The High Cost of Getting What You Want

Catching up on the news this morning, I came across Wired‘s report on American tech spending. Not surprisingly, we’re spending a chunk of money to stay connected. According to Wired:

the proportion of US household budgets spent on tech products and services—computers, game consoles, cell phone service, cable, TVs—has held steady at about 5 percent for most of the past decade. We’re just spending that money—more than we pay for health insurance—on different stuff. (link)

What’s different? We’re “spend[ing] a lot less on TVs (as prices have dropped) but more on cable and satellite services (we need our HBO).”

I wasn’t really shocked by how much we’re spending (I’ve bought several goodies in the last few months; unfortunately, none were particularly cheap.). The number Wired used for comparison did surprise me. We spend more money on tech than we do on health insurance. What?!?!

Lately, as I’ve listened to the debate about health care in this country, I’ve been struck again and again by this idea that as a society, we want, as the cliché goes, to have our cake and eat it too. National health care, whether you agree with it or not, comes with a price tag that few seem willing to pay even as they prepare to get in line for the benefit.

The same principle applies in any event when society expresses a desire for anything of late. Vocal proponents for every cause from saving the earth to ending the ware in Iraq rarely address the cost of these choices. This post isn’t about the validity of any of these causes or others like them but rather about the unwillingness of a society to actually discuss the consequences of a decision.

We’ve gotten into a dangerous habit of skipping past the details in our efforts to achieve the goal and get what we want. We fell in love with Google and forgot to ask the basic question about what it was doing with all that search information. And now there’s growing questions about Google’s information policies. We’re doing it all over again with social apps like Facebook and MySpace. What exactly are the doing with all that user-posted information? It’s probably spelled out in legalese in the user agreement, but when was the last time you read a user agreement?

Perhaps the moral is a tried but true one: be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. And I’d make a small addition—are you prepared for the consequences?



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July 2007
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