So, How are we Doing? Economy, Age And Confusion

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In his books about a future, underpopulated Earth (the other humans have gone to the stars) Simak paints an attractive lifestyle, with each human living in an estate served by robots.

My brother told me that surprisingly that’s not what’s happening as the population falls (and in Portugal it is already clearly and obviously falling, not to mention edging overwhelmingly to the elderly. And no, I have no clue what the statistics say. It’s obvious to anyone on the ground.) Instead people are crowding into the largest cities, and no one seems to be getting very wealthy.

Which would have been obvious hadn’t people in the twentieth century taken the wrong lessons from the wealth and expansion after the Black Plague.  You see — being mostly Marxist infused, even those who didn’t realize it — thinkers of the twentieth century thought of more people as more slices needing to be taken out of the common and fixed pie, and therefore fewer people meant more wealth.  Only, of course, it was no such thing.

The expansion and growth in both wealth and social equality after the black plague came fromt he fact that a) a lot of people had died suddenly, leaving a lot of goods behind.  b) the society before the plague was a near-zero-surplus society, aka, living close to the bone. c) the goods left behind gave enough of a surplus to be able to finance future expansion and innovation.

A contraction of the population by failure to reproduce is not the same thing.

As the US travels the path already trail-blazed by Europe, there will be economic ripples from the majority of people suddenly being middle-aged to old.

There is, you see, a tide in the affairs of men… and women… and definitely children.

When my mom came to visit, 23 years ago, I was in what’s known as the “settling” phase.  The kids were growing out of toddlerwood. This meant, within certain limits, we could now have “nice things” described as matching dinner plates (without danger of their being broken), curtains (which didn’t get used for swinging on, Tarzan-style) and bedclothes that weren’t of some cartoon character or other.

My thirties were an age of acquisition (and yes, we’re cheap, so a lot of it from thrift shops.)  We needed this, that and the other thing, and a cabinet to store it, and…

So imagine my confusion when mom told me it was time to think of getting rid of stuff, and downsize.

She was wrong — or perhaps simply indulging her habit of assuming we’re in the same place in life — as at that time I had nothing I could downsize except books, and since ebooks weren’t a thing yet, that was a no-go.

But I am reminded, as people ask me what I want for Christmas that I’ve entered that difficult age, when I’m hard to buy for.  Oh, sure, I wouldn’t mind another signed Heinlein (I have one, that a friend gave me.)  I probably have room for that. (What, no volunteers? <G>) and you know, I do still buy books, though my purchases are often whimsical in fiction and utilitarian in non-fiction (i.e. research, or trade books.)

And we need some furniture, though we’re waiting for it to pop up free on craigslist…

But other than that, we’re not buying much.

And that’s the problem. From somewhere in your mid forties and for the rest of your life, you really don’t buy much.  A trinket or even a piece of jewelry has to be amazing to get me to buy it. I DO buy interesting ceramic, particularly in sets of 2 because I can use it for our “date night at home” when the money doesn’t allow going out somewhere. But what I buy is mostly small, targeted and truly unusual or interesting, if that makes sense.

So you can see how a majority of the population going that mode will affect the economics of retail, right? I swear I’ve seen retail change too, and not just in local shops but what’s available on Amazon.  It might be my view only, a subconscious highlighting of things I see and don’t see,  but it seems to me most small decorative objects aren’t for sale in the quantities they used to be, say in the eighties.

Is my growing impatience with small things to dust becoming universal? Who knows?

Anyway, if you’re in retail in a part of retail that specializes in small, decorative objects, unless they are very unique it is likely you’re in for a hard time.

In addition to that I think there is a sense of glut in small-and-cheap. In the nineties, when catalogues of Chinese manufactured goods hit, I confess we bought a lot. Mostly because we bought stuff like “Small farm animals” in a bag, because our kids liked creating unlikely make-believe situations.  My favorite remains the dinosaurs and the army men fighting the invading aliens for possession of the Thomas the Tank Engine railroad. It stayed up for days and had it been a book, it would have contained Ringo-like levels of casualties.

But since then, yes, Chinese manufacturing made a lot of things very cheap. But it also flooded the market on things like “plates” and “small kitchen implement.”

Take it from someone who lives form the secondary market — mostly thrift stores — all of us have got a lot of stuff.  Probably more than we need, which is what prompts the desire to simplify.

The other thing driving the desire to simplify is the fact that our young people are loaded with debt.  Really loaded with debt, to a level we couldn’t imagine at their age.

This means they’re not buying the “matched set of blah blah” or “that cute scarf” or much of anything. We should be grateful they still seem to buy (or at least subscribe to) books, movies and music. But that’ about it, and usually in e-format for portability.

And it’s hitting further up than “amusing ornaments.”  It’s doing things I never expected to see.

The other day I was reading about the general devaluation of antiques. The author had some silly notion it was because millenials eschewed old stuff.  I was going “Dude, they’re broke. Also, they’re living with four roommates. They have no space. And if they had money and space they wouldn’t trust their roommates or their roommates kids to actually keep their antiques looking nice.”

But even I have been shocked at the extent of the “free” section in craigslist.  What I mean is, most of it these days is new, and often good quality.

Also, the for sale section doesn’t seem to move (and not just for us.)

Which to me implies that furniture sales have to be down. Because it must be only older people who are replacing decor and buying new.

There are probably a ton of other impacts I’m not seeing.  People my age don’t tend to care as much for hairstyles. Or clothes.  Um….

Are these areas down for good? Well, no demographics could turn around (and I HOPE they do.) But unless there’s another babyboom I doubt that houses will value at the same pace (unless you’re careful to buy in or very near a big city because for some reason falling population makes humans flock into big cities. Herd instinct, maybe.)

I doubt throwing everything in on making the most fashionable clothes evah — unless they’re truly unique and amazing — would be a good idea.  Same for furniture and oh, heck, baby items.

Even if we keep our population from “aging” further, if we maintain more or less where we are, it changes everything, long term.

For instance, most shopping will be done online.  Why? Because at some point you don’t want to go out for every little thing (trust me.)

And that brings us to the internet and how it has majorly changed… everything, and what’s still in store.

More tomorrow.

 

277 thoughts on “So, How are we Doing? Economy, Age And Confusion

  1. “Buy local!”
    A few years ago I tried for a few items (I forget now what they were) and found, at least then, it simply could NOT be done for the items I desired. Nobody in town had what I sought. And thus did online shopping get exercised. After the second or third fruitless drive around town, I stopped bothering to even look unless it was something I knew was available locally and I didn’t feel like waiting a few days for.

    Also, the local Wal-mart sometime in the last year or so dropped the 24-hour bit and closes from Midnight to 6 AM. The biggest grocery store in town followed several months later and is now closed Midnight to 5 AM. If you want something at 3 AM, you have a choice of two or maybe three convenience stores, mostly alike.

    1. I ran into that with… auto parts. I’d need a part for some common vehicle, drive down to the store, wait in line, deal with the surly clerk, and be told they could get it day after tomorrow, and I’d have to pay shipping too. NAPA, AutoZone, O’Reilly’s, they were all the same. After prepaying, I could drive back down there and stand in line again.

      Or I could just go to RockAuto or one of the other online sellers, click a few times, and get the part in the same amount of time, for 25% less, without spending time and gas on top of that.

      About that time I noticed that the parts counters had been pushed further back, increasing customer area at the expense of inventory space. And at least half of that customer area was… tchochkis. Cartoon floor mats, furry dash covers, chain-link steering wheels, LED valve stem caps… mostly, just trash. But the store was probably paying almost nothing for it, so the profit margins for trash were better than for auto parts.

      Barnes & Noble? The auto parts chains already went down that path a decade before. Though they didn’t have the Brobdingnagian store overhead B&N has…

    2. What gets me is the horrible customer service. I don’t mean under-staffing, and I am pretty tolerant about when they finish typing up what they’re inputting, been there, done that– it’s things like the local hardware store not having any indication of dimensional lumber prices, and you don’t get to choose the wood, either. You can go back, browse, come to the front, buy your wood, then drive around back and wait for one of the half-dozen guys to decide to come load lumber.

      At it would take for this not to be an issue is a laminated “lumber prices” thing at the front counter, and one of those guys saying something like “Good morning! You looking for anything specific with that two by four, or want me to pick a good one for you?”

      1. I don’t suffer from the service problem much. I live in Bucks County PA, and have been lucky in a number of local resources. Our local hardware store is an Ace, but it’s an Ace that used to be independent and Ace has had the sense to not mess with its character.

        But there’s also a trick; I try real hard to be extra nice to people doing retail. I’ve done retail, and it mostly sucks supppurating moose dong. So I sympathize. When they’re having a hard time with the register, I say “Don’t rush. I hate those things.” Or something similar. I thank the crew at fast food places when my lunch was good. In a sit-down restaurant, if the service was good, especially if it was good under less-than-ideal conditions (like a rush), I ask to speak to the manager and compliment him/her on her staff.

        It this a little over the top? Maybe. But you would be astonished at the dividends it pays. I get GREAT service at places that remember me, and I get remembered at places I haven’t been back to in six months.

        Don’t be the customer who comes in with an attitude. Be the one who comes in and says “I kinda have a problem, can you help me?” Or “I’m in over my head. Can you help?”

        You may be the first halfway sane person they’ve talked to all freaking DAY.

        1. I already do that stuff, because I always feel like I’m imposing on their time– which is what makes “not even putting up prices” such a pain, ESPECIALLY when they’re busy. Side-effect of my sister having been retail, although she loved it. (I don’t ask to speak to the manager, but if there’s an atta-boy note stand I use it. Mom did a lot of manager stuff, I usually figure they’re busy. The good ones who come and do check-out, those I’ll comment to.)

          Part of why it sticks in my head as such an utter failure:
          It’s a digital inventory system, they’ve got a printer for price tags that even literally has the UPC number on it (so you can puzzle out whatever shorthand was used), and there’s a sheet with the wood UPCs on it right there, the lady scans it at check-out. Yes, I am nosey. Or detail oriented, since I’d say this *IS* my business, literally, in this case.

          For another example, a place has a web page. Pretty basic, nice that they at least have a page, right?

          It has the address, and the phone number. No hours. A contact form, which works but isn’t responded to. Picture used doesn’t look like the building they’re actually in, either, I think it’s a back-view.

          Money is just walking right past them, and it’s sad…but I’m not going to spend more time and money to shop local when I can have less trouble on all counts by driving for 45 minutes. (In a gas guzzler, at that. With six kids. And half the time, I have to buy lunch…and it still costs less, with less stress? Ooof!)

          Contrast with the local dentist– his “secretary” is well informed on both the business and just dealing with people, the website has their hours on it, the photograph on the page lets you identify the building when you’re driving in, and you can download the paperwork you need to fill out from it, plus a list of insurance companies they work with.

          1. I know a guy who had a fridge or washer need something, and the local warranty service provider for that manufacturer is the “large” locally owned appliance store. Told him it was $X amount for them to even look at it because “You should have bought it locally, then we don’t charge until we work on it.” . . . Well, it is a warranty issue, besides DFW Texas is not really a convenient travel distance to buy something “locally” in Northeast Wisconsin until AFTER moving up here, and with an attitude like that, really he isn’t thinking of replacing his housegoods with stuff you carry.
            He ordered the needed item online and fixed it himself (item was less than they wanted to come assure that was the needed replacement)

            1. Car dealerships mostly operate that way here. All the Chevy dealers pay the same price for GM, but the price might vary $5K for the same car. If you drive 20 miles to another dealer to put that $5K in your own pocket, the local dealer will either bump you to the bottom of the service queue or tell you to take the car back where you bought it, you dirty scab.

              No, *never* going to step through their door again…

              1. “the local dealer will either bump you to the bottom of the service queue or tell you to take the car back where you bought it, you dirty scab.”

                In which case there’s a better than even chance they’re violating laws regarding having to service at the dealer regardless of where you get maintenance.

                1. Even if there was a law, “Good luck with that.” And if GM cared, they would have dealt with it long ago.

                2. A dealer tried that “take it to where you bought it” with my dad (a former mechanic) once.

                  Asked the service manager to use their phone, called the GM Corporate service program office (long distance in the 80s to add insult to injury), and then told the service manager “your boss wants to talk to you”. Hilarity (and required warranty work) ensued.

                  1. Some years back we had a Toyota wagon that needed recall work. We had a add on to the warranty on the car that entitled us to a loaner while the car was being serviced, but the dealer maintained that didn’t apply to recall work.

                    Until I went onto their sales floor and proceeded to make a very LOUD fuss, in the middle of their Saturday sales.

                    We got the loaner.

                    We also never bought another car there.

                  2. Our local service departments don’t care where you purchased the vehicle.

                    Anymore they make very little on new vehicles. More on the add-ons they try to get you to buy afterwards, and doing the financial loan paperwork on the bank. They make something, or they wouldn’t be in business. The money they make are on used vehicles, service, and warranty.

                    1. Just took my car in for the 60,000 mile tune-up. My long time mechanic. $400.

                      Had a recall from ford, which I had been putting off, and took it to the local dealer. Got a call the car was ready, but they had “found” some problems, I told them no. Picked up the car, what they “found” would have cost me $1400! Will take my car back to trusted mechanic to make sure he didn’t miss anything, but i suspect this is a recall con.

                    2. Once took my husband’s car in for an oil change that came with buying the car, happened to do it right after we got the transmission flushed at Les Schwab’s.

                      They tried to sell us a transmission flush.

                      For twice what Schwab had charged.

                    3. An honest mechanic is worth their weight in rubies. And my test for finding one is when I take a car in convinced it needs expensive repair work and the mechanic tells me it doesn’t. They could just take my money; I’ve already sold myself. They didn’t.

                    4. Yes – an honest mechanic is a prize above rubies. We lucked onto a local place that appeared to be just for brakes (I mean, the company name was Brakeworks – what would you expect!) but they do everything but body-work. They’ve given honest estimations, usually come out below it when the work is done … and they’re around the corner from us, so usually give rides home, if the car in question is incapacitated and no other vehicle available. We love them so much – and they are on our list for gift fudge at Christmas. Only the junior owner is allergic to tree nuts, so we have to be extra-careful in assembling a box of fudge for Brakeworks which doesn’t include nuts.

