But now there is no one making sure the useless junk stays popular, so less jobs.
Except that's exactly the broken window fallacy: We could instead spend that money on other things.
Which is of course what's always happened. Remember Pokemon? There's a craze that's not a craze at all - it's been going on since the 90s. It doesn't seem to be getting killed by fidget spinners. In the meantime hundreds of smaller fads have come and gone. We've have the words "fad" and "craze" to describe this sort of thing since way before the rise of rapid-response Chinese manufacturing.
Furbies, tamogatchis, pogs.
There was that season where suburban moms were practically dueling to the death over Tickle Me Elmos.
There's an economic study I remember seeing in the last couple of decades that studied the value of middlemen. The study started with the assumption that middlemen were parasitic entities, especially since so much economic value seems to come from "cutting out the middle man". But the study authors were most surprised about was that the countries they studied that had the most middlemen, also had the greatest number of economic health indicators. That is they found middlemen to be highly correlated with the economic output of an economy. Their conclusion was that it was probably more than correlated, but largely causative and that middle men probably provided a lot more value than they're generally given credit for.
This article seems to be providing some anecdotal data that supports the value of middle men. At the very least they are good at synthesizing back pressure data for factories so they don't end up overproducing, and have to fill landfills with stuff no one wants.
For the "middle man" study, I don't know how they came to that conclusion. But the more obvious assumption seems to be that economic output can support more middlemen, so I'm curious what data they used to argue that it works the other way around.
The true value of a middle man is connecting buyers and sellers who would otherwise have no idea the other existed, or otherwise facilitating the transaction.
Here's an example that I'm currently involved with. I was approached by someone to create a device that's needed on the market, but doesn't exist. I'm quite capable of building the thing and familiar with the domain, but never knew the thing was needed. Similarly, the company approaching me doesn't have the internal skills to build the device, but they can sell it. The market for this particular device isn't very large (it's only businesses who have machinery that was built using a particular older technology and need to have repairs done), and there are alternatives, so that explains why no one is building these.
In this case, the company that approached me -- the middle man -- has excellent knowledge of the market and its needs and how to best serve them. I, the producer, had no idea this product was needed, and even knowing that now, have no access to this segment of the market, and it's simply not large enough to make it worth my time to begin a marketing effort in that direction. Similarly, the end customers have never heard of me, and have no concept that such a device could even be built.
So there you are, a middleman has just added value by offering to buy something that I otherwise would not know to build, and by selling it (along with other products and services), to a very underserved market that otherwise would be forced to purchase newer equipment they otherwise don't need.
That was my conclusion as well - when times are good you don't mind someone who contributes little hanging around. When times are tough, they're out and what little value they offered is replicated by someone desperate to stick around. When a business has a lot of administrative staff times are good and those watching the market can conclude, due to the number of administrative hires, that times are good for a particular market sector. But concluding that it means middlemen are undervalued seems like whoever authored the study had some odd motive.
Fidget junk is just an allegory for a much more pervasive trend.
I feel like the travel agency bit in there actually worked against their thesis.
Well, at least we can look forward to a new messaging app for teams. :D :(
In the end, the fallacy is that "it allows us to run an economy" doesn't actually justify anything.
If you have 10 chaps hanging around, all of whom have broken windows, there's a gain in both wealth and employment if some of those chaps get organized and start fixing windows.
To the degree that the novelty is good, keeping otherwise unemployed people active producing novelties is neither a loss nor a waste of time. Of course it doesn't make sense to go around breaking windows to keep the dynamic up, unless breaking windows is enormous fun and gives people lots of utility (which it might!).
More generally, thinking about these things in terms of money rather than wealth, production and consumption (a stock and its positive and negative flows) leads people to faulty intuitions. They're familiar with household budgeting and other situations where money seems tangible. But money is just a way of accounting for the stock, and measuring and transporting the flows. It's the actual wealth, production and consumption that counts.
This is the core of the fallacy. There'd be more net wealth without breaking the window in the first place, leaving the guy free to spend that money on someone else's goods/services, who would cause the exact same amount of growth but you'd still have a window.
Spending that money that would have been spent replacing broken windows elsewhere may even generate jobs for the guys who are slack.
You can never stimulate a growth of wealth by destroying wealth. If you're saying the window is already broken, that's not the broken window fallacy.
And if breaking windows is a thing we value in society, then it wouldn't be a bad thing to go around breaking windows and continuously employ people to fix them up again.
The reason I'm stretching it like this is to make "broken windows fallacy" fit fidget spinners and other fads, because that's what's needed to make the analogy work. (You know, the actual topic.)
You can never stimulate a growth of wealth by destroying wealth
I never said you could. People can, however, increase their wellbeing by consuming wealth, and a cycle of consuming wealth and producing wealth is not a waste of time; if breaking windows was beneficial to wellbeing, then it wouldn't be a waste of time to continuously cycle between breaking and repairing windows.
Don't forget that wealth isn't a terminal value anyone is interested in; wellbeing (aka utility) is.
Even Baudrillard's hyper-reality seemed to be orchestrated from a center; his assertion that the Europe experience at Disney World was "more real" than Europe itself at least required Disney to have built it.
Spinners just arose out of the background radiation, with no apparent proximal cause.
