rooted in truth and reality rather than illusion. If you buy something then what is the value to yourself and to society by buying it? The value is the long-term consequences of it. Lets say you buy a handcrafted bag. Wonderful. How long does that bag last versus one made by a machine? I would bet that the machine one lasts longer. Even if it doesn’t, it was probably made more efficiently.

Feeling good about your purchases is also in not buying things. We don’t always have to buy handcrafted goods to do good. We do the most good when we consider our needs, and only buy what we need. Far too often we justify our purchases of what we want based on factors that only rich people will use. Is your handbag worn or not looking good? Those same people who bought the handmade bag say that it is out of style and buy a new one. They feel plenty “good” about buying a handcrafted bag and say that their bag will be donated to charity. Meanwhile that charity dumps those clothes on third world countries which kills their own textile industry and jobs. Do you feel “good” about killing jobs that you aren’t even aware you killed because of the first world dumping all those “good handmade bags” on the deserving poor?

You don’t get to throw away things like we do in the US without consequences to someone. Feeling good is not the highest priority in being an ethical and “good” person.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS HELP COMMUNITIES.

Truth: As stated before helping communities with sustainable business like tourism and service is far better in every sense than pushing products. This is an article with an interest to sell, nothing more. You want to help communities? Volunteer, give to reputable charities, or work in a business that helps the disadvantaged. If you want to do good, do it directly and real.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS CAN MEET YOUR NEEDS BETTER.

Truth: What needs do you have that haven’t been thought of already? How much customization do you need to be happy? I worked for millionaires and they believed that customization would make them more happy. They customized the hell out of everything. They were very unhappy and nothing they changed made them more happy. In fact, the definition of someones happiness is their ability to accept life not try to constantly change everything. This is a distortion of what being a human is. Being human isn’t having the world as we want it, it is helping others have a chance to express their voice and be happy.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS OFFER A FULLER EXPERIENCE.

Truth: A fuller experience? Experiences are not full or empty they are exactly what we are open to at the moment. The back story of a manufactured product doesn’t make it less real than a handcrafted one. I get it, we want natural things. However a factory made organic, non-gmo, locally sourced, sustainable, fair-trade product that is far better for society than something “hand-made” which probably has none of those qualities. Even if they do have those qualities, what is the total amount of carbon used in making that product? There is no way that human labor is more efficient per good produced than machine labor.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS ARE EASIER TO BUY AND MORE POPULAR THAN EVER.

Truth: We can access the skill and creativity of people who design mass manufactured goods. Until the replicator becomes commonplace, it will be more efficient to produce goods at a central source where material and specialized machines are located. Moving manufacturing to the end-user “hand-made” implies a one person operation doesn’t it?

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS ARE UNIQUE.

Truth: Uniqueness is overrated. We are unique not because of what we have or what we wear. We are unique because of our values and what we have as part of our personality. When we focus on uniqueness outside of us, we devalue the uniqueness inside of us. Why do we seek to look unique externally when we are all the same inside? People like to think they are special, but very few people are truly unique. Maybe a few geniuses like Einstein or Newton or something like that, but the rest of us are all very much like each other.

Lie: HANDCRAFTED PRODUCTS SUPPORT A TRADITION OF SKILLED WORK.

“We have seen”? We have seen nothing. What we have read is a bunch of unfounded, unsupported assertions with no basis of evidence offered. You can look up my statements and find solid research underpinning them. “Hand made” goods is just a new marketing spin on consuming more garbage we don’t need. You want to buy handmade goods, fine, I don’t care if you do. Just don’t fool yourself thinking you are doing anyone a favor.

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