            2. He ordered the needed item online and fixed it himself (item was less than they wanted to come assure that was the needed replacement)

              Oh, gads, THIS– we can’t afford a $75 minimum to LOOK at an item, with a warning that parts would cost more, and it would probably be at least another billable hour of labor if nothing went wrong.

              So I went to the repair sites, troubleshot it to the likely part, and spent an hour fixing it myself.

              For three different repairs.

              Two were plug-and-play, one I had to do basic wiring.

              Oh, and winterizing my RV– all the official sites were crud, but the vacationer ones? I spent twenty bucks on supplies, instead of driving an hour and spending $200 bucks for labor.

              It’s a freaking waste that I can’t, say, hire a Honey Do type who wouldn’t have to be fiddling backwards from there, but after all the taxes and regulations and stuff I know they can’t. 😦

              1. One of the heating and AC places I hear on the radio, has a flat rate service call. 1 am on Xmas? same as a noon call out
                and iirc that’s a Door County place (so a LOOONG way to anyone else and a large coverage area)

                1. It’s smart business– we chose the plumbing company for a job we HAD to get done by my remembering that “Golden Rule” had an offer like that for plumbing emergencies, and I figured that they probably wouldn’t pad stuff too badly. Add was something like “$75 to come look, and you don’t pay more until labor and parts goes past that.” As opposed to “$75 to show up, then we start charging, including for the time it takes to drive to Lowe’s and grab parts.” (Which we were quoted as normal in several other instances.)

                  Good people, really live up to the whole ‘we want to treat you the way we’d like to be treated’ thing; I think we’re technically out of their service area, but at least one of their guys lives in town, so he stopped and did the job on the way home.

                  THAT kind of stuff is what can make small town successful– the guys’ vans are fully stocked and they go home with them at the end of the day. I’d imagine it makes it harder to schedule somethings, but on the other hand it also makes those 11PM Thanksgiving night emergencies easier to service, and they have to keep track of stuff anyways because they text (CURRENT!) pictures of the guy who’s coming.

                2. Our HVAC company has a service contract that basically covers replacement filters, two inspections a year and service anytime during that year. It’s a bargain.

                  1. not paid much mind to what the locals here have, the only one I recall hearing ads for (in the mornings at the old building, before I put on my streams) just mentions all the various services they have. The other I know of in part because I see a van parked a few blocks away from me, and a sticker on my furnace. I avoid the local stations because they suck.
                    In the extreme.
                    When my furnace died last Thanksgiving, I ordered the parts on line and fixed it myself

              2. During the “Year of the Dying Kitchen Appliances” one service call produced a technician who looked at the dishwasher, decreed the control pane shot and said he could do nothing that wouldn’t cost nearly as much as a new washer. Then, as he could do nothing, he refused any compensation.

                Yep, that guy went on the list of preferred service persons.

              3. “It’s a freaking waste that I can’t, say, hire a Honey Do type who wouldn’t have to be fiddling backwards from there, but after all the taxes and regulations and stuff I know they can’t.”

                This is exactly what sites like Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor are for. And I’m seeing more and more people advertising their services.

              1. didn’t turn it down, just wanted payment (possibly refunded) to determine if it was indeed warranty work, and copped an attitude. So, instead of letting them make even a penny from the work, even if it ended up free to him, did it himself.

      2. > not having any indication of dimensional lumber prices

        We had one of those places here. You had to stand in line and wait your turn at the checker, then ask.

        I got hold of the manager and asked what the problem was, and he explained that the majority of their sales were to contractors, and the contractors didn’t care what the price was; they were either passing it on or they negotiated their own prices quarterly. So they didn’t consider it worth their time to label individual lumber racks.

        I did persuade him to make a photocopy of the cashier’s price list and stick it up near the door, though.

        They eventually went out of business for the usual reason: they sucked at being a business.

      3. The service things that gets on my nerves is “we assume you are a thief” activities, such as receipt checks at exit. This is especially galling when money is spent on it, but I cannot get any help in store half the time (hello Guitar Center).

        Amazon may not be perfect, but they have never stopped me from finishing shopping to verify I’m not a thief.

        1. That is at least in part because with Amazon you ain’t walking out that door with squat, and they don’t ship until the check clears.

          BTW – that points up one of the under-appreciated aspects of modernity: the ubiquity and convenience of Debit/Credit cards. No vendor worries about bad paper, no time-consuming verification of identity and credit worthiness, no tedious entering your check in your checkbook ledger and maintaining the running balance — it’s all there for you to review online and you can move money into the account to cover expected expenses with the click of a few keys.

          1. Until — and this has already happened to several conservative bloggers, speakers, authors, etc. — the bank decides you are unworthy and will be punished for your wrongthink.

            1. At least there are alternative banks, for now. I’m still waiting for a PayPal alternative that operates in the US and doesn’t also deplatform people.

          2. As an aside, the card/fruitpay electronic I-keep-everything-in-my-hands payment methods have one more advantage highlighted recently: Spouse of Friend forgot card at store; Friend called store and was told “Oh, checker was X, but X went home early – she said didn’t feel well”; and of course Card was immediately used at local clothing store for just under the $1K California felony theft limit, then another store, then a game store, etc. until he got that number killed off.

            And at any step when pressed the response was “Oh, you card company won’t make you pay for those charges” as if that makes it not really a crime at all – it’s a magical windfall, free money from the unicorns, just like Socialism!

            1. Mike, I was getting that response back in 2001 or even earlier. Used a card to order food; next thing I know, I’ve got $600 worth of charges at various computer game stores and sites. Unfortunately, moron made one mistake: he ordered hardware and had it delivered to his real address.

              Called up Discover Fraud, gave them all the details and said I was EAGER to prosecute. They couldn’t be bothered. And neither could anyone else (FBI, IIRC). Just couldn’t be bothered.

              1. Sounds like when we were looking over some hospital bills in the 1980s. They were wonky enough we paid for a visit with our doctor to get his opinion, since the hospital’s only response was “pay us now!”

                The doc got out his pen and started ticking items… “I didn’t order this”, “that wasn’t justified”, and “I don’t even know what THIS is…” It was fraud, right there on the bill.

                So we went back home, called up the insurance provider, and spent about $50 on long distance, explaining the situation and trying to Do the Right Thing.

                We got passed around from extension to extension, with the general attitude being “we don’t care”, and the last one finally said, “Look, what’s your problem? You got your check, didn’t you?” (this being when the insurance companies paid you, and you then paid your doctor or hospital…)

                So, we went back to the hospital with the marked-up copies of the bill, paid an adjusted amount, and walked out with enough left over to buy my wife a slightly-used and very nice Mazda RX-7.

                And that kind of thing is one reason your insurance rates are so high.

          3. Oddly, the rise of the debit card and death of the check broke the Federal Reserve’s key mechanism for influence interest rates for most of the past 50 years, the overnight float loans banks needed as checks worked through the system. A replacement regime only got finallized in the past few years.

            Stories from bank managers back in the about parking lot wvening meetings to exchange checks back to the drawing bank are always funny.

            1. You recalled to mind my Finance professor of thirty years ago explaining that American Express essentially made it profit off the float between when folks paid for travelers’ checks and when those were presented for payment.

              That was a heck of a lot of money for AMX to play with, and people paid them to take it.

    3. Too many of the Sacred Local Businesses think they are in the role of getting an object from the factory to the buyer, and the buyer needs to pay homage for this service.

      “Getting an object from the factory to the buyer” is Amazon’s and Walmart’s job. If you are trying to compete with them and are chasing 1% improvements, you are already out of business. You need to be chasing the 0.01% improvements at minimum.

      The Sacred Local Business needs to think about how it is going to provide value that Amazon and Walmart can’t provide. That doesn’t even have to be much: people will pay a few extra dollars because the person behind the counter is pleasant to talk to.

      And stop acting like the consumer should be forever grateful of being allowed to do business with you. Behaving like an international cartel is unbecoming of a 500sqft shop.

      1. A friend used to manage a sizeable computer store in San Diego. Large enough that they had vendors come to them, as opposed to having to search for stuff themselves.

        He said the difference between American and Chinese vendors was tremendous. If they ordered something from an American vendor, they had to make a minimum order, and if their order wasn’t big enough, the companies acted like he was wasting their time. The Chinese vendors were delighted to sell one $3 item, no problem, delighted to get your business.

        Basically, the Chinese thought any profit was good profit, but the Americans didn’t want a profit, they wanted to make a killing on every sale.

        (~10 years ago, now; things may have changed)

        1. Back when Pa did injection molded plastics, one of the trade magazines had a story about a plastic supplier that dealt with a rather small order. A mere two 50-lb (or so) bags of raw plastic. And all delivery services/vehicles were out… but the customer needed it right quick. So they rented what was available – and not a simple van or truck, but perhaps a limo. And the customer got his order right away — and the supplier had a GREAT reputation for coming through. The reason? Paraphrased: “Sure, we love selling lots to our big customers. And big customers start as small customers.”

      2. Too many of the Sacred Local Businesses think they are in the role of getting an object from the factory to the buyer, and the buyer needs to pay homage for this service.

        This.

        I remember when I lived in Willi and WalMart came. The local men’s store went out of business and people blamed WallyWorld.

        They were probably right. I got the same quality for half the price and less attitude. But I was supposed to grieve for the loss of the personal service of a local business.

        Can’t grieve for what never existed.

      1. Not really. There’s not enough legitimate traffic to pay the overhead of lights, heating, etc. And if you’re in CA and several other jurisdictions, you can’t afford the security people on duty to prevent half your store from walking out.

        1. Yeah in the early to late 80’s every big grocery store here in the New England area was going 24 HR for a while. Basically the stores were open for restocking ANYHOW and so put a cashier or two on and voila 24 hr store. I suspect They ran into issues with stock “shrinkage” that killed the profit. In addition job market got hotter into the early 90’s and I suspect it got real hard to get anyone to stock on 3rd shift, let alone cashier. Sales (other than for late night munchies) were probably lame anyhow. These days even convenience stores close at midnight or so, just not the traffic to justify it most places.

          1. It may also be a graying population thing.

            In College Station the HEB and WalMart closest to A&M were 24/7, bu the other big HEB. I think the other WalMart was.

            Certainly, the college student market provides enough traffic to justify 24/7, but not their profs.

          2. This may be a regional thing, but I discovered a long time ago that gas stations, and the convenience stores in them, don’t close even on Christmas.

          3. “These days even convenience stores close at midnight or so, just not the traffic to justify it most places.”

            Just wait until state or federal $15+ minimum wage laws are common. I bet many convenience stores won’t be open past 9pm especially in rural and suburban areas.

        2. Where I am currently working is a 24 hour grocery store. One cashier, two stockers and a security guard. Guard is recent (8 months), and they are talking about closing after 11pm. Security guard costs $40/hour to the company. So that SG is sucking up wages from two employees. Not to mention that most of the ones I have seen aren’t even good pylons.

            1. Oh, I understand that. Having worked as an SG before. Knowing how the company thinks I currently work for it’s being added to the calculations if it’s worthwhile being open 24 hours.

      2. I noticed the same thing with Walmarts, but there are a lot of other places that used to be open 24 hours that no longer are. Probably half the Jersey diners I knew of growing up were open 24 hours; now probably about 15% are. Steak’n’Shake cut back from 24 hours to 7am-11pm in my area a couple years back. Many of the Kroger supermarkets here in Cincinnati used to 24 hours but are now 6am to midnight. ISTR some of the IHOP’s cutting back from 24 hours as well. Convenience stores, Meijer stores, and Waffle Houses seem to be the only places reliably open 24 hours anymore. I wonder if the decline of third shift work and the security aspect snelson134 mentioned downthread have combined to make 24 hour service less viable.

        1. I also wonder how much of the impulse/drunk shopping at 3am among knight owls is now taken care of on the internet vs hitting an actual store

      3. Having children who work for Walmart -the decision to keep them open 24 hours or close them 00-06 (or maybe longer) is being made on a corporate level based on many things.

        The biggest one – are they able to hire reliable night time cashiers for overnight hours at a reasonable wage, or at all? The Walmart on a direct path between work and my house couldn’t hire them at all and now close 00-06. And there’s no overnight stocking. The store’s volume determines that it can all be done during open hours.

        Two – The area. Security guards cost money. Does the store need extra security if it’s open overnight? If the answer is yes, it’s likely now closing at night.

        There are a few other minor considerations, but those are the big ones.

        The largest grocery chain in the area is making the same calculations. Almost all their city stores close now at 2300. The one on my direct route home remains open. Their volume isn’t huge, but enough to keep open. It’s just down the street (about 1.5 miles) from the now closed at night Walmart. Their night time volume as a result has picked up, especially on the first of the month when EBT cards are replenished at midnight. Day time cashiers have rotating shifts, the midnight shift cashier who knows me by sight has a fixed shift. He’s not happy about the customer demographic change for his shift since the Walmart started closing. I don’t see one every night, but there’s now the occasional uniformed security guard standing near the exit.

        In the end, all staffing and hours decisions are determined by money. Nothing more, nothing less.

    4. Ah, but look at the other side. The Internet, modern shipping, and modern money transfer have made the whole world a marketplace for small business. I routinely buy model kits from the UK, Japan, and China. Gun parts from Germany. Repair parts for my TV lift cabinet from Poland. Hell, I ordered a whole percussion revolver from Austria (they have some fantastic custom gunsmiths over in Europe).

      It’s a world where you can find just exactly what you need, if you bother to look. But you won’t find it locally.

      1. A decade or so ago, I wanted to buy one of the bound volumes of Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise. I got to Comic-Con (in San Diego) and went to their booth, and they said they had sold out of that volume before they even got to Comic-Con! But they mentioned that I might be able to get it from the UK. So I looked up Forbidden Planet London online, found that they had it in stock and would take transatlantic orders, called them to arrange payment, and had it shipped, for only modestly more than a US purchase would have cost.

        Somewhat later I bought a novel from Northern Ireland that hadn’t yet been published in the US. Again, only minimal hassle.

