The costs of modern living

It’s true that I live in rural Portugal. I’m not exactly starring at regular red carpet events, my clothing budget doesn’t have to carry that sort of strain.

And yet, modern life has become rather cheap, no?

And yes, there was significant use of the discount rails of older stock. But, yesterday’s insistence by the other half that a clothing upgrade was necessary led to two pairs of trousers, a hoodie, five t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, some cotton not espadrilles but of that sort of thing and a set of jammies. For a fraction under €60.

Thank the Lord for those sweatshops in Bangladesh, eh – where, yes, most of this was made. Those same sweatshops which provide 80% of export revenue, pay triple the national minimum wage, employ 4 million people and are the major cause of the country’s 6 to 8% annual GDP growth for the past two decades.

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty, supported by sustained economic growth. Based on the international poverty line of $1.90 per person per day, it reduced poverty from 44.2 percent in 1991 to 13.8 percent in 2016/17. In parallel, life expectancy, literacy rates and per capita food production have increased significantly. Progress was underpinned by 6 percent plus growth over the decade and reaching to 7.3 percent in 2016/2017, according to official estimates. Rapid growth enabled Bangladesh to reach the lower middle-income country status in 2015. In 2018, Bangladesh fulfilled all three eligibility criteria for graduation from the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list for the first time and is on track for graduation in 2024.

Sounds like a bargain to me and the joy is that it actually works.

Yet still there are those against this. Difficult to understand, isn’t it?

19 comments on “The costs of modern living

  1. No problem with REAL progress.

    And prosperity there means the population of Bangla stay in Bangla.

    And of course we have to go back to being a free market society where jobs lost to 3rd world mean new jobs in new fields over here. Instead of bureaucratic strangulation.

    The more I contemplate it the better seems the idea to sack the SCS en masse. Leaving the ESpew is merely to kill the Hydra without taking into account how dangerous are the beasts children ie home grown traitors working against us on the “highest” level of the platform. The sight of the FFC with a bag over her head vomiting nonsense in submission is a measure of how far the rot goes. It could of been her own idea for she is indeed that stupid/wicked but the stench of SCS “advice” hangs over the entire shitshow.

    Their strategy of importing leftist voters who bring low IQs and bad habits/cultures with them is going to be what kills us however.

  2. Something has to take the strain, and the low price of consumable goods has been a godsend. Win-win for both sides, as you emphasise.

  3. A hoodie? You planning on supplementing your income with a few muggings?

    One of the advantages of living in hot climes is that the more expensive clothing items, e.g. coats, last for years due to only receiving rare outings each year.

  4. So, if Bangla Sweatshop Inc develops robots to replace those 4 million jobs at 3x min wage, do Bangladeshis get richer or poorer?

  5. PFJ,

    Poorer. If robots take over the industry, they will be located closer to the technical support and end markets, which won’t be Bangladesh. That is unless they develop some kind of competitive advantage, or network effect that changes this.

  6. I’ve been saying this for a while. You meet people who are like “kids are a big expense” and no, they actually aren’t. OK, you lose a bit of the wife’s income maybe and summer holidays go up in price but stuff that used to be expensive for kids isn’t any longer.

    baby rompers: 3 for £12
    school shirts: 3 for £9
    food: almost nothing (you’re eating anyway, and a kids portion is a little more)
    toys: a Barbie costs a tenner from Amazon
    pixar DVDs: about a fiver to own
    paper and pens: maybe a quid
    books: close to fuck all, cheaper than taking a bus to the library
    music: literally, £10/month for everything, for everyone, in your family. Korean K-Pop, Motorhead, German opera.

    and this isn’t even getting into the mountain of baby chairs and 2nd hand baby clothes on eBay. I sold my Nintendo Wii to a guy for £1. He got a pretty good console for One Whole English Pound. No, not this year’s console, but still fun for a kid.

    get into adult stuff – you can get a functioning car for very little money. No, not brand new, not without rust, but my 16 year old Renault doesn’t let me down. Spend a couple of grand, you’ll get something good.

