Tag Archives | Commerce

Why You Buy Things You Don’t Need

Christmas trees orniments mallsGeorge Monbiot blames the “global bullshit industry” for the commercial nature of Christmas. I’m not sure this is exactly breaking news, but it’s still fun to read Monbiot’s never-failing progressive take on the holiday season, at The Guardian of course:

Guilt is good. It’s the feature that distinguishes the rest of the population from psychopaths. It’s the sensation you are able to feel when you possess a capacity for empathy. But guilt inhibits consumption. So a global industry has developed to smother it with a 13-tog duvet of celebrities and cartoon characters and elevator music. It seeks to persuade us not to see and not to feel. It seems to work.

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“Buy Things You Don’t Need” banner from ’90s iteration of disinformation store

 

The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries. The places in which people feel least guilt are, in this order, Germany, the United States, Australia and Britain, while the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil have the greatest concerns.

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This 28-Year-Old Wants to Kill Credit Card Use

DwollaAlyson Shontell reports in Business Insider:

There’s a tiny 12-person startup churning out of Des Moines, Iowa. Dwolla was founded by 28-year-old Ben Milne; it’s an innovative online payment system that sidesteps credit cards completely.

Milne has no finance background, yet his little operation is moving between $30 and $50 million per month; it’s on track to move more than $350 million in the next year. Unlike PayPal, Dwolla doesn’t take a percentage of the transaction. It only asks for $0.25 whether it’s moving $1 or $1,000.

We interviewed Milne about how he is building a credit card killer and Square rival from the middle of the nation where VCs and press are scarce.

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Congress Starts Pushing an Online Sales Tax

Tax FreeTen U.S. Senators are now proposing a “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which creates a new system letting states collect sales taxes from purchases made online. “It’s about closing a tax loophole,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, part of a bipartisan coalition which has already introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Strangely, Amazon has just issued a press release saying they support the bill, calling it “a win-win resolution,” according to one Kindle blog, though they may just be hoping to lobby for exemptions from each individual state.

“Instead of a national sales tax, these new taxes will only be imposed at the individual discretion of each separate state legislature, and that’s an area where multi-billion dollar companies like Amazon can still exert a lot of pressure.… Read the rest

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The Age Of Perpetual Self-Branding

imageFacebook wants to be the place where you feel most yourself, with the most control over how you are regarded. It inextricably intertwines marketing with selfhood, so that having a self becomes an inherently commercial operation.

Writing for n+1, Rob Horning concocts a frightening, fantastic, and thought-provoking essay on how we live today, connecting the reign of “fast fashion” companies such as Forever 21, social media such as Facebook, and 21st century capitalism’s demand that workers market and reinvent themselves endlessly:

I’ve always thought that Forever 21 was a brilliant name for a fast-fashion retailer. These two words succinctly encapsulate consumerism’s mission statement: to evoke the dream of perpetual youth through constant shopping. Yet it also conjures the suffocating shabbiness of that fantasy, the permanent desperation involved in trying to achieve fashion’s impossible ideals.

Despite apparently democratizing style and empowering consumers, fast fashion in some ways constitutes a dream sector for those eager to condemn contemporary capitalism, as the companies almost systematically heighten some of its current contradictions: the exhaustion of innovative possibilities, the limits of the legal system in guaranteeing property rights, the increasing immiseration of the world workforce.

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Silk Road: The Website With Every Illegal Drug Imaginable For Sale

xlarge_0601_silkroadnewGawker reports on your aunt’s new favorite website, if your aunt loves tar heroin:

Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users’ purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics—and seemingly as safe. It’s Amazon—if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.

Here is just a small selection of the 340 items available for purchase on Silk Road by anyone, right now: a gram of Afghani hash; 1/8th ounce of “sour 13″ weed; 14 grams of ecstasy; .1 grams tar heroin. A listing for “Avatar” LSD includes a picture of blotter paper with big blue faces from the James Cameron movie on it. The sellers are located all over the world, a large portion from the U.S. and Canada.

Getting to Silk Road is tricky.

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Are Banksters Too Big To Jail?

BankUSWhy are we banking on banks to a promote economic recovery? HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” should have been about banksters “too big to jail.”

This week the financial crisis finally went prime time in the form of a big budget HBO docudrama called “Too Big To Fail.”

It was a well-acted docudrama focused on the BIG Men and some women in the banks and in government who tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again up on that wall to prevent a total economic collapse when panic dried up credit and financial institutions faced failure.

Based on the work of a New York Times reporter, it offered a skillfully-made but conventional narrative which, like most TV shows, showcase events but miss their deeper context and background.

We heard all the explanations, save one.

There was greed, ambition, ego and money lust. There were personal rivalries and ideological battles, parochial agendas and narrow self-interest.… Read the rest

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Amazon’s $23,698,655.93 Textbook About Flies

The Making Of A FlyNew copies are still going for around a grand. Interesting story: Michael Eisen writes on it is NOT Junk:

A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly — a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists — consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).

I sent a screen capture to the author — who was appropriate amused and intrigued. But I doubt even he would argue the book is worth THAT much.

At first I thought it was a joke — a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each be offered for well over a million dollars.

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Millions Of Dollars Found Buried In South Korean Garlic Field

A garlic storage in Changgilri, Uiseong County, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea. Photo: Robert (CC)

Whoever says money doesn’t grow on trees was right. In South Korea it grows in garlic fields. BBC reports:

South Korean police have dug up a stash of 11bn won ($10m, £6.2m), most of it buried in a garlic field, reports say.

The money is believed to be the proceeds of an illegal internet gambling operation, for which one of two brothers is already in jail.

Their brother-in-law helped out by burying the cash, and then helped himself to some of it, police said.

When he then accused a landscaper of stealing a chunk of cash, police moved in and unearthed it, they said.

Television footage has shown police pulling out two dozen containers, each brimming with cash.

According to the police version of the story, the brother-in-law, a 52-year-old man identified only as Mr Lee, bought the garlic field in south-western Gimje.

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