        1. Once upon a time, I was a hero librarian, because I would drive up to Canada and snag the latest Redwall before the American edition eventually worked it’s way to our distributors. Fun times.

          1. I have the sneaking suspicion that one of the things that really helped Amazon gain traction was when people discovered they could order the next harry Potter book from England and get it months before the US stores had it.

  2. From somewhere in your mid forties and for the rest of your life, you really don’t buy much.

    I find that much of my non-reading related purchases are now to replace things, like shoes. Shoes wear out with walking, and for some reason my surgeon thought it a good idea that I should walk. A lot. And then some more. Decent shoes make a difference. 🙂

    1. Decent shoes make a huge difference. Seems like most of my life, my feet hurt, or even had blisters on the heels, because of my shoes. Now I’ve invested in some good shoes — SAS, still made in the USA — and I hope won’t need to buy any more shoes, other than summer sandals, for a very long time. The SAS shoes wear really well.

      1. I may have to break down and replace my (only worn twice a week) dress shoes. After being resoled and half-soled, one of them seems to have a hole where there’s a sort of fold. I must have let it dry out from lack of polish or maybe it is just age.

        Then again, I do have an identical pair that I just need to get re-soled; the rubber gribbers the cobbler put on last time are torn and look shoddy.

      2. bought my last pair of boots from the truck that sets up here at the plant. “salesman” argued with me that Dr. Martens never made waterproof or wide sizes (told to me when I was wearing wides, and later the waterproof argument when I was wearing waterproof models) I don’t care they are $10-$20 more online, I’ll pay that before giving him any business. I’ll now do it even if the company doesn’t reimburse me the $100 allowance

        1. Finding wide sizes shoes in a local store is a pain. So many stores don’t carry them. Problem is, even some supposed wide shoes aren’t wide enough, so buying online is also a pain, because unless I know the brand and style, it’s a crap-shoot as to if it will fit. I’ve mostly given up and just wear Berkenstock Clogs (not sandals). They look enough like “regular” shoes in the front that most people don’t notice unless they notice the funny shaped toe.

          I have the same problem with clothes being JUST big and tall enough that most stores cutoff on sizes is one or two sizes smaller than what I need. They stop at a 42″ waist for pants (or now 40 or less in some places) and I need a 44″ waist. And they stop at XL or 2XL in shirts, with no tall sizes. I NEED the Tall size if I go with 2XL, and would prefer 3XL-Tall when I can find it because I hate tight clothes.

          Thankfully, I have a “big and tall” kind of men’s clothing store not too far away (I call it my “fat guy store”… they aren’t amused). But man do they put the screws to you on price.

          1. I’ve had good luck with New Balance for shoes and Amazon for clothes. I’ve been able to find 3XLT for shirts. May have to check the Big & Tall box.

            1. +1 on on the New Balance shoes. We have a locally owned shoe store that will special order them after actually checking your feet to make sure they get them big enough.

              We have a local Cabela’s so I can try stuff on and get the size right for a particular article or brand, then wait for them to come up on sale with free shipping on their website.

            2. I will second that New Balance plug.

              They have 2E, 4E, and 6E sizes. Also narrows. Some of their stuff is made in the USA (990 series). Other series elsewhere. The USA stuff can be pricey. The imports are not usually cheap. Either are worthy the money.

              Their stuff is comfortable and lasts, and I am not a lightweight.

              Take care of your feet, and they will take care of you.

              1. Add me to the chorus, they carry nearly-square shoes, are usually decent prices, and I actually found something that wasn’t multiple shades of eye-pain. (Gray and white! Goodheanves!)

              2. May I introduce you to Dunham?

                Owned by New Balance, with the same enormous size selection, but in men’s non-athletic styles. Aravon is the sub-brand for women.

                1. Okay, guys, I need a place on line to buy wingtips, size fifteen quadruple wide, though 16 double wide will do.
                  If DIL and I can’t find them, we’re going to have to lasso critter and take him to get custom made shoes for his massive trotters, and he will bitch all the way because “too expensive.”

                  1. he will bitch all the way because ‘too expensive.’

                    If he thinks properly fitted shoes are too expensive, wait until the bill for cheap, badly fitted shoes arrives.

                    That’s a bill which can never be paid off but charges interest from toes, soles, ankles, knees, hips and back. Pelvis and tops of feet may have to kick in a bit, too.

                    Do not ask how I know.

                    1. I don’t. I’m still walking off the damage I got from properly-fitted but insufficiently-supportive shoes that I wore for a month. One month, and the outside of my right foot still hurts a bit even though it’s been at least six weeks since I sufficiently cleaned the proper shoes. (Which, alas, have to be replaced since they’re separating. Duct tape is only a temporary solution.)

                      Neither pair is hideously expensive. But memory foam insoles are NOT your friend, no matter what they say.

                2. WHY he’s determined to save US money, (I mean his parents) I don’t know, but he’s been like that from a toddler. Why he refused to have the piano lessons he really wanted.

          2. When Docs moved most manufacturing to China, their sizes widened out a bit, so now I am able to wear a regular 9 in steeltoe without destroying my little toes. When the idjit said they didn’t make a wide, the other guy working the truck said to try the regular, as they fit wider now, and he was right. I used to get New Balance shoes in 8.5 EEEE locally, but no one carries them any longer (Payless in Shopko and some other shoe shop on this side the river. Both shuttered)
            twice recently I have bought stuff like a rain jacket, where the sizing said XL, and it fits tighter than the same brand I bought previously in a Large, The old rain jacket was gotten for use in Texas over a riding jacket (also in large) so I figured to go a bit looser for wearing over cold weather gear.
            Ha! it is now a summer rain coat for non riding activities. I forget what the other bit I bought was.
            I find around here, most of the time the sizes on the racks are 2XL and 3XL, Medium and Small. This was especially bad at Shopko. Might be why they shut down.

              1. I was looking for Docs there, and every model I prefer was out in my size!
                The hell?
                I could have ordered direct from drmartens.com for just a bit more, but I can wait. I do wish they had a Wellington in Waterproof and winter sole with the sheep fleece lining.
                I will need some NBs soon though.

          3. For those with wide feet look up Hitchcock shoes (mens or ladies) Mens up to 6E, ladies up to 4E. They are NOT cheap, especially the nice dress shoes. I have been dealing with them for 30+ years never had a problem. Styles are limited and a bit dated for the ladies though decent looking. And Yes New balance is awesome up to 4E in regular Stores. Hitchcock has some models in 6E special order from them. And yeah I have 10.5 5E (US) Mens feet. My daughters swear I could play a Hobbit without foot prostheses (yes they’re hairy too though not THAT hairy 🙂

          4. Payless used to be excellent. Then the Mittens /Sanders (The ones Mr. RE S was telling us about recently) got their hands on them and they were gone.

            And that’s why you but local, even if the owners are “quirky” and the staff are idiosyncratic. They’re your neighbors. They hire your kids.

            Thanks for the New Balance reccy.

      3. SAS and Hotter. If SAS made riding-type dress boots or dress-shoes that had an adjustable strap, I’d get those from SAS as well.

        1. SAS is great. For me – a good local company, and the customer service is pretty decent, too. Retail outlet on the IH-35 Access road a little way north of my neighborhood.

    2. Good shoes . . . I still have enough weight to lose that my feet might shrink some more, so I may need to wait on that. (Definitely waiting on stuff like fitted clothing!) The sandals that Mom found at a thrift store are working pretty good, though.

    3. I find I need things like towels and socks. I garden so there are seeds and such. I buy things for my canning addiction which often go for Christmas presents to the family. I hate buying shoes, but I will when I have to. I patch and mend clothes and often go thrifting. The stuff on the racks in stores now is ugly. If some one buys for us at gift giving time I’m always praying “please not another knick knack”.

    4. Thanks for the SAS pointer. Look like nice shoes, but OUCH! the price! Still, if they wear well they’ll still be worth the outlay. Used to be a dedicated New Balance buyer, mainly because they seemed to wear for a looooong time. My experience is that since they’ve moved the manufacture of their shoes I buy to China their quality has gone down.

      1. The most expensive shoes I ever got were a pair of Wolky sandals, $120 on sale. But to show you how good they were, I wore them to eleven outings at the state fair over a period of seventeen days, never less than five hours on my feet on wretched concrete, and absolutely nothing hurt at the end of the day. Not my feet, not my shins, not my calves. Nothing. For regular shoes, that would be amazing. For sandals? Downright incredible.

  3. The other thing driving the desire to simplify is the fact that our young people are loaded with debt.  Really loaded with debt, to a level we couldn’t imagine at their age.

    I can imagine big debt at a young age. The Spouse and I had acquired a substantial debt a year after we married.  We bought a house.  A lack of rental stock in the area at the time having driven up rents it seemed the reasonable choice. 

    That is a choice few young adults now could consider due to the debts they already carry.  

      1. From Cole Porter’s musical adaptation of Ninotchka:

        “Ninotchka! You’ve have this whole section all to yourself?” “You know they could put two more families in here!”

    1. I graduated from engineering school with ~$15K in loans. First job was $25.5K so a little over 2-1 yearly income to debt. It was survivable but a little tight when I and my fiancee married when she graduated next year (and went to grad school so $7K income). We nearly had kittens when the 1986 tax revisions threatened to tax tuition waivers. A year of grad school waiver was $15K (when undergrad was still ~10K).

      We’ve luckily been able to keep our daughters loans to a similar 2-1 income to loans ratio, and they’re both frugal. But there are folks who instead of 20-30K of loans have 60-80 K of loans with 40-30K starting income. so .5-1. Doctors tend to be worse with 100K+ loans. And starting income for basic doctors is poor as health care groups don’t want to pay, and hanging out a shingle isn’t a win. Which is why everybody specializes. Could be worse, Small animal vets make 1/3 what a basic internist makes and have the same (or larger) loans. And it’s as hard (or harder) to get into Veterinary school. We may have to subsidize Kitteh doctors to get any. Only thing that keeps small animal vets showing up is the deep love of animals of some folks.

      1. I graduated with a BS and zero debt. Same with my MS. The BS I prepaid by enlisting and dumping several thousand into the college fund program at the time (didn’t have the current GI Bill), and paying per class with tuition assistance at night. The MS I funded with a combination of a reduced rate by the college, paired with a couple thou per year continuing education benefit by the hospital, and the rest covered by GI Bill which I had converted to while still in the Service.

        The big difference? I’m horribly debt adverse, and Millennials largely don’t have the foggiest idea what the terms: debt, savings, investing, loss of investment opportunity, and compound interest mean. It might be beneficial if those particular “kids” actually had to go hungry for months on end as a result of their in-comprehension; if only to get their heads in alignment with the way the universe actually operates.

        1. The Millenials have no clue about debt as their parents (Boomer/Gen X ) have no clue about debt/spending. My daughters learned frugality from my wife and I. We’re not poor but both come from blue collar backgrounds and know how behind the 8 ball you can get with too much debt. We dug our way out of debt in the late 80s with some lucky breaks and have used credit very cautiously since. But the locals spend money like it was water. Always drove my daughters insane as they wanted all that cool stuff wanted to be in. I was a poor kid at a private high school. almost ALL the rich kids (some 4-5th generation money) were clueless. It was a deep concern of mine that my girls understand money and not be like those drones. Through some miracle my girls learned.

          1. “The Millenials have no clue about debt as their parents (Boomer/Gen X ) have no clue about debt/spending.”

            Yes. I had a long post but you know that is TMI. But I’ve noticed a difference between our son, who mirrors our spending habits, and my nieces. None of which will think nothing about flying to a concert somewhere over the weekend. Or the two who are just now getting back from Machu Pichu tour. Granted they were brought up more glob trotting than we brought our son up. But, still … I do know that at least one set of them, the 401(k)s and IRA/Roths, are funded before they ever see a penny. Also, it helps that at least two of them, while they don’t live with mom & dad, they are living in relatives homes for no, or minimal rent.

          2. “I was a poor kid at a private high school. almost ALL the rich kids (some 4-5th generation money) were clueless.”

            I had a classmate say I should ask my parents for a car for my 16th birthday. I set her straight as to why that wasn’t going to happen, and she was horrified that she’d offended me. (She was always a sweet girl, though a bit clueless as to things like social status and how it worked against certain people.) I wasn’t offended. Heck, knowing the costs and difficulties of dealing with a car, I was just as glad to not have to worry about that.

      2. “it’s as hard (or harder) to get into Veterinary school.”

        It is flat out harder. They don’t have the number of schools available. It has gotten easier since I looked into it … 45+ years ago. Not in the form of admittance, but because of the PNW Tristate option. Now, Oregon State, Washington State, (I think) Idaho State, have a mutual tri-State Veterinarian program. Once accepted to the program students take first year in their State program, then may move to another State, still paying inState tuition (A HUGE deal). After graduation, you can not just hang out a shingle. You have to have at least 2 years under a practicing Veterinarian*.

        When I looked into this. Idaho State was the only option and you paid out of state tuition. No way could I afford to get an under-pre-medical degree, then go and pay out of state tuition. Well that is if I could get thru pre-med with a 4+ GPA equivalent (was not happening).

        Our current Veterinarian clinic used to be open Saturdays, with a Veterinarian taking patients. Now they can’t, they are down a veterinarian. They are having difficulty finding a Veterinarian looking to be in Eugene that is past the 2 year supervision requirement. I think they have a couple within that section on staff, but until they pass whatever that marker is, clinic is limited on what the clinic can do. We’ve been going to that clinic now for 34 years.

        1. One of my nieces has just entered large-animal vet school at UC Davis. Apparently they already have them castrating calves. (I approve. Weed the ones who quail out quick.)

    2. My student loans weren’t that big as I had a scholarship for about half my college.

      Biggest hit was buying a new car in the hangover of Jimmy Carter’s economy when I needed something reliable to get to my first active duty post, with a loan at 21% APR, and that was considered a good rate for a 22 year old.

      Sold that off when I went to Korea a couple of years later to pay off the loan, and paid off my student loans when the Active Duty deferment expired.

      Darlin’ Daughter’s grand parents started a 529 fund when she was born and paid into it regularly, so they gave her the gift of graduating debt free.

