22 September 2006

Owning Stuff

Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing picks up the story about the 82-year-old woman who paid $2000 in rental for a telephone, but he manages to draw a useful conclusion from it beyond "Aren't old people daft".

"Even if you know you'll never miss a payment, we all know that owning enriches you, renting enriches someone else."

I think this is fundamentally true. In the long run, the way to benefit from capitalism is to accumulate capital.

His point is directed at the entertainment industry, who are attempting to convert their market from consumers buying and owning recordings, towards consumers renting the right to access recordings. This approach may make sense in the context of the costs of enforcing copyright, but it suffers from the fact Doctorow recognises, that if the industry is not selling ownership of recordings, it is not selling so much value to consumers, and therefore should not expect to take as much money.

An unrelated obstacle to owning stuff, and thereby gaining the full benefits of capitalism, is the general shortage of storage space. That is yet another reason why the War on Housing is the biggest problem facing Britain today.

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