Secondhand Markets

My phone is starting to slow down, which means I have to decide what to do about it. I’m trying to remove the consumerist feeding tube from my throat, so I want to avoid buying things first-hand: The less I contribute to the exploitation of everything the better.

But with my phone, I’m less sure what to do. Am I really avoiding contributing to the problematic factory labor and mining involved in making phones if the used phone market thrives on overproduction anyway?

It’s the same problem I’m thinking about with Amazon’s “used” toggle, which seems more like a way to sell products with damaged packaging for basically full price.

Am I overreacting here? Even dumpster-diving requires the whole excessive system in the background. In fact, that’s sort of the point: It’s like saying, “Look, you’re throwing away enough stuff for someone to live on. Why don’t we scale this back a notch?”

Should I be asking better questions? What are my goals and values with respect to this question? What am I trying to accomplish?

Well, my goal is to think about what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis in order to have good moral reasons for doing whatever I do. In the case of buying a product, I want to be able to give a moral account of why I bought that particular product from that particular store.

I suppose that’s what I’m doing with this blog. I’m writing about what its like to try to understand the moral significance of each of my actions and do something useful with that information. And by do something useful, I mean live better.

Why don’t I start with a different question. Instead of thinking about how to buy a replacement for my current phone, maybe I should ask if I should buy a replacement at all?

That’ll be a conversation for another day.

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