      1. Make sure your Darlin’ Daughter takes care of her grandparents, that is an incredibly useful gift

      2. We started our son’s state 529 as soon as they were available to start, with grandparents contributing (spread among ultimately 8 grandchildren, but hey anything helps). What hurt us/son? Guess when we had to start using it? Hint, kid started college Fall 2007 … We’d been better off with money in CD’s. It isn’t like an IRA where you can choose where to put the money, or wasn’t then without consequences. Oh, they had “options”. Just Oregon screwed up. Non of the options ultimately were good. To the point the State got sued, and lost. Not that it was a lot of money, out of it. But payouts did appear at the “right” time … where $500 or $1000 at that time made a difference. Kid also got small scholarships here and there over his time in college. One could say “not very much”, but you know, that quarter didn’t have to find $500 for books and lab fees …

  4. I live in NJ where women in their 40’s-80s do care very much about hair, clothes and cosmetics. The local Lord and Taylor was populated by exactly this demographic when I passed through yesterday. You and I may not care much about these things, but very many do.
    As for the antique and good furniture market, many millennials and the generation just prior to them, do not know that there is anything better than Pottery Barn, because nobody tells them. However, they are learning, but are paying too much (maybe they love overpaying, some people do). I frequent local auctions where these things (nice furniture, dishes, clocks, jewelry) can be purchased well below the retail value, and is overwhelmingly purchased by dealers who raise the price as far as they can, and sell to people in their 20s and 30s who are just getting into ownership.
    I agree that there is not much of a market for fine china (as an example), but there isn’t as much of that being made as it is no longer fine. Once the manufacturing was outsourced to China, a lot of things lost their former gloss. Does anyone want “genuine Lenox” for example, if it’s made in factories that are not perceived as “genuine”? Does anyone buy into the idea that Wedgwood is steeped in tradition if it is made in non-traditional locations? Why not buy cheaper imported goods and use the money for experiences or cars? So until quite recently, all Lenox (and other similar brands) went for very low prices. I have recently noticed an uptick in the price and a rumbling of renewed interest in the BC items (Before China) which extends to a large variety of home goods. I hope it will make companies reconsider their folly.
    Like me, and like you, my kids (both in their 30s) buy home furnishings and similar items on the secondary market. It took a while to convince them that dishes and serving pieces can be bought that way without some sort of infection risk, but asking them if restaurants crack out brand new plates for every customer did the trick.

    This is a bit rambling, but consider the situation of millennials. They have never known an America that produced much in the way of clothing, textiles, or consumer goods. During their lifetimes, all these things have been imported, and they are far removed from skilled craftsmanship or quality methods. Who did this to them? It wasn’t the internet.

    1. Sure. To an extent we’ve never known that either. BUT honestly yeah, there are pockets where women care a ton, but it’s not the world I grew up in, where fashion was “young and hip.” (And a lot more conformist, which required buying new togs every year.
      Also honest to Bob, the kids know what antiques are. They can’t AFFORD THEM. Young households aren’t buying that. This is not the 80s.
      I read it in an antiques trade mag, because, well, I was at the dentist or soemthing, and suddenly everything clicked.

      1. Maybe antiques like Federal period furniture is out of reach, but 1940-1970 is affordable. If you lived near me I’d invite you to auctions where you can pick up great mahogany dining room sets for a couple hundred. IKEA prices. Yes, retail is crazy money, but there are other options. Most recent auction furniture purchase was a Stickley desk, chair, and end table set all for $120.00. The stuff is out there.

        1. Or hitting the US Highway 36 Treasure Hunt in Kansas. Great deals, if you’re willing to drive up and down the same freeway for three days.
          And trust me, you can’t see it all in three days. (Or I can’t, at least.)

          1. I have fond memories of US 12 in Michigan and one shop in Grand Rapids. If I had the cash and the transport capacity, I could have made a killing, just by buying retail (but with some negotiation for a bulk buy) and schlepping it to the SF Bay area. Circa 1984. I suspect the GR shop had inhouse pickers, and the family farm debacle was putting a lot of treasures on the market.

        2. er… I have never said it was too expensive.
          We have a lot of antiques, bought very cheaply.
          You see, I refinish furniture. One of my desks (the one I use for publishing) is a colonial cheery with hand carved decoration.
          Bought at a garage sale for $5.
          I did have to peel fifteen coats off it though. Two of them metallic paint.
          I am at the phase I’ll be getting rid of furniture, including a few antiques when we move. But I’ll probably have to donate them, because no one is buying them on various resale peer to peer services.

    2. China also suffers from things like family dispersal and the normalization of informality in culture. People who don’t even have the concept of a formal dinner party or even a dinner party period don’t have a need for formal china, fine silver, etc.

      Hell, I barely use cups at home that aren’t recycled from getting drinks at QT.

    3. Very much prefer “BC” manufactured home goods! American pressed glass, cookware, etc. And yes – going to country auctions and picking up nice bits of furniture for five or ten dollars.
      The Daughter Unit and I stopped at one of those outdoor junk places a couple of years ago, just out of curiosity. It was a little local enterprise that made their living clearing out barns and sheds – mostly agricultural junk – but there was a half-unpacked carton of fine Japanese vintage place settings. A set of eight in everything – been someone’s best, about thirty or forty years ago. Bought the lot for the cost of a single dinner plate in that design on one of the discontinued china websites. Yes, you can have very nice, quality things for practically pennies, if you know where to look…

      1. I’ve got a set of vintage Japanese china – inherited from my Mom, who bought it when we lived in Japan in the early 1960s. Place settings for 8 or 12, it was the family’s good china, used mainly at Christmas. It will go to a great-niece when she has a good place to keep it. We never use it, even when we have guests over. My spouse and I have just never been in to formal dining (or formal anything else, really).

        1. We have a set of china, early 1900’s, through my husbands, step grandmother. Have used it for Christmas, but its a PIA. Have to be hand washed. Would rather use fancy paper plates. We aren’t formal people either. Son doesn’t want it. Going to one of the nieces. They are reproducing the pattern. So she can pickup newer plates to supplement the missing pieces, and as the old pieces fail. Hubby looked at what an antique shop would give, not worth the hassle.

          1. Just a suggestion …

            https://www.replacements.com/sell-to-us/
            Replacements, Ltd., based in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the world’s largest retailer of china, crystal and silverware, including both patterns still available from manufactures and discontinued patterns.Wikipedia

            At worst merely some time spent, right?

            1. Yes. Don’t think they are in that good of shape. Or at least dinner plates are. No obvious chips or cracks. But the glaze has lines through them, every plate. Might be the pattern or even expected of the age. Don’t know. The “will we buy it, if you ship it, after we inspect it” wasn’t encouraging. Do have a couple of one of’s that aren’t part of the set. Have the tea set, which is in good shape. But that I like, not that I use it or can have it out on display (cough, cats), but I like it.

    1. When your parents manage to live into their 90s you will find that are so past the ‘need’ of matching silverware/glasses/storage tins; you are already in the process of down sizing yourselves.

      1. This is true. I did get some of my grandmother’s stuff when she died, but the only reason I needed any of it was because we’d been living with her for eight years, and our households had gotten combined. Plus, when we came to live with her, I had just gone through a divorce and had come away with very little of my own stuff.

        My mother is a hoarder, and the one and only item out of her house that I had hoped to get eventually was given to my niece last year (an old oak pedestal table that used to be our dining table when I was a kid). I am not upset about that, as I have a perfectly good dining table (if I’d gotten the old one, I would have gotten rid of the one I have), it was just a sentimental thing. But she and my step-father have a house that is over 1700 s.f. crammed full of stuff, and there is literally not one single thing in there that I want or need. I am pretty sure my siblings all feel the same way.

      2. Expect “stuff” of that sort to start skipping generations. You don’t inherit your parent’s goods, your kids do.

        1. Or their kids, even, with people living much longer these days. My grandchildren might get some of my mother’s stuff eventually, although distances can make that difficult, too. When part of the family lives four days drive away, it’s more trouble and expense than it’s worth to pass on that dining table or huge box of old china.

          1. Yep. I got Mom’s hope chest (circa 1930s), but when we had $SPOUSE’s, too, I wanted to send mine to a niece. Until I got a shipping quote, which was considerably more than I could afford.

            1. Breakfronts. As the only child of parents who were the only surviving children of their generation I have inherited breakfronts.

              1. Breakfronts are great! You can store stuff in them, under them and on them.

                They’re even better if you inherit the keys so you can access the stuff inside them.

            2. Our piano was acquired because a mother of a friend of my sister’s passed away, and nobody wanted to ship a piano anywhere—but we happened to live within truck distance.

        2. Though I remember a time when a woman died, and all her nieces and nephews got first crack and then let the grandnieces and grandnephews who were setting up their households at what was left. Or rather, pushed a lot of the bad stuff on them.

      3. And the collary that when people have fewer children those children get their choice of inherited silverware/glasses/storage tins. After a couple of single child generations only the “best” will be retained out of many sets.

  5. Old people want to be in dense urban areas for the medical services. If you live a two hour drive from a big hospital with a decent ER and trauma center and you have a stroke or heart attack you just – die. Even if you have the sort of medical payment plan (I won’t call it insurance. That’s a lie.) to call in a $50,000 helicopter ride you probably aren’t going to make it.
    Similarly on the medical side – If you are 70 or 80 years old you don’t need to be near a doctor. You need to be near a whole mob of specialists. I tripped over a parking lot bumper and fell. As I was going down I threw out an arm and tried to grab the rear view mirror on my truck door. I just ripped it right off the truck and cut my finger on the busted plastic.
    I was right by my doctor’s clinic and drove over.
    There were three doctors and a bunch of assistants there and NOBODY would put three stitches in a cut finger!
    They sent me to the ER. I almost didn’t go. Most farmers would sneer at me for being such a fluffy boy I didn’t just put a butterfly bandage on it and soldier on.
    Where I live everything is CHEAPER than out in an rural area. That on top of the cost of transportation to go get it.
    I was recently at the German grocer Aldi. There was a 12 passenger van there full of Amish people buying a TON of groceries. Likely they were from up in Michigan’s ‘thumb’ an hour or two hours away. Even with their self reliant way of life they found it worth the cost of hiring a van and driver to bring them to a dense urban area to buy stuff. And we often see license plates in this area from Canada. They save enough to make a two hour drive reasonable.
    Unfortunately, urban areas are EFFICIENT even if they have other problems.

    1. We’ve got that, with the addition of the fact that the county’s “big city” is pretty small. We have the basic medical specialists (cataract surgery was local), but the more advanced trip needed a stay over the Cascades (retina and cornea for me). Similarly, our city draws rural people from 150 miles away, while the Costco is also over the Cascades. (We’re doing that trip today; every 2-3 months, usually.)

      The main additional charges for rural (as opposed to the local city) are for deliveries. If they have to put it in their truck, it’s usually $75 to $100. That’s for about 40 miles one way, That usually entails installation. OTOH, labor costs tend to be lower; I’ve had several pleasant surprises with subcontractors and the cabinetmaker in town (the kitchen countertops came from a stock that the guy got from another outfit that closed down in a larger city).

      Yes, we’re trying to find a suitable place closer to the local city; if we can half the distance, we’ll be thrilled. OTOH, we’re used to the rural life and don’t want to give it up entirely. Still quite doable here.

    2. Old people want to be in dense urban areas for the medical services.

      Yup, there is much to be said for access to immediate medical care when needed. Although some elderly would probably question calling such final years living … they might well argue that it is prolonged dying.

      Daddy and Stepmother happily live in a city tower overlooking a Whole Foods and a Target … and a bunch of premiere museums.  Not a bad place to be when you can’t drive anymore.

    3. Personally, I’m not too worried about being close to medical care — if I die, I die. I know where I will spend eternity, and have no trepidation about going there. My family tends to be rather long-lived, for the most part, but I don’t feel the need to spend a lot of effort and money on extending my life beyond what the Lord wants to give me.

      Having been raised in the bush in Alaska, and then in the middle of farms on the Oregon Coast, I have a large personal space and hate being crammed in with large numbers of other people. It’s not that I don’t like people; I do. Just not en masse. One or two at a time is good! So it’s going to take something drastic to move me into town. What I think will do it is if we can no longer travel, i.e., get fuel for vehicles (or repair old vehicles). Then I will probably have no choice, and at that point, I probably won’t get much for my property here because everyone else will be in the same boat so there won’t be many buyers for small parcels nine miles from the nearest town. As long as I can get back and forth to town, we’ll stay here and willingly pay extra for the things that we need (although using Amazon works well when there’s an Amazon ‘fulfillment center’ less than fifteen miles away).

      1. Heck. Define “can’t drive”. Someones may have turned in Grandma and Grandpa for driving some time about 2001 (hint – every child, grandchild, and a couple of great-grands, pretty sure g-great-grand would have too but she was only a few months old when they died … I digress). Grandma’s doctor got hers back for her. Granted she was limited to where she could drive, and the hours she could. But, I did warn people to stay off of Hwy 136 between Elk Creek Drive and Drain …

        We tried to get them to move closer to family. No. And apparently discussing it was “Elderly Abuse”, per county.

        Family couldn’t keep the property when they died. They were so in arrears to creditors, as it was the creditors complained the property was sold for less than “true market value”. Family was smart. Took digital pictures of the place before it was cleared out (most of which went to the dump), and after, and gave that to the estate lawyer; their creditors got to whistle Dixie for all it good it did. Property sold for $100k, which was above the market value.

    4. > If you live a two hour drive from a big hospital with a decent ER and trauma center and you have a stroke or heart attack you just – die.

      If you live across the street from them, you just sit there in a chair in the waiting room until someone notices you’re dead.

        1. Probably just as important to have healthy people to advocate for you when you’re in bad shape as to be close to help. My husband’s work has done some epidemic distribution simulations and basically if you don’t have someone else to get the medicine that’s distributed, no matter how well to every corner of the country, you aren’t going to make it.

