Externalities

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Studying this course has provided my life with a new context. I literally think about everything I do with regards to the commons and sustainability. For example:

I embarked on a long car journey with my two year old daughter. It wasn’t really that long but she was fussing in her car seat and in turn- I started to get distracted. So what did I do, I stopped en-route to nip into a £1 shop to buy her something to distract her. While scanning the aisles with glee- there was no end of things to buy. I loaded up my basket with crayons, toiletries, food-stuff, drinks- the works. To crown it all she started pointing to a doll and asked whether she can have it….Of course the answer was yes…£1 what a bargain! With doll in hand- I reckoned that I had at least 1 hour’s peace and quiet while I drove. Not so lucky. Within about 20 seconds she was crying and fussing in her seat. One of the legs and both arms had fallen off the doll- and both shoes were missing somewhere. I was even more harassed and annoyed with myself for buying it. 15 minutes after buying the doll she had bits of its hair in her mouth and she was uncomfortably coughing. By now- I was livid. When I pulled over I decided to text relatives in a group text to complain about the doll- they all replied one by one- what did I expect…?

What did I expect? Good question. Well I expected a certain quality standard to be met- since it was being purchased in the UK- within EU safety regulations. I think that subconsciously the glossy, vibrant wrapping enticed me. Then I thought about the issue of ‘externalities’. When I looked at every piece of material, fabric, the detail, the glossy box, the plastic inside the box and the clear plastic outside it, the metal tubing to keep the doll in place, its hair and tiny pick shoes- I considered that collaboratively- this product SHOULD cost more than £1.

How many stages of processing have gone into its production in China? Once all of the bits were produced and assembled, the packaging needed to be printed and produced. Then the dolls would need to be transported to the port, processed and security checked. Then I’m assuming the batch would need to be put on a ship and sailed half way around the world- where the batch would then be checked at port, put on a lorry and transported nationally. By the time it reaches the store (and I’m likely to have missed several other stages in the process in my basic description) it would need to be unpacked in a stockroom and transported to the shop floor. Then it would need to be put on the shelf by someone and then processed at a till by someone. ALL FOR THE PRICE OF £1! Where on earth is the profit in that? Why did I buy such a poorly produced item…is an important question- more pertinent I would argue- is why was it produced in the first place? Don’t even get me started on ‘Obsolescence’…as a conspiracy!

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