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Sweden Fights Generalized Crapification With Sensible Policy

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In case you are looking for some good news in the face of the appalling spectacle of The Clinton V. Trump Reality TeeVee Show, here's some good news from Sweden.

The Swedes see wastefulness as a bug, not a feature - and are proposing to incentivise Reducing, Repairing, and Recycling with simple tax law changes. FIrst - reduce the sales tax by over half on repairs to shoes, bicycles, and clothing. Second, provide a 50% income tax deduction for the labor cost of repairing home appliances. Both are good as far as they go - not only reducing waste, but also encouraging employment in repairing people's stuff.

I grew up in a town where on the main street, between Davies the butcher (who raised the lamb he sold on his family farm) and Ray's Shoe Store was A.P.Farmer's appliance repair store. It provided a good living for Mr. Farmer and his family, who owned a house in town. I doubt there were many families in town who had not taken their kettle or radio or vacuum to Mr. Farmer for repair. It would have been unthinkable to throw a perfectly good kettle away just because the cord was frayed or a radio because it needed a new tube. There were also two shoe repair stores in town - because people wore good quality shoes that needed periodic sole replacement. And a bicycle store that may have charged a bit more than the chains but were handy and competent when the bike you rode to school needed attention. I wish I could say that Mr. Farmer's store is still in business - but it is long gone. His living was killed by cheap imported products that are designed to be thrown away when they break. Same for the shoe repair stores - one does remain, but servicing a smaller, older, clientele - if it were not for skate sharpening, he too would be gone.

Now this may sound like a cranky old guy rant - but wouldn't you rather keep money in circulation on your own comunity? Shouldn't we be encouraging self-employment and thrift rather than destroying local employment and creating waste? Someone at my favorite hardware store in the world, Hardware Sales, said this to me one fine day - “Your first duty is to create employment for yourself. Your second duty is to create employment for others”. To me, this these are words to live by. But our corporatist structure regards employees as problems to be dispensed with - from Uber threatening its employees I mean “independent contractors” with self-driving cars; or Peace Health's firing of fifty-nine local medical transcriptionists to save $5 per hour by shipping their jobs out of State. Efficiency! Progress! Unemployment! Dislocation! Greed! Hollowing out local economies in search of greater profits and no sense of obligation to society is the modern neo-liberal creed. Just look at the mess it's created at the Herald, where there's apparently little money for basic local reporting, because they have to save money by laying off more people. It's a vicious cycle - but exactly the kind of thing that the corporatist creed brings forth.

About David Camp

Writer • Member since Jul 12, 2009

David Camp is a cpa (Canada'86; USA'96) and MBA (Schulich'88) who toiled thirty years in the corporate salt mines, counting beans and telling stories to the auditors and whatnot. Now [...]

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