      1. My “ex”s widowed father remarried to a rather wealthy lady who had a mountain vacation cabin in Colorado. While there, he had a heart attack and had to be taken by helicopter to the nearest hospital. The hospital was far enough away by winding mountain road that he would have died on the way if he’d been taken in an ambulance. My ex, who ended up handling his affairs, was fighting with the insurance company over that helicopter bill for years. The company would have paid for an ambulance but it wouldn’t pay for a helicopter even though there hadn’t been a choice at the time. The point that the patient would have died any other way got lost in the paperwork.

    5. Urban areas are efficient in only certain ways. For retail and services, as commerce and transportation centers, sure, they’re great. They’re terribly inefficient at growing crops, or raising meat. They suck as places with good breathing air. Costs for water and sewage are higher. Risk from crime is higher. Pet costs are higher. Stress? Well, depends on your profession. Farmers have stressors that wage slaves don’t have, and vice versa.

    6. Yep on hospital services.
      And DIL pointed out why young people crowd in the cities: if you don’t have to go to work, you can’t socialize unless you live in a dense urban environment.
      When they marry and have kids, THEN they move to small towns. Suburbs don’t get a look in.

    7. The problem with the city is it is full of people.

      If you don’t like people, cities are hell.

      For me, that off grid cabin looks better and better almost every day.

      1. We just spent the day to-ing and fro-ing to the big city over the Cascades. Perhaps it was good luck, or really good timing, but the horrible drivers endemic to that place were off the road. Unfortunately, they were pushing shopping carts at Costco; not very crowded (I’ve learned to avoid Fridays at lunchtime, and if it’s Saturday, I get there as it opens), but the number of absolutely clueless shoppers was impressive.

        Protip to the lady who’s cart I ran into while she was chowing down at the free sample station: if your kid is in the cart, it’s a really bad idea to push it backwards when you aren’t looking. Mercifully, nobody was hurt, modulo a spike in *my* heartrate. Not sure Mommie Dearest actually noticed what she did, or even that we collided. (Mutters about pot legalization.)

        My body isn’t as willing to do 225 miles in a car in one day as it was a few years ago. Five years ago, I could drive 2000 miles in 3 days. No more.

        1. I’ve NEVER been able to do 2000 miles in one day. Hubby regularly drove home for the holidays while he was at Oregon State, until his folks made home in Bend. Home before that was San Diego. So, no big deal on driving from Eugene to San Diego, to stay in his sisters trailer, and show his new bride his home town, and do free things (I had one more term, and he was on seasonal hiatus from work) … I got sooooo sick. We cut out the Disneyland portion (free ride tickets, it was ’78), and came home to his folks for Christmas (they were thrilled we were there, less thrilled I was sick, but …) Tried it again the next year … same result. We don’t do that anymore leaving for vacation … now if I can just get him to stop short of the Oregon border on the way home … Once he drives across the border, that is it. We don’t stop except for bathroom breaks and gas (and since we generally have the trailer attached, they are the same stop). I can get sick because of long drives, when we get home (still do). When we took the kid to Disneyland at age 4, I insisted on flying (okay demanded, I think I might have growled).

  6. *pats her beloved desk*

    It’s not a nice desk, it’s a good desk.
    Got it from the widow of a guy who had a fuel company for at least 50 years, and I’d guess it was one of his first big office buys, second hand from a bank. it’s the same design my grandfather’s was, when he was a bank manager.

    Had to bully her into taking extra for the top. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I took such a good quality thing from a widow for nothing.

    The desks that we had when I was in high school (mom got a two for one deal) are in worse shape, for less reason, once I got the quarter inch of grime off.

  7. The post Black Death boom was explained to me as a consequence of labor being scarce; you wanted a bunch of peasants brining in the harvest, you had to make it worth their while. Maybe before the die-off you had a comfortable position as some kind of gatekeeper; with the necessity of hitting the ground running to pick up the pieces, obstacles were getting short shrift. There wasn’t TIME or LABOR enough to do it the way that it had always been done…no matter how convenient the way it had always been done might be for the Elite. So, barriers went down, wages went up.

    I don’t say you’re wrong in the reasons you recounted, just adding some.

    1. You also need to consider the loss of knowledge of how things were done, as well as any barriers to improvement, “just because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” When you have enough people gone that they can’t tell you you can’t do something, or you do something that works better because you didn’t know better, that’s where the pie gets bigger.

    2. Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” has good coverage of that.

      The big factor wasn’t so much the Black Death as “global cooling,” they went from three growing seasons to one, and since they were populated out to the extent the food supply could support, more people simply starved than died of the plague. And temperatures *still* haven’t gotten back up to where they were before the sudden chill.

        1. You might look at Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s _Times of Feast, Times of Famine_. He used parish and tax records from the time, looking at things like dates for harvest, dates for last frost, reports of snow or storms, and used that to reconstruct a very general picture of weather and climate patterns. I’ve done similar work, and I trust both his methodology and his caveats. (And his work was done before AGW became trendy.) The Little Ice Age that followed the Medieval Warm Period really did hammer Europe, and parts of Asia, just as the cold phase of 1580s-1640s did.

          1. What an idea, projecting climate effects on humans, and climate history, by using actual data.

            Instead of guestimating data using models with obvious flaws due to scale plugs for things you don’t yet know how to model.

    3. Similar to why Ford said his greatest business decision was increasing his worker’s pay drastically to $5/day. It made it impossible to solve problems by throwing bodies at it, and therefore FORCED management all over his organization to think about how to do things efficiently.

      1. re the Ford $5/day thing: a big part of his reason for doing this was *turnover*. People really didn’t like working on the assembly line, and a lot of them had alternatives. Here’s an (anonymous) letter to Ford from a worker’s wife:

        “The chain system you have is a slave driver! My God! Mr Ford. My husband has come home & thrown himself down and won’t eat his supper–so done out! Can’t it be remedied?…That $5 a day is a blessing–a bigger one than you know, but oh they earn it.”

        It is definitely true that higher wages drive improved automation and productivity, and American high wages have historically had a lot to do with American technological development.

        If Henry Ford had been able to have the Model T built in Mexico by people making 10 cents a day, would he have been incentivized to ever bother with the assembly line and other productivity improvements?

  8. I just watched a show called “Ad Vitam” on Netflix. This post reminded me of it. The premise of the show is that our scientists found how to regenerate people so that they could live for hundreds of years. In this dystopia (yea it was one) the children became worthless. The storyline was a detective who is trying to find out why the children (ages teens to 20s) were committing suicide.

    The connection I’m seeing is that the young have been experimented with for so many decades that they can’t see any opportunities (this could also do with debt as well). Plus college and college degrees have been given more importance than they should have. For instance the NV State requires at least a bachelor’s degree and if you want to go up in the “ranks” you need at least a Master’s degree. The job is usually for accounting or secretarial work. A secretary with a Master’s Degree???? Yep.

    My late-hubby had all that experience with electronics and Amateur radio– genius level by my reckoning– and couldn’t get more than an entry -level position because he didn’t have a degree.

    I’m hoping that degrees become less important. The other side to this is unions… A friend of mine who was a CB came back to the military because he didn’t have the contacts or the money to get into the union. The State he was from– (I don’t remember it now) was fully unionized and you couldn’t be a plumber, etc without being a member of the union. He didn’t have any family in the union so he couldn’t get into it.

    Now I also think that normalizing abortion has also dropped our numbers. How better off would we be if those babies had lived? I wonder about that as well.

    I agree btw. The 80s was a time of growth following some bad times in the 70s. We are seeing what happens to a couple of generations who have lived under socialist soundbites… and schooling. If I were of this generation, I would be one of the traveling/adrenaline types. I don’t blame them. IF there is nothing for you, then why bother?

    1. Another point– my nephew got his degree in education and tutored Ute children (He is half-Ute, but doesn’t qualify to be tribal– a whole ‘nother kettle of fish). Anyway he saw the writing on the wall– money would never change and there was no upward mobility in that job. He took a position in the car industry and makes more money there (now as a manager) then he ever did in education. There is long hours … but he enjoys it. I think we’ll see more young men look to the repair industries eventually.

    2. Dr. Pournelle repeatedly said that many people, somewhere between 50 and 65% of the population, don’t have the intellectual horsepower to take a college major that will repay the investment, and would be better off learning a trade.

      The problem is that the HR departments are staffed by people who don’t have the brainpower to realize this.

        1. HR also thinks it is reasonable that if you need a Senior programmer for a project using the $FOO language needs X years of experience even if the $FOO language is Y < X years old.

          Because their book says senior programmers have X years experience in the relevant language.

          I remember plenty of people claiming more Java experience than possible unless you'd worked on it internal to Sun when it was still called Oak. The IT managers doing the hiring knew it and looked the other way because they knew it was to get past HR gatekeeping as long as your total programming experience was as long or longer.

            1. Because this is America, where a problem has always meant an opportunity (except when the Left is in power):

              Nonprofit ‘Apprenti’ offers tech industry apprenticeship programs
              Plumbers have them. And so do carpenters and electricians. Even Donald Trump had them on his TV show.

              So why doesn’t the technology industry have apprenticeship programs?

              Well, it turns out there is an apprentice program for geeks. It’s run by a not-for-profit company — that’s referred to as a 501(c)(3) company, if you care — called Apprenti. It’s based in Seattle but is already operating in 15 different markets throughout the US.

              This was news to me.

              [SNIP]

              Jennifer Carlson is the executive director of Apprenti. She explained to me by phone how these apprenticeships differ from internships, which most companies already have available.

              “Internships are typically tied to college and are usually short term,” Carlson said. With an internship, a company tries out a person before it considers hiring him or her, according to Carlson.

              “Apprenticeships are ‘train to retain,’ ” she said.

              [SNIP]

              ere’s how it works, according to Carlson:

              People picked for the program spend 40 hours a week in the classroom for three to five months. The cost is picked up by a company that’s already interested in them and by government.

              If they pass the education part, the candidates get a guarantee of one year of employment at a minimum of 60 percent of what the going rate for that job is.

              After that year, the employer can retain them at full salary and they get a mentor for one year. Following that year, Carlson says, 80 percent of the people in the program are being kept on by the company at full salary.

              Of the 20 percent who aren’t, many go on to be employed by other companies in tech positions.

              The median salary of those retained is $84,000. The median age is 33 years old, and the eldest in the program is 63.

              The minimum education requirement is high school diploma or a GED. Forty percent have a four-year college degree, 9 percent have a two-year degree. The rest have either some or no college.

              If you want to know more, go to: apprenticareers.org and click on “Become an Apprentice.”

              1. Some colleges still do co-op programs. When I was in college, I was working for the Navy alternate quarters (Virginia Tech then being on a quarter system). I graduated with over 4 years creditable service (which comes in VERY handy now that I’m close to retirement).

                The deal was that the Navy paid my tuition, and I worked for them for 3 years after graduation. Being poor, I didn’t inquire WHY they would offer such a good deal. Naval Air Station Patuxent River being infamous as one of the worst possible postings for a single man…

                1. Oregon State School of Forestry didn’t have a co-op program back in the day, but they required 6 months timber industry employment before graduation to get your degree. For most that meant working for the USFS during the summers, providing 6 months to a year in experience, minimum. I finished with 15 months experience with the USFS, and I also worked 10 to 15 hours for the School of Forestry during Fall – Spring terms. I got lucky and worked for USFS pre-sale. Most worked on Fire Crews (counted). This was a HUGE benefit for OS Forestry students. Most other programs require their students to spend the summer doing Forestry Labs.

                  Oregon State School of Forestry has McDonald Forest just outside of town, not to mention a huge variety of National Forests of various ecosystems within hours of driving (Forest Ecology Labs). I mean scheduling with other classes was a PIA (Tuesdays & Thursday had 5 or 6 hours of lab time blocked out), and dealing with rain gear and boots, before & after labs, were interesting (I showed up regularly to an English composition class soaked, muddy, & freezing, because it was immediately after I got back from the Forestry Engineering Lab, winter term). Pretty sure professor didn’t say anything to me, because one of the other lab victims also showed up wet & muddy.

                  That was the way it was at least from ’74 – ’79. Not like I’m checking to see if it still the same.

                  Oh, yes. Same complaint with that degree … Stupid Owl.

              2. I would have LOVED something like this in ’85, or ’96, or ’02.

                ’85 – graduated from 2 year college in programming.

                ’89/’90 – graduated from 4 year college software design (hey, when an employer will pay your way … the answer is “yes sir”, even if said employer then moves away) … did have to take a break after June ’89 graduation … seemed the right thing to do when the kid was born 10 days after my last final …

                ’96 – let go from non-tech company but I was the resident IT tech, programming & hardware, but not “current” with perceived tools. FWIW dislocated workers program paid for two seminars that got the key words on my resume to get the next job. Program was not paying for more college, but then I had both the 2 year degree and two 4 year degrees.

                ’02 – Bankruptcy of firm I worked for. This time I’d actually had exposure to the current tech being used, but not the two years required … on tech that had only been released for 6- months … especially in light of the ageist “stuff”.

                Should I decide to go back to work (it has been almost 3 years), maybe? (oops, no, no, no, okay, yes, I miss programming and problem solving involved, time to take a nap until the urge goes away …)

              3. Programming should be an apprentice training job. A CS BS does not prepare you to be a working programmer. They prepare you to be a graduate student in computer science.

        2. HR departments also think that because a job doesn’t require a college degree, it should automatically pay less. Even if there aren’t that many people actually qualified to do the job. And the position needs to be manned 24/7/365. And making a mistake can kill more than just the person working….

          Plant operators of any kind fir this description.

      1. And he was right. Half the population are below average mentally. And what passes for average brains in the U.S. today is scarily disappointing.

        However, the question is, does the person already have a degree, and can they fill a knowledge gap with a few necessary courses, even if just auditing a course, rather than for actual credit or obtaining a whole new degree?

        Older adults do learn differently from young folks; but the real differences show up if they’re used to being able to learn in the first place.

      2. The problem is that Gresham’s law does not simply apply to the fisc — the need to award degrees regardless of intellectual horsepower devalues degrees so that what once was communicated by a High School diploma is not signaled by a Master’s … and moving toward Ph.D.

        Except that the latter degrees require such narrowing of focus that they don’t actually replicate what the diploma meant.

