Is Cheap Stuff Bad for Our Wellbeing, Bad for the US Economy, and Bad for the Rest of the World?

Boston University professor Ellen Ruppel Shell’s new book Cheap: the High Cost of Discount Culture explores the downside of cheap bargains and design democracy for all.

I actually support the concept of great design for the masses — think Target and Ikea — but agree that Cultural Creatives are very concerned about the real costs of all our low-priced indulgences. Shell argues that the real costs of ‘cheap’ aren’t confined to depressed wages in developing countries.

I’ve written repeatedly that the cornerstone of Modern American culture has been: (s)he who has the most toys wins! More than once, I’ve stood in my own closet, asking myself: “What was I thinking?”

In today’s new TIME magazine, Shell is interviewed about what’s wrong with cheap. On her list: depressed salaries and benefits for America’s retail and manufacturing employees and inferior style (I’m not so sure), based on my own work in product development.

And a return to craftsmanship is on the rise among Cultural Creatives and Smart Sensuality women.

There is definitely merit to her argument that cheap prices inspire us to buy things that we just don’t need.

In an ouch! that shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly, Shell argues that when higher income people like you and me adopt companies like IKEA and Target, they actually become the least sustainable companies on earth.

For someone who changed her prescriptions out of the Target pharmacy, so I wouldn’t visit the store regularly, I understand her point entirely. Anne