Monday, April 7, 2008

Galbraithian nonsense

NotoriousFamous idioteconomist John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote a strangely influential book called The Affluent Society in which he argued, among other things, that advertising caused people to buy things they didn't actually want. Consumer spending was wasteful, Galbraith argued, and therefore government should raise taxes and spend the money on things that people really needed.

Kerry Howley takes notice of a suspiciously similar argument in a new book by Pamela Paul claiming that the baby-products industry -- a/k/a "Big Baby" -- is forcing parents to buy too much stuff for their babies:
Pushed by a host of factors — the guilt and exhaustion of working parents, the dispersion of family networks that once passed knowledge from generation to generation, the pressure of admissions from preschool to college, and a culture that worships all things celebrity (including its offspring) — we are intimidated or bamboozled into buying all sorts of goods and services that we not only don’t need, but that may harm our children.
"Intimidated"? "bamboozled"? We're victims!

There are people who have more money than sense, and I suppose stupid people are easy marks for purveyors of worthless products. But what can be done? There's no point writing books about the subject, because stupid people don't read books. If they had enough brains to read a book, they probably wouldn't be buying that crap to begin with.

As a parent of six, I've seen my share of baby stuff, so here's some advice on what not to buy:
  • Walkers -- These icons of White Trash Motherhood are actually bad for your child's development. If your child is not old enough to walk, the child should be down on the floor crawling. The experience of crawling is vital to developing motor skills. It's exercise that stimulates both brain and body. The ironically-named "walker" actually delays a child's progress toward walking. The only time a walker comes in handy is if you're mopping the floor, or you're outside and don't want your child crawling around in the dirt. But the White Trash Motherhood thing of leaving the child in a walker for hours at a time is to be strenously avoided.
  • Talking "educational" toys -- Another classic icon of White Trash Motherhood, the toy that talks to your baby so you don't have to. Generally speaking, avoid any baby toy that requires batteries, but especially avoid any toy with batteries that claims to be educational. It's mind-boggling to see these "baby computers" and fancy "learn to read" gizmos at the store for $54.99. Hello? Go buy Dr. Seuss's ABC for $4.99 and read that to your kid.
  • Electric kiddie cars -- Perhaps the ultimate icon of White Trash Motherhood, these overpriced toys can be found swarming over every trailer park in Alabama for a few days after Christmas. Then the kids get bored, the cars left in the yard during a rainstorm, and by spring are non-operational. The likelihood that a parent will buy their child one of these things is inversely proportional to the number of books in the home.

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