The amount of plastics and metal that are just going to be thrown away due to them - not to mention their packaging which gets thrown away....
I wish that we could come up with a reasonable way to require standardized non-polluting packaging for literally all the things...
I blame ...
Take a long hard look at many things you take for granted and realise just how barmey they really are, unless you consider how economics works. Planned obsolescence (washing machine falls apart within legislated years + 1 day) is an obvious consequence of wanting sales to be repeated and profit maximisation. Some firms will aim for a different solution to the formula - eg Miele in that space - by pricing high and generally lasting longer but they really dance to the same tune.
To take perceived value to one ridiculous extreme, a Bugatti Vayron costs in the region of £1M and a modern Ford Fiesta costs say £10K. Is a Veyron really "worth" 100 Fiestas? Reduce them to raw materials and compare value or look at the amount of research time that went into each (my money is on comparable or more on the Fiesta). Both can transport near enough the same number of people but the Fiesta (I think) has a bit more room. The Fiesta almost certainly has more boot (trunk) space.
This seeming nonsense with spinners isn't really incomprehensible and we are all complicit. It is the way of the world and always has been, it's just a bit more complicated these days.
... marketing (and lack of incredulity - I'm guilty too)
For example the creator makes it and shows it to a few friends, maybe posts pics/vids on the internet. Someone else sees the object and names it the fidget spinner. A third person markets it and begins selling them
I'm 36, don't have a kid, and as such all the fidget spinner craze has passed me with no impact at all, i.e. I don't really care what a fidget spinner does, if it's popular or not. The same goes for the kendana/kendama thing (not sure of its exact name, too lazy to google). They're just kids' games, not sure why talking about them has become so important.
They can become habitual to play with but frankly they are no better than lots of other things that move and be twiddled with. If you find doodling without looking distracting or any other coping mechanism works then stick with that.
If you can't get on with something that is supposed to be a "fix" then I suggest that you avoid it and do things that work for you.
I don't know how you've been using them but I think you're making them far more complicated then they need to be.
So the NYT is saying that beanie babies were a sustainable business that creates the ever elusive "jobs". It was sustainable in that it lasted longer, but beanie babies are not still a sustainable business. If the metric of success is ~7 years of business then Maddoff was running a sustainable business.
As for disintermediation, there's still plenty of room for travel agents and the like to add value. Sure travelocity, tripadvisor etc exist, but for higher end clients who don't want/can't afford to waste time sifting through pages and pages of data/reviews from anonymous internet people, they can hire someone with experience to do all that, or perhaps someone who has built a reputation of recommending excellent itineraries all around the world. Otherwise, it's nice to have the option to do it yourself much more cheaply and efficiently. That money saved by not hiring an agent can now be put into the vacation package for better airfare, lodging, restaurants, etc.
The money and jobs don't just disappear, they go elsewhere.
PS: I bought two while in the local train. For me and my wife. A day before that a kid in my flat was showing off his skills and a week after that my 40ish manager was spinning it while walking around. And now I hardly see someone spinning.
they try to force it upon him but Data saves the day at the end.
Ha! They sold for CAD$15 around here...
Being patient pays off so often.
I don't think the comparison to TripAdvisor and travel agents is particularly strong, and I think you'd be hard pushed to make the case that thousands of travel agents who'd maybe heard something about the place you wanted to go is better than thousands of reviews and photos from people who've actually been there. TipAdvisor has lots of problems, to be sure, but it's still better than travel agents.
Unrelated to the above, I'm actually excited for the craze to die out. I think I might be one of the people fidget spinners were originally made for. I don't have any problems focusing, but I habitually spin things in my fingers - my iPhone, my wallet (I've worn marks into the leather), pens... It's usually completely unconscious. So I'll be looking forward to trying a fidget spinner once the fad has gone away.
If you feel it would be beneficial to try it, why wait until the fad dies before trying one? This seems like it might be an optimal time to have the maximum breadth of choices to find the one(s) you find most helpful.
Do you remember what it was like using a travel agent? That's not what travel agents did. They didn't "maybe hear about a place", they actually went there. Resorts & cruises spent a ton of their marketing dollars to bring travel agents to the resort and get them to experience it first hand.
The longest he's stayed interested in anything is a cheap kite I bought him, so I think next year remote control plane.
So much can (and will) go wrong with an rc plane - another alternative would be a quad?
He also wants to build a robot so I'm thinking something tracked with camera's and sensors.
Love my quads now - even a hubsan x4 is a great starter - can fly inside and outside - though not big enough to carry weight - anyway, sure you'll get him something cool - lucky kid ;)
As a side note, squishies have been around for a while too, at least since last year. My son is a big fan of them. I'm pretty sure he learned about them from YouTube kids, which sometimes seems like trove of toy commercials. Unlike what Ms. Osborne seems to think, I don't think fads in the future will be any shorter, I think they'll just be created in different ways.
I remember specifically how I checked if any Chinese manufacturers where producing it by that time - none. In fact, item in post on reddit was done on some CNC machine.
then all the small-scale importers got on it. These days, it's really easy to move and market your own product small-scale.
I think all other fads will follow this fate - lot's of suppliers, rarely any brandname.
Last week on Hackernews: a paean to Wham-O, manufacturers of the hula hoop.
Wonder of this article is the source?