    A Moto G5, the phone I run my business on, costs £110. TVs cost about £300. Blu-Ray players are almost given away.

    Apart from sweatshops the other factor is robots. Which made everything good for everyone. A Mercedes in the 70s was better made than the rest because they applied lots of high quality human labour. So, its engine was built better, was better welded and sprayed than your Ford. But today, robots do those jobs. They do it better and cheaper than humans, so a Kia is as well made, at least in those areas, as a Mercedes. You buy a Mercedes, you’re getting better upholstery and a prettier receptionist.

    What really costs money today is a) state regulation and taxes (healthcare, alcohol, housing) and b) status products. Chanel sunglasses cost £300. John Lewis sunglasses cost £20. And I get that luxury products cost a bit more, but the extra price on luxury is just insane.

  7. “And I get that luxury products cost a bit more, but the extra price on luxury is just insane.”

    Expensive, and thus exclusive, luxury is a status symbol. Humans, being humans, will go insane for that. But isn’t it great that nearly all of us can afford the best smart phone, but after that you have to glue diamonds on them to show off.

  8. David Moore, even if Bangla iSweat Inc managed some way of keeping robo production in Bangladesh, I doubt Bangladeshis on the whole would be richer.

    My earlier post was merely a gentle jibe at Tim’s celebration of his hoodie generating 4 million costly jobs. Jobs being a cost, not a benefit.
    As he’ll remind us soon enough.

  9. Living in rural Portugal…

    The cost of living has increased significantly this past decade. The wistful dream of moving to a rural idyll, for instance, has become something beyond the pocket of most – the price of shotgun shells and equine services is eye-watering.

  10. PJF,

    I make no moral judgement on it, and I’m quite glad if other people are spending stupid money on stupid shit. Companies selling luxury products tend to want custom features on their websites which keeps people like me in a job.

    And yes, it is great.

  11. PJF,

    It’s hard to know. One thing is that there’s a certain degree of inertia, experience, networks and even in highly automated places, you need workers.

    Automation of garment making won’t happen overnight. And they have supply lines. Who makes the rubber soles for Nike shoes? Probably a factory not far away. Laces? Same. You move that automation to the USA, you’ve got to get all that supply chain too.

  12. I’ve just bought some reasonable quality T shirts from M&S for £6 each. They don’t have labels, all the information is printed (and difficult to read). I presume this is the start of automation because adding labels is something that’s tricky for robots.

  13. BinND…

    Thanks to the power of modern detergents, my Raging Bull T-shirts have become ‘aging Bull’ shirts.

  14. How long will any of that stuff last? Remember the Vimes “boot theory”, where the rich guy spent $50 on one pair of boots which lasted N years and the poor guy ended up spending $50 on many pair of boots over the same number of years and *still had wet feet*!
    So, I trust that your example is that the cost of keeping Mrs Worstall quiet about your wardrobe has slumped dramatically to €60. A lot cheaper than keeping Mrs 77 quiet about my wardrobe.
    I still have a Harris Tweed jacket made from the tweed that my mother bought for me in Harris nearly 50 years ago solely because my wife hesitates to throw that one out although she has successively thrown out three younger ones in better condition, any of which could have been predicted to outlive me (well, *any* Harris tweed jacket should outlive its ower)

  15. Bloke in North Dorset said:
    “I’ve just bought some reasonable quality T shirts from M&S for £6 each. They don’t have labels, all the information is printed”

    M&S do the same to their underpants (the only thing I buy there).

    I assumed it was so that the label no longer scratches my arse crack.

    And I don’t think I need any instructions for underpants.

  16. Some questionable choices for the sartorial Englishman abroad there Tim.

    But the question is, have you graduated from wearing socks with sandals yet?

  17. Socks with sandals?

    A contentious one. There is NO doubt that (daily-changed) cotton socks with open (well-fitting) sandals are the very healthiest and comfortable option for your feet.

    However….

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