Capitalism is wasteful

So many people believe that all of the improvements in life are because of capitalism. They think progress would not happen if there was no profit motive. Yet how many times do people do good things just for the sake of doing good?

As a mechanic, there is something inherently wrong with throwing away ANYTHING that is brand new and/or still in perfect working condition. Today I participated in something that really irked me to my core beliefs – I helped load up a 20 yard scrap bin; 1/2 of which was new parts. My boss said we were having an audit at the beginning of the new year and we needed to clean up the shop by getting rid of everything that wasn’t on the inventory list. The warehouse guys had already taken numerous pallets & boxes down from the racks so we could all sift through them. Lots of brand new parts still in original packaging as well as new “take off” parts from other jobs, parts that we thought we might use on other (future) projects, but never did.

I tried arguing the point that these parts, especially the brand new ones, could be sold for 100% profit. The parts guy shot that idea down because it screws up his numbers for other parts that he sells. (profit margin divided by zero??) My boss said that this type of “purge” happens all the time in the business world because it’s a write-off for their books. To me, it’s completely mind-boggling to think anything new and perfectly good would be tossed aside so easily.

I asked if me & the other guys could take some parts and we were told we could, BUT if any of them appeared on Ebay, Craigslist, etc, we would be fired immediately. It’s the company’s parts and they want them gone. Period.

So I started wondering – how much time, effort & resources are required to make any particular product? Let’s take a metal panel enclosure, for example:

  • The ore has to be mined and processed into the actual metal
  • The metal has to be stamped into the proper shape
  • The newly shaped part has to be prepped, primed, and painted
  • It has to be wrapped and boxed, to be shipped to the store
  • It gets checked into their computer system, tagged and placed on a shelf; ready to sell to a customer.

Now let’s say that instead of selling that part, it sits on the shelf for some time, let’s say a few years. The company now considers this item to be unsalable; writes it off their books, and removes it from inventory. Employees are directed to dump the part into a scrap bin, and when the bin is full, it’s taken away, the company pays for this service and possibly makes a little bit of spare cash for the metal scrap.

Everything that went into making that product is now reduced to a small fraction of the total value (time, effort, money, resources) that went into making it.

How the hell can capitalism continue to “make a profit” when there is so much waste involved?


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About hemibill

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