        1. Oh, one other aspect: cost.

          The cost of a diploma was essentially Opportunity, the money (and experience) you’d have earned tilling the fields, pumping gas, herding cats, assembling lines. College degrees not only carry vastly higher opportunity cost but an enormous cost, whether loans taken or capital outlaid. Reasonable return on investment becomes much more challenging.

        2. RES, the reason for requiring diplomas is that in the name of non-discrimination we outlawed skills tests by employers. So employers started using High School Diplomas as a proxy for having learned something and having the self-discipline to hold a job. Next, we began moving to proclaiming that any disparity in High School grades was raaaaacist, so everyone got a diploma. At that point, the cycle began repeating itself through Bachelors degrees. And here we are.

          1. Which means that one of the best things we could do is to repeal those bad laws. Let companies go hunting for the smart-but-poor kids, the ones who will take part of their “pay” in training and tuition. It used to be that engineering firms did a lot of this sort of thing.

            1. That is what happened to my dad. He started out at Oregon State Engineering, but couldn’t afford to keep going. Worked at the mills then got a job as a draftsman at an engineering firm that specialized in plans for mills. No degree, but eventually he worked his way up to be Project Manager on the plans he helped engineer. Including being sent to a plant rebuild in Ireland, and Texas (i.e. not local).

              I remember when I was first hired at International Paper. Part of an optional new employee tour was the log yard and the paper mill plant in Gardener. Log Yard, meh, worked in one, which they knew. Paper Mill Plant, well, uh you see, I got to tour that with daddy when it was brand spanking new, both before it was in production, and immediate after it started up, as he was the Lead Project Engineer.

              Dad’s only complaint was, while he got to do the work, because he’d worked toward and earned the right to do so, he was never fully compensated as much as the engineers who earned the degree, no matter how much more time he spent as an engineer. Yet going somewhere else, meant he couldn’t do the same work, because he didn’t have his engineering degree …

              1. A friend was a maintenance guy at a large airline. He worked on flight simulator systems, which meant during the course of a workday he might deal with electronics, hydraulics, mechanical gubbins, ancient FORTRAN source code, or whatever.

                He’d been there about ten years when his employer’s HR people ratcheted up the job requirement to “MA in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering required.” Finding few of those who were willing to leave a desk and climb a hundred feet up into the ceiling to change projector bulbs or down into the hydraulic sump to muck it out, they created a new “Technician” category to do the actual work while the “engineers” became a layer of do-nothing management. But my friend had so much seniority by then that HR decided he couldn’t be a technician, and he didn’t have a degree so he couldn’t be an engineer, so they moved him up into management and gave him an office…

                1. Yeah this happens a lot in technical fields… HR has no idea what the actual job entails, so they make up requirements…

                    1. how about- you have eight years experience, including at the same company doing the same job for over a year on a previous project, but can’t be hired to do the same job on the new project because the new head of HR added a college degree to the requirements? (happened to one of my friends in the VFX field. luckily, he was able to call the VFX supervisor for the project and the HR manager was called in front of the studio head pretty quickly)

                  1. Or they know exactly what the job entails…. and that there are lots of Americans who can do it. So they make up a requirement that allows them to say “we can’t find any Americans; we’ll bring in more H1B for cheaper.”

  9. I’d just been thinking I don’t buy much either… but then I remembered that A) I *am* in the baby/toddler stage, which will affect things, and B) I’m gearing up for a move. There’s actually a great deal I’d like, but yeah, those two things are probably affecting my willingness to jump.

    (Also having managed to accumulate a great deal of stuff that I *don’t* want. Parents-in-law are landlords, and… you’d be kind of surprised what people leave behind when they go that it seems a shame to toss out. Well. No reason to keep at the error forever.)

    1. Wait til those toddlers commence teen-age consumption – you’ll go through as many groceries in two days as used to last a week.

      Then you get to the other side and find yourself eating two meals a day and one of those barely a snack. We underwent a recent household crisis because local grocery stopped offering “our” eggs in box of twelve, switching to eighteen … and we’ve barely been eating the dozen within date.

      I buy a half-dozen of the Beloved Spouse’s favorite rolls accepting that three will be going in the trash. Shrug; better into the trash than into the seat of the pants.

    2. In-laws are great for stuff accumulation, particularly when you have toddlers. Mine are constitutionally incapable of coming over and not bringing over a gift for the grandkid.

  10. I think the Leftist belief that smaller population = greater wealth for everybody comes from their belief that resources come from a fixed pie; the resources are just… THERE. Whatever they don’t know about doesn’t require much effort to be made available to them. This belief comes from the habit of not thinking things through.

    1. Not just that the resources are fixed, but that they just appear without anyone having to do anything to provide them. I mean, the berry patch is always there as long as there aren’t too many of the hunter-gatherers picking them. And you can just sit there and “be” as opposed to “becoming” through hard work.

      1. This…they seem to think all the things in the world at most require some labor, which always adds value, to be found.

        It is funny to hear people demand universal college and then pretend there is no need for actual thought in making everything they consume.

    2. The resources ARE there, and all you need is the money to buy them, which most dedicated Leftists have too much of. And they get replaced magically when the lights go out at night.

      1. Which also explains why they think making the government pay for everyone to go to the doctor means everyone will see a doctor for as much, or even more, time as they do now.

        There is enough money to go to the doctor thus there will be appointments.

        1. When I was very young I thought that because someone had a box of checks in the drawer they had money in the bank. (Not actually unreasonable if you know about cash but don’t know how checking works.)

          The difference between me and socialists is that I’m not 5 anymore.

          1. Yes. We occasionally rib the kid about this. “No we can’t afford this now” was met more than once with “But mommy, use your card …”

            Heck my grandparents were a study in differences.

            Paternal grandmother was widowed at 48, with 4 children living at home. One of which could never be on his own (eventually went to adult home, died in nursing home months after grandma). At her death, ’87, her monthly SS income was $525, home was paid for, and she had $25k in the bank. Most her furniture was so old that none of the thrift shops would take it (not sure who got the dining room table, if anyone), most her dishes were a mismatch of this and that. I ended up with the two platters she had from the late ’20s. Now will admit her oldest and youngest were extremely wealthy and might have taken mom along on a few exotic trips. For reasons, youngest, if grandma needed something replaced, it got replaced. We won’t discuss all the fabric, and yarn, we hauled out of everywhere. I think it bred between trips to the thrift shops (fabric and yarn stuff, they’d take). She didn’t have a vehicle.

            My mom’s parents, OTOH, who lived to be 95, dying within weeks of each other (’06) … well lets just say after the legal, must be paid first, got paid property loan, funeral fees (cremation, plots already owned, but only needed one), memorial (free, Masonic/Eastern Star), court, (retired non-practicing but current licensed) lawyer (favor to mom), and estate fees, creditors got exactly $.10 on the dollar; “heirs” officially got nothing except personal property (a good portion that was burned, or went to the dump). The calls to mom were epic, she was over 70, dealing with a dying husband … the callers were accused of elderly abuse, then told to call the estate lawyer, who told them to call the judge, by decree. Grandparents theory? Those checks that CC occasionally send? That is free money, isn’t it? Thank G*D family was not responsible for their debts. They would have bankrupted down to great-grand children. None of us are hurting, but all of us together could not have covered that debt. None of their personal property was worth anything, not even her china, nor his paintings, those that were still at the house. Heck even their car wasn’t worth anything, and the motorhome (do NOT get me started on that) was only worth $1000, and the person who bought it was generous.

            Now. Do not get me started on one set of paternal cousins … who have inherited more money than I’ll ever, ever, see. I’m sure their parents are looking down from heaven and are very sad. OTOH everyone else knew this was coming. Not that they are running through it. But the fighting ….

            1. It is truly said that you do not know a family until they split an inheritance.

              I am pleased to say my siblings demonstrated admirable respect for our parents in the disposition of that estate, little as remained by the time of Mom’s passing.

              1. “It is truly said that you do not know a family until they split an inheritance.”

                Yes.

                Had 6 direct examples so far, counting my cousins. Only cousins has been popcorn, cringe, worthy. FWIW It is all in trust, except the life insurance money, where the understand was it was to go into the trust, but either not possible to set it up that way, or for whatever reason wasn’t. That has been the only money distributed not by the Trust Trustee. Do not know the parameters of the Trust, except Big Bro is the Trustee with single and full authority … which pisses off younger sisters … and they get cut off if they fight it. Popcorn worthy. Not that we get updates. Get some information through dad’s siblings who live in the area they lived in through mom. So gossip.

                Maternal Grandparents – Grandpa’s paintings – mostly went to great grands, grands already have plenty, we can still get some from our own parents, for most of us those are going on down to the great-great-grand equivalent (our case it might be great-niece/nephews, but that is the Kid’s decision). Great-Grandma’s Charcoal & Acrylics … my sisters & I each got one (my case 4), the other 2 went to mom’s siblings (one of my 4 was mom’s) – these might, maybe be worth something, as she was a noted late 19th century artist before she married, but I can’t find any information on her or her art. Other than that their china/flatware, a few pieces of furniture … everything else went to the creditors, or the dump.

                Paternal Grandmother – What there was, semi evenly distributed. Even the uneven distribution had a clear reason for it. Big sister made sure there was no way State or Feds could sweep in and confiscate younger brother’s portion; they got some after he died, but not as much as they could have if she hadn’t dotted the “i’s” and crossed the “t’s”. Even her portion she set aside to publish grandma’s book, and fund basis for the Family Cemetery non-profit.

                BIL parents – 2 estates both handled by him. Done, property, and money (and his mom had $$$$) distributed as quickly as legally possible. No muss, no fuss.

                My in-laws – took SIL forever, to distribute the $$$, but personal property was taken care of quickly, no muss, no fuss. Although I understand SIL left a paperwork mess for her daughter of both her own stuff and grandmas … NMP. Stayed out of it when it was all happening. That was the siblings problem. Small estate when all said & done. I stayed out of it, because it really all started when FIL passed … I was 7 1/2 months pregnant … MIL died before baby was 3 … NMP was my attitude. Still, SIL handled everything, no muss, no fuss.

                1. My parents actually had a ton of “heirloom” stuff—most of which is small in scale (yay!) or already dispersed (like the white china—my mom asked if I wanted it, and I pointed out the sister who had expressed a wish for white china, boom, problem solved.) The nice thing is that my siblings and I have vastly different wants, so when one wants the silver, everyone else says ‘cool, that takes care of that.’

                  I’m the co-trustee. I’ve told my mom I don’t want to deal with that for a couple of decades, please. Oh, and spend the money—they earned it, it saves a lot of problems if it’s down to a reasonable living allowance by the time she dies. (She’s been doing a lot of traveling since my dad died, and will be going to the Oberammergau Passion Play next year.)

                  1. A lot of the potential disputes among my sibs and I were short-circuited when Mom and Dad’s retirement house burned in the Paradise Fire in 2003. So there went all but a handful of family things for which we all had an attachment. (Including all the things that had come from the grandparents.)As my youngest brother observed at the time – this would reduce any fights among us.
                    When Mom became a quadriplegic and bed-bound invalid – my younger sister was already established as hers and Dad’s caretaker. Frankly, anything that is left in their estate is my sisters’. I’ll put up no fight for it – my sister has earned whatever is left of the estate.

    3. Wellllll … there’s also the fact that they seem to fundamentally dislike people, especially people who don’t serve as Greek chorus to their conceits.

      Really – how many happy Leftists do you see? Nearly everything they believe boils down to resentment of other people. What is environmentalism if ot a demand that people lead more constrained lives?

      1. Vox Day points out that there’s a huge correlation between being a leftist and the consumption of psychiatric drugs, especially antidepressants.

  11. What you are saying is that, barring a baby boom, we’re going to have excess stuff in every sense, except dollars as middle aged age. And a draining of rural to big city. Maybe someone will start filling shipping containers and taking them to Africa.

  12. Crowding people into the cities seems to be deliberate Progressive government policy. There are good reasons — simplifies food distribution and healthcare provision — and the usual array of bad reasons* but they do love their stack-a-prole buildings.

    *Easier for them to exercise control and increased dependency on government, among others.

  13. WP, you worthless pile of bytes — I LEFT a comment, so go ahead and get it posted! Don’t make me have to come down and click that box!

    There’s no use sulking about it; you’ve got one job on this internet, ONE JOB! — so DO IT.

  14. Keep in mind that moving up the income ladder a little if you’re in the bottom rungs doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in disposable income either anymore. If you make ten thousand more a year but your kids lose medicaid and food stamps go away, ok, you’re happy ’cause you can take your kid to the doctor you want your kid to see now, since you have ‘real insurance’, but you really don’t have any more spending money. You might even spend less on groceries because cash is fungible and food stamps aren’t, and you’ve now got copays and deductibles.

    The penalty for earning more in terms of loss of benefits is real, and I’m not really sure how much income increase the average young family getting some welfare would need to see before they actually have more money to spend on non-necessities, but I’d guess probably at least twenty thousand. It’d be a worthwhile effort for some accounting-minded opinion writer to work it out.

    1. This is also an area where “practical help” can be of more assistance than either advocating for increase benefits or even just giving people money yourself. Things like paying a utility bill for a struggling family, buying groceries, school supplies, or kids’ clothing. Or auto maintenance assistance. In-home after school care. The kind of things the community/village of fabled memory do, when not being forced into charity via taxation.

  15. I think most of the replies have skirted what I consider the main thrust of Sarah’s piece–demographic decline. Most of the SF dystopias and utopias miss the realities that Sarah illuminates. Makes me hate all the climate hysterics all the more because they are causing the next big catastrophe with their propaganda rantings. As Dr. Zero said:
    “The paralyzing fear of a dark future is a despicable, cowardly reason to deny the next generation their shot at making it brighter.”

    1. I wonder that anyone is surprised at population decline, especially in Europe (and more recently in the US). When you tell people that there is nothing to hope for beyond the material world, and you do that for a century (four generations), what do you expect? Except the people proclaiming materialism can’t—won’t—see that. They discourage faith in anything, tax everything that moves in order to pay for a government that regulates everything that moves, discourage initiative and hope, and then can’t understand why people are not having families, and why spending life blissed out or schnockered seems like a good idea.

      Hey! Shoo! *chases soapbox away* Shoo, go away, get.

