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We should also be wondering about the lack of incentive to be a producer/owner when being a middleman is so comparatively lucrative. If capital and talent starts shifting to middlemen in pursuit of higher returns it could cause a lot of markets to stagnate with only the big players having the resources to make a profit off of producing.

Thank you for this interesting thought. My first thought was this. Why wouldn't I make furniture and sell directly to customers. Which is something I've been thinking of doing. One problem is that the computer desks I'm thinking about might not be what people want. Why? They will be expensive and it seems like the whole world thinks the IKEA desks are what they really want/need. Check some YouTube tech reviewers, the build game PC's worth thousands but they're nearly always put on IKEA desks because they're cheap (ish).

I guess marketing is at play there.

Or because a $1000 gaming PC is objectively better at running games than a $500 gaming PC on every single metric (except maybe power consumption), but a cheap Ikea desk can hold my keyboard and monitor at 28.5" off the floor just as well as an expensive one can.

It's nice to have solidly built furniture, but not everybody cares enough to pay a premium for that. If the demographic you're looking at is "YouTube tech reviewers" then it's especially unsurprising. Those are people who place value on having fancy tech. I wouldn't blame marketing, just a question of limited budgets and personal priorities.

I've seen some pretty cool DIY computer desks, like one where the computer components are spread out and visible over a glass top, or it's hidden away in a cabinet on the side, but it's a comparatively small number of people who care.

The issue there is part marketing part economies of scale. A small shop won't be able to compete with IKEA on price. You basically have to do what Tesla, Craft Breweries and other relatively small fish do and start out on the high end where cost is less of a concern and scale doesn't matter as much. Unfortunately that's a tall order in and of itself as it takes a lot of time, talent and money to produce a truly top-shelf product and, as we're discussing here, you're probably better off financially being some sort of broker for current goods than producing new/innovative goods yourself.

That said, if you're capable of producing high quality furniture with expensive materials, with the right marketing I imagine you could make quite a bit. People pay boatloads of money for reclaimed/exotic wood desks with attractive aesthetics.

yep, marketing turns a commodity into something cherished and desired. Literally everything is a commodity unless marketing has put gloss on it

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