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Which Is More Valuable: Deodorant or Apple’s New iPhone 6s?

Many college students are eager to upgrade to Apple’s new iPhone 6s — or so my daughter tells me. But she’s not. The battery life of her $100 Android phone is at least 48 hours on one charge; her friends can’t get through the day without charging their iPhones. She’s okay with her smaller screen and its lower resolution; battery life is her value driver.

“What presidential candidate are your iPhone-using friends supporting?” I asked her.

“Bernie Sanders,” she reported, “They’re huge fans.”

Her response surprised me. It was Sanders who said, “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.” If Sanders thinks consumer choice is unimportant as long as we face unresolved social problems, why would his supporters feel compelled to spend their money on an upgrade to the latest marginally improved iPhone when they could be donating that money, or the time they spend earning that disposable income, to charity?

Do they experience any cognitive dissonance between their enthusiasm for Sanders and their urgency to buy the latest iPhone? Perhaps they believe they are victims of our culture’s “crass consumerism” — and that they themselves need greater guidance from above.

Or maybe they believe that if a socialist planner came to power, only those things that they think are wasteful will be eliminated. But how likely is that? Clearly those who delight in the latest iPhone are free to do so only if others are free to delight in the newest brand of deodorant.

I thought about how consumer choice and “waste” play out in my own life. Every fall, I drive 70 miles round trip to buy freshly picked apples from an orchard. Am I wasting gas and money? The apples in the supermarket might look the same as those I buy at the orchard, but my tongue tel…

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