      1. > I wonder that anyone is surprised at population decline,

        I have trouble figuring why some people are so concerned. So the population dips from (maybe) 330 million to 300 million. So what? If it drops much below that I’d be looking for a causative factor, but I don’t see that the population must always grow, or at the very least remain static.

        We have, for whatever reason, a bunch of women who don’t want to have babies. Once this is declared to be a national problem there’ll be people who want to bribe them (with my money) to have babies, or propagandize them (again with my money) or pass laws against contraception (which would probably not work the way they intended), or, hey, unreel as much crazy dystopia as you want.

        I’m not sure there’s a problem that needs fixing, and if there were, the fix might be worse than the problem.

        1. … pass laws against contraception

          That might not be too terribly far off …

          Birth control pill shrinks part of brain that controls sex drive: research
          The pill shrinks the part of the brain that controls your sex drive, according to new research.

          Top scientists found that women taking the contraceptive pill have a significantly smaller hypothalamus — a brain region responsible for regulating hormones.

          Damage to the hypothalamus can wreak havoc with a woman’s sex drive, mood, appetite, heart rate and sleep cycles.

          [SNIP]

          Dr. Michael Lipton, professor of radiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: “We found a dramatic difference in the size of the brain structures between women who were taking oral contraceptives and those who were not. This initial study shows a strong association and should motivate further investigation into the effects of oral contraceptives on brain structure and their potential impact on brain function.”

          Lipton also found a strong correlation between smaller hypothalamic volume and greater anger and depressive symptoms.

          [SNIP]

          Top psychologist Dr. Sarah Hill revealed that [the hypothalamus] affects “sex, attraction, stress, hunger, eating patterns, emotion regulation, friendships, aggression, mood, learning, and so many other things.”

          She said women on the pill are attracted to less masculine men and are less interested in sex. …

          1. Increased anger, depression, preference for Beta-type males … gee, which portion of the population does that resemble?

        2. We have, for whatever reason, a bunch of women who don’t want to have babies. Once this is declared to be a national problem there’ll be people who want to bribe them (with my money) to have babies

          They are already doing that. What else would you call welfare and child support? Of course, bribing teenage girls to get pregnant, but only if unmarried, causes a host of other problems.

          1. Child support is enforcing the obligation the father owes to the child they created.

            Welfare is a sad attempt at mechanizing charity, and works about as well as a robo-nanny.

            1. If THAT were true then we wouldn’t have fathers paying child support for children they have NO genetic tie to.

              1. Right, because genetics are perfect, there’s no framework where a man would be raising children as his own when they’re not related, and a system being anything but absolutely perfect means that it wasn’t really intended to have its stated result. Even when there are opposite results– fathers who are not supporting children that are definitely theirs– and what it’s replacing is worse.

                We’ve done this round about five thousand times.

                1. In short, you will discard the scientific evidence because you feel that its’ result is wrong. Tell me exactly how that differs from a Lefty Gaia cultist…. and how you’re arguing for anything other than theft and slavery?

                  1. In short, you will discard the scientific evidence because you feel that its’ result is wrong.

                    As I pointed out at least two or three of the prior times, we have objective proof that DNA tests for parenthood are not 100%, which was discovered when a man demanded parenthood tests for his children. He was the father, she wasn’t the mother. Child was made in the normal way, no funky science involvement, etc– she WAS the mother, and the DNA test was not designed with knowledge of chimeras.

                    Which we have no idea how common they are, and how often it changes paternity tests.

                    We also know that the last time we worshiped science– blood typing which we “knew” would identify that a child couldn’t belong to this or that parent– it turned out our information was incomplete, the assumptions were wrong.

                2. If a man chooses to raise children not his own, that’s commendable. If the government forces a man to pay for children not his own, that’s injustice, oppression and tyranny.

                  That’s not sexist, by the way, it’s just that there’s no uncertainty whether or not a woman’s children are hers.

                  1. Unfortunately for that statement’s accuracy, depending on which state you are in, accepting the child as your own functions as adoption, in those cases where it wasn’t actual adoption before a divorce.

                    (This is besides the often questionable support for assertions that the kids aren’t theirs, although it’s not quite as bad as say the Innocence Project.)

                    1. accepting the child as your own functions as adoption

                      Gee, hard to imagine any scenario in which that policy might have invidious unintended consequences.

                    2. Like the exact one that was being complained about?

                      Kinda happens when people decide to “fix” an organic system that has been slowly fixing exploits for centuries, while ripping at the cultural underpinning.

      2. No hope claims + overpopulation claims + radical environmentalism + abortion on demand + contraception + LGBTQ promotion + radical feminism = population crash ~ extinction ~ replacement by currently less stupid population.

  16. In his books about a future, underpopulated Earth (the other humans have gone to the stars) Simak paints an attractive lifestyle, with each human living in an estate served by robots.

    *snippage*

    Which would have been obvious hadn’t people in the twentieth century taken the wrong lessons from the wealth and expansion after the Black Plague. You see — being mostly Marxist infused, even those who didn’t realize it — thinkers of the twentieth century thought of more people as more slices needing to be taken out of the common and fixed pie, and therefore fewer people meant more wealth. Only, of course, it was no such thing.

    I arise to defend Simak, specifically City which I think is what you have in mind here.

    I have always read Simak as hooking onto the same trend Heinlein did in “The Roads Must Roll”. Simak’s emptying in the cities was an extrapolation of “what happens to suburbia when instead of the car the helicopter becomes stock household transportation.” Certain the helicopter or some other flyer replacing the car was a common 40s and 50s sci-fi idea.

    The extrapolation was reading how the second great suburban movement, the one driven by the automobile, differed from the first, driven by trolley lines. In fact, one way you can spot a leftist talking about suburbs is blaiming the car for any suburban growth.

    There was no indication of a great die off in City. The families in the early stories are above replacement of 2.1 kids. The prior war is referenced, but its influence is one that was also real in the 40s and 50s, people moving out of fear of being nuked or even conventional bombing. This is closer to the emptying of cities during plague than the diminished population abandoning the land after.

    That said, I think the difference in mobility is really what makes the argument that they were not extrapolating from Marxism, but recent and current trends when the stories in City and similar stories were written.

    That the country palace was universal reflects Simak’s American birth. Even as the third most populous country in the world we have a lot of empty room. What he forecast in City would require population reduction in parts of Europe (although I’m not sure all) and certainly parts of Asia. It’s universal nature is a harder sell now than when I first read it circa 1982.

    The other issues is would the country palalce culture survived long enough for the diaspora to Jupiter that left Earth to the dogs, the robots, and ultimately the ants.

    1. “The extrapolation was reading how the second great suburban movement, the one driven by the automobile, differed from the first, driven by trolley lines. In fact, one way you can spot a leftist talking about suburbs is blaiming the car for any suburban growth.”

      Interesting remarks about American living preferences at the dawn of the trolley age, in 1902:

      “On one point the American is determined: He will not live near his work. You shall see him in the morning, one of sixty people in a car built for twenty-four, reading his paper, clinging to a strap, trodden, jostled, smirched, thrown into harrowing relations with men who drink whiskey, chew tobacco, eat raw onions, and incontinently breathe…The problems of his homeward journey in the evening will be still more difficult, because, in addition to the workers, the cars must carry the multitude of demoiselles who shop and go to matinees. To many men and women of business a seat is an undreamed luxury. Yet, they would be insulted if one were to ask why they did not live over their shops, as Frenchmen do, or in back of them, like Englishmen It is this uneasy instinct of Americans, this desire of their families to separate industrial and social life, that makes the use of the trolley car imperative, and the street railway in this manner widens the life and dominion of the people; it enables them to distribute themselves over wider spaces and unwittingly to symbolize the expansiveness of the nation.”

      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/5574.html

  17. From somewhere in your mid forties and for the rest of your life, you really don’t buy much.

    The big exception is hobby items, which are generally somewhat niche. I can afford wargaming miniatures and model train items much more than I could at 30. People with kids probably experience the same thing at a higher level.

    The problem is, of all my hobbies that have a large material side only one, electronics, even comes close to involving mainstream manufacturers. People into painting probably do that more than I do (and paints might be the big exception other than electronics for me).

  18. The opening reminds me of a planet featured in one of Asimov’s robot novels, where each member of the population lived aline on an isolated estate surrounded only by robots. Even spouses lived apart, iirc.

    Anyway…

    People move to cities because they’re convenient. Feel like Shanghai cuisine tonight? It’s easier to find in a city. No matter what you’re looking for, finding it is easier in a city. And when you don’t feel like their are enough hours in the day, that’s useful.

    It doesn’t have to be a material good, either.

    As for spending…

    I know I’m not spending as much as I did ten years ago. But the issue isn’t not wanting to spend. The issue is that I’m not making as much money as I did ten years ago, and haven’t for a while now.

      1. Whatever happened to Clayton. She was everywhere in the 80s and into the 90s and, to be honest, I think she’s someone a lot of the SJW types would like.

        Then again, I think that about LeGuin and she had to be memory holed so they could claim to be the first people to give Hugos to women.

          1. Oh, I know she died relatively young of aggressive cancer, but I was refering to how in 20 years since her death she has been forgotten.

              1. Yep, 35 novels including the Skeen trilogy, the Diadem novels, and a ton of other. Strong, active women in all of them. The Diadem, at least the ones I’ve read (still need to finish) came across as very feminist (although not very termagant, so maybe that’s the issue) and had plenty of oppressed women. You would think she’d a star for those advocating for feminist sci-fi authors.

                Same with C. J. Cherryh who is a three time Hugo winner (two novels and a short) and out lesbian. Probably the issue, beyond complicating the “we’re first” narrative the current termagants require (and their “sisters” will require in 20 years necessitating the memory hole disposal of the current crop, which I hope to live to laugh at) it’s probably the “out” but not “out and proud” or “out and in your face” that makes her unacceptable.

                I swear, the more I look at authors I invested a lot into reading and who I consider influences the more I get downright angry at the “we’re first” crowd and their erasure of their predecessors. If I had to list the top ten influences on the kinds of stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them, the list has maybe four or five men: Heinlein, Robert Adams, Lawrence Block, Lovecraft, and Dunsany. Off the top of my head women who could be on it include Tannith Lee, Andre Norton, C. J. Cherry, Anne McCaffery, and Ursula LeGuin are on the list. LeGuin more from her criticism than her fiction, but The Language of the Night is to me the book to read if you want to think about fantasy fiction. Even before Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories. Her recognition than Dunsany pastiche is a phase for all good English fantasy writers alone is worth the reading (and also explains a lot of the crap fantasy of today). Marrion Zimmer Bradley also makes the list because I love Darkover dozens of ways and the Sword & Sorceress anthologies were a mainstay for me until recently, but I’ll admit claiming Bradley is an influence has become more and more uncomfortable over the years.

                /rant off

                1. I think most of the authors I’ve loved have been men, but I don’t really know because I don’t really care. To paraphrase George Will’s dismissal of “Conservatism with a heart” it seems to me that if you’re reading (or writing) with your genitalia you’re using the wrong organ.

                  1. It’s less I care about the sex of my favorite authors and more I’m getting very annoyed that people who do are erasing my favorite authors because of their sex simply so they can claim to be the first authors of that sex to do $FOO.

    1. “The Robots of Dawn,” which was the third Elijah Bailey novel. The first was “Caves of Steel”, which I found moderately horrifying as a child, and still do, for that matter.

      1. It was the second novel. The wife of the victim in that novel later emigrated to the planet that the third novel was set on, where the inhabitants were more social than on her homeworld.

  19. I don’t notice the aging population as much but that might be because I live in Utah county where the population skews young.

  20. The other day I was reading about the general devaluation of antiques.

    Yeah, about that …

    Daughtorial Unit is an only child of an only child (Beloved Spouse) and one of four (moi). Beloved Spouse is an only child of two only children. About the time we married my In-Laws divorced The Daughtorial Unit is already heir to five-and-a-quarter households worth of furnishings … and at thirty-six has largely furnished her own place already, although some of it has been pass-through items.

    She is not especially unique in this aspect.

    Does anybody have any idea how many climate-controlled storage facilities this country has? It sure seems like they’ve been cropping up like mushrooms after spring storms the last few decades. I doubt the Daughtorial Units grandparents (Depression & WWII generation) could grasp the proliferation of such rental storage.

    Nor the fact that we have reality TV shows about people bidding at auction for the contents of “abandoned” storage units.

    Utterly Amazing! Imagine going back to the Founders’ time and advising them that some day this nation would have millions of people paying a day’s pay for somebody else t store the stuff they’ve no room for in their homes … and that those homes would average 3,000 square feet.

    1. I understand that in many communities that are expanding quickly, long-time owners of undeveloped land like to build storage unit facilities as a way of earning a little money on the land while they decide what to do with it (or wait for a developer to make a high enough offer).

    1. I was just singing that last Sunday.

      ALL YOU THAT ARE TO MIRTH INCLINED

      All you that are to mirth inclin’d
      Consider well and bear in mind
      What our good God for us hath done
      In sending his beloved Son.

      Chorus
      And to redeem our souls from thrall,
      He is the Saviour of us all.

      Let all your songs and praises be
      Unto his Heavenly Majesty,
      And evermore among your mirth
      Remember Christ our Saviour’s birth. Chorus

      The five and twentieth of December,
      Good cause have you for to remember,
      In Bethlehem upon this morn
      There was our blessed Saviour born. Chorus

      The night before that happy tide
      The spotless Virgin, and her guide,
      Went long time seeking up and down
      To find them lodging in the town. Chorus

      And mark how all things came to pass,
      The inns and lodging so filled was,
      That they could have no room at all,
      but in a silly oxes stall. Chorus

      That night the Virgin Mary mild
      Was safe delivered of a Child,
      According unto Heaven’s decree
      Man’s sweet salvation for to be. Chorus

      Near Bethlehem did Shepherds keep
      Their herds and flocks, and feeding sheep,
      To whom God’s Angels did appear,
      Which put the Shepherds in great fear. Chorus

      Prepare and go, the Angel said,
      To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
      There shall you see this blessed morn,
      The princely babe, sweet Jesus, born. Chorus

      With thankful hearts and joyful mind,
      The Shepherds went this babe to find,
      And as the heavenly Angel told,
      They did our Saviour Christ to behold. Chorus

      Within a manger was he laid,
      The Virgin Mary by him stay’d,
      Attending on the Lord of life,
      Being both mother, maid, and wife. Chorus

      Three Eastern Wise men from afar,
      Directed by a glorious Star,
      Came boldly on, and made no stay,
      Until they came where Jesus lay. Chorus

      And being come unto the place
      Wherein the blest Messias was,
      They humbly laid before his feet
      Their gifts of gold and odours sweet. Chorus

      See how the Lord of Heaven and Earth
      Shew’d himself lowly in his birth,
      A sweet example for mankind,
      To learn to bear an humble mind. Chorus

      No costly robes or rich attire
      Did Jesus Christ our Lord desire,
      No musick nor sweet harmony,
      Till glorious Angels came from high. Chorus

      If choirs of Angels did rejoice,
      Well may mankind with heart and voice
      Sing praises to the God of Heaven,
      That unto us his Son is given

  21. It is worth remembering that generational transmission of property, especially from aged mother as a comfort to her puir neglected daughter (whose worthless souse of a husband does little enough to keep) …

    … is a long-standing tradition across the world.

  22. At 40 now, I don’t think I’ll ever completely stop buying things. I like tinkering with stuff too much. Always more stuff to pick up to try and make do what I want it to.

  23. Cruising down the comments, I had a couple of random thoughts.

    First, inflation and taxes. You can tell that something’s -way- off from my parent’s generation by the number of adult children living at home. Kids up to age thirty don’t have any money. They work shit jobs, they make shit money, they rent, they have debt, and the money they do make doesn’t buy them anything worthwhile. The invisible tax of inflation is stealing the value of their earnings. Millenials may actually be the most taxed generation in history.

    Second, savings. Study after study says no one has any savings. They have debt instead. Because only a moron would put money into a bank that pays back a lower interest rate than the rate of inflation. Even innumerate Millennials can do that math.

    Third, the value-added service model of retail. Its dead, Jim. It died fairly recently, but it is dead, dead, dead. Anyone who thinks they can compete with the Big Boys because they know the product and have great service, they’re dead. Furthermore, no one can afford STAFF at all because the cost of labor is far too high, thanks to things like minimum wage, a billion regulations, etc. Retail is going to be all-robotic very soon indeed. Walmart has a delivery service in Ontario. You pick all the stuff you want on their web site, you drive up and park in a delivery spot, and call them on your cell phone. Some guy then brings out your grocery/clothing/hardware order and puts it in your car for you. U guarantee that lots of eggheads at Walmart are beavering away as hard as they can to mechanize all of that.

    This is also why 24/7 stores are closing at night now. Staff is too expensive, theft is too high, it is no longer profitable to be open all night. It used to be, and now its not. That’s a new thing.

    Fourth, inventory! Nobody has any, because of taxes and also the interest penalty for carrying it, plus the -amazing- cost of retail and warehouse space. The entire retail chain from raw material to final purchaser is a game of hot-potato, and the winners are the ones who pass the cost on the fastest. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it is clear that this is how it is.

    Fifth, internet shopping. It seems to me that there is going to be a BIG realignment of commercial buildings in the next 20 years, where the cost of storage space and the cost of retail space is going to fall very far indeed from where it is right now. Probably all at once, when the Mighty Chain Stores finally hit the wall and all crash at once. Malls with 100 stores all selling the same mass-market crap will be going away.

    Also, I’m concerned that internet shopping is artificially propped up by a scam of some kind. It is actually profitable to ship me a t-shirt or a toaster for less than I can buy it at the local store? I really wonder about that.

    Sixth, furniture. Remember when Ikea was the new thing, and their stuff was the cheapest throw-away crap you could get? Well now, Ikea is the high-cost, high-quality store. The crap comes from Lowes, Home Depot and Wayfair. How scary is that?

    Once upon a time in the early 1980s, the Young Phantom went to school to become a Cabinet Maker. He dreamed of building beautiful furniture one piece at a time for grateful customers. Upon graduation, the young Phantom learned something interesting: nobody makes furniture in Canada. (Except Mennonites, they’re stubborn. But even theirs looks like Ikea under the hood.)

    There are two things made of wood in Canada, in the 1980s and today: store fixtures, and custom kitchen cabinets. Both were accomplished by humans pushing sheets of melamine particle board through a saw in the 1980s. Today, 2019, they involve hardly any human labor at all. CNC routers, air-powered jigs, pick-and-place robots, conveyor systems etc.

    There’s a place in Oakville or Burlington Ont. (can’t remember which) that will make any size cabinet you want, any colour, any finish, any species of wood, for not a lot more than the cost of the sheet goods. ALL the cabinets from this area that don’t come from a big box retailer are made in that one facility. His biggest problem after raw material delivery is getting rid of the sawdust.

    There’s maybe two or three companies like that in all of Ontario. Probably two in Quebec, -maybe- one in Alberta and another one in BC. My unsupported guess is less than ten for the whole country of Canada, 30 million people. Most of the guys who work in those places are fixing the machines. The rest are management and sales. Zero cabinet makers.

    If you want to buy a piece of furniture made by a human, with proper joinery and etc. you must buy an antique. There’s no new ones being made commercially. Only by zealots like myself in their spare time.

    How many other things are like that these days?

    1. “…The entire retail chain from raw material to final purchaser is a game of hot-potato, and the winners are the ones who pass the cost on the fastest. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it is clear that this is how it is. ”

      This started when the tax code was changed so business inventory gets taxed as assets (my grok is fuzzy, maybe someone who actually knows will pipe up) which meant it was no longer feasible to warehouse unsold inventory until demand picked up; by the time it finally sold some years hence, taxes would have eaten all the profit and then some. So we got just-in-time inventories instead of stored goods.

      Also, methinks a big factor is that any time goods or money move (even if only on paper), middlemen take a cut.

      “Also, I’m concerned that internet shopping is artificially propped up by a scam of some kind. It is actually profitable to ship me a t-shirt or a toaster for less than I can buy it at the local store? I really wonder about that.”

      Go to alibaba.com and cruise sellers of products for which you know the wholesale and retail prices in the U.S. One that leaps to mind — microchips for pets. Retail, in the $40 range. Wholesale in the U.S., $5 to $20 depending how many hops their supply chain has. Actual cost purchased direct from the Chinese wholesaler in lots of 500 — $1 each, for sale to anyone who cares to buy that many at a crack. (And that price is not even factory-direct, just China-direct.)

      Pet toys are another I know off the top of my head. Those $5-$10 retail cat toys can be bought in bulk from China for under 25 cents apiece.

      Fact is all that cheap junk has assloads of middlemen and markup, and anyone who can sell from one hop back up the supply chain can undercut the prices of everyone who comes later.

      And totally with you on furniture and cabinetry. There are a lot of one-man shops scattered around, but it’s all one-off custom work and hardly an industry anymore. And frankly I’d rather use bricks and planks than IKEA composite. But the pressboard junk is not only cheaper to manufacture, its fragility also guarantees an end-of-life and next-sale that doesn’t happen with quality real-wood furniture.

      1. “IKEA composite”

        Good distinction. We have S&H Green Stamp End Tables made of composite board (legs are turned wood). Our “first” new furniture that we could afford … 41 years ago. Kid will get them eventually, still solid, and looking good. Only reason we don’t have the coffee table part of the set is we hadn’t gotten enough stamps to get it, it was no longer available when you could purchase stuff, when they went out of business.

        1. We don’t buy the composite. IKEA does have real wood products—often pine, but still real wood. Our table is one such, scarred by a decade of small children, but still real wood and thus able to be sanded down and refinished. (And yes, we’ll bother—there will still be nicks and scars, because we don’t want to sand down too much, but it’s a nice table for all that.)

  24. “As the population shrinks, people move to cities.”

    When the population shrinks due to war, famine, plague, etc, there are several reasons for this, but the most pressing: it’s functionally impossible to secure an isolated household long-term against gangs of people bent on rape and ruin, much less opportunistic passerby and covetous neighbors intent on getting the benefit of your work instead of doing their own. You only have so many people to stand watch, and you need them all just for the drudgery and backbreaking labour of day to day survival.

    In the city, there will be law and order of a sort – even if it’s paying off the mob to keep other gangs out, or having to hired armed guards for your block, and pay the guard’s bribe at every barbed-wire-ringed carpark. This isn’t saying that cities in crisis have low crime rate – it’s that the crimes are often much more opportunistic, hit and run, as opposed to the under-documented but very real atrocities that take place when evil men know they have days to weeks to play with their victims before anyone will notice.

    It will be truly interesting to see if this happens when the population isn’t in crisis. To some extent, when the population is greying, it must: people over a certain age discover that their body holds grudges for the things they did when they were younger, and the priorities shift from “good nightclubs” through “good schools” and on to “good doctors.” As my parent’s generation gets older, cleaning and maintaining a house becomes a burden, and they’re moving to “assisted living.” Those usually aren’t found in very rural areas, as they need to be near hospitals.

    However, there are many in smaller cities and larger towns, far from the high cost of metropolises, and the internet has made living in small towns much easier. The brown truck of happiness delivers all the things that can’t be gotten easily locally, while the local shops specialize in service and immediate availability. So… what do cities have left to offer? If the jobs can move out, why stay?

    1. Especially in the last 50 years, when cities, over time, seem to accumulate more and more people who are burdens on the rest of us (and I don’t just mean financially). They might as well be a different nation from rural America, and it’s a third world nation, not safe to visit. Pournelle’s The Mercenary predicted just what it will have to become if civilization survives at all.

  25. These days, besides food, I hardly buy anything other than books, videos and music. (Speaking of which, I’ve had ‘Sister’s Noise’ from ‘A Certain Scientific Railgun’ running through my head for hours)

    I haven’t even bought any tools in months; pretty much got all I need. I’ve got some remodeling projects going, and materials to buy for those, but do all the work myself.

    On the other hand, I’ve got a lot of stuff around here I don’t need. I watched those hoarder shows, and said “That’s me, if I don’t keep a lid on it!”

    Anybody need an E-size 8-pen plotter? Up to 34″ paper width by unlimited length, manuals, and about 20 pens. I think I last used it in 2002.

    1. Reminds me of something I noticed the other day– a lot of tool shopping is shifting for the mid-30s-to-20s market. Stuff that I had to call my parents for advice on 10 years ago, when we were getting settled, now has the information clearly written on it, and a lot of the screws that use even slightly specialized bits come with the bit. Which is good, since they tend to wear out fairly quickly if nothing goes wrong, and faster if it does. (about one and a half cans to ruin.)

  26. “…because for some reason falling population makes humans flock into big cities.”

    I suspect it’s the other way around: city jobs are a more reliable income than farm life, so people flock to cities, and *then* don’t reproduce as much (less need for young labor, less space for kids; but perhaps most important, higher population density suppressing fertility). Among the multi-generational rural families I’ve known, that’s certainly how it works. And rural families are still inclined to 3 or 4 or 5 kids, not the none or one of urbanties. I don’t know what the official stats say, but that’s what I see.

    And if you’re seeking nice free furniture, try freecycle.org — some really astonishing and lovely pieces, as well as functional stuff.

    See, there’s another factor: nonperishable goods that are produced faster than they wear out eventually saturate the market. We’re too efficient for our own good. Furniture is a great example of this. Mine was all free (and I have more than I can use), now 30 to 90 years old, yet in fine condition and will outlive me; why would I buy more furniture?

    1. I’m not seeking too hard. It’s relatively easy to find. Selling stuff, OTOH.
      Meanwhile, no. Yes, there’s some of that, but no. It’s more “the single child of two families moves to the city as soon as he/she can.”

    2. I have cats. We’re getting new blinds.
      When 17 pounds of furry aimed missile is trying to desperately get through the blinds to the bird that landed in the bush just inches from the pane…

      The new blinds are sturdier than the last. We’ll see how long they last!

  27. The other end of that problem: what do I get friends for Christmas when they already have everything they need?

    …actually, I have a solution: consumables. Alcohol, Ammo, and Spices can always be used up, and enjoyed while they’re here without cluttering things too much.

    And, as I discovered when I got the wrong caliber for a friend last year, there really is no wrong caliber ammo. “I don’t have anything in this caliber” he said, after unwrapping the heavy present.”
    “Oh, I’m sorry…” I was about to offer to swap it out when he cut me off with a delighted grin.
    “I’m not! I have ammo that I don’t have a gun for! This means I need t get a gun in this caliber!”

    1. When my stepdad inherited two unopened cans of .30 carbine ammo from his uncle at the time of said uncle’s passing: “Guess I need to get an M-1!”

      1. Or an Automag III! You can still find them on the gun auction sites even though they’ve been out of production since the ’90s.

        I was talking with a former service tech for AMT. When they’d get a III back for warranty service he’d wait until break time before testing it at their indoor range. Apparently the fireballs were great entertainment…

        1. There’s also a Ruger Super Blackhawk SA revolver in that caliber. Before the boating accident I had one. It could shoot more accurately than I could…. and was a definite attention getter.

    2. Art. I had no idea what to get my husband until a few days ago, when he got choked up at the image of Leia holding a lightsaber. Okay. I hope I can pull it off, but that’s my job right now.

      Bonus of the cost of the item being down to frame, matt, and cost of printing.

  28. When I was young, most of the thrift stores featured truly hard-used stuff that wasn’t very usable for me in office jobs, even bargain-basement temping. Now, I could go to the two thrift stores on my local retail-street, and walk right into a casual gig. (not an interview, but a data-entry job? no problem).

    I could outfit myself for general work easily and get some decent furniture for almost nothing, too.

    I don’t think this is permanent, though — we’re passing through a GIGANTIC genetic filter, and those who don’t want to reproduce will skew us old for a while before those of us who love children AND making them bring us back to a fairly young society. (“fairly young” may be average of 60s, but those 60s are going to be a lot more like my 30s)

    1. *grins* Actually, the thrift store provided all the blouses for my current job, including the interview. And some of the pants, though not, I think, the ones for the interview.

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