Well, a lot of it depends on what assumptions you proceed from. For instance, you accept that "wealth maximization" is a good thing. As opposed to what? Quality maximization? For whom? The consumer? The worker? Or just those few who own the means of production?
I don't believe I said it was a good thing. It is what it is, for better or for worse. If you are charged with running a publicly held company, it is generally, though not universally, accepted that the goal of a company is to maximize shareholder wealth; after all, you are employed by the shareholders, who want you to make them money. I would say there are many goods things about capitalism and shareholder-owned, limited liability legal entities, though certainly there are many downsides as well. Do you own stocks or equity mutual funds? If so, why? What are you hoping they will do for you?
Are BMW, Porches and Rolls Royces made better today than they were 50 years ago? 100 years ago? I don't think that argument can be objectively made across the board.
I absolutely do, unless you are talking aesthetics, which IIRC you don't include in your definition of objective quality (lipstick on a pig, style over substance and all that). If you look at a modern S class, for example: it is far more reliable, faster, safer, dramatically more fuel efficient, has better air conditioning, offers conveniences (e.g. massaging seats, ventilated seats), etc. etc. than cars of even 15 years ago, never mind 50 or 100. Honestly, I cannot believe anyone would ever argue to the contrary, putting aside the human tendency to mythologize the past.
I don't think that there is any real life example in any industry that has a past and whose products are rooted in history and Tradition. You and others cite relatively new tech industries as examples of good quality. Compared to what? There is no standard of quality...it's new tech. Contemporary standards are the only standards. Standards of quality are being set even as we speak. Wait 50 or 100 years and make that assertion again.
I am sure there are plenty, though I can't prove it. I imagine in areas like various types of foodstuffs, certainly in things like cloth/weaving, material sciences (e.g. metallurgy), and likely others there are examples. Out of curiosity, perhaps you can create a list of what you consider to be the markets/products that don't fall into your rubric of 'new/modern/contemporary,' and I can think about it. I will add that it would not be fair for one to use a tautology to disqualify all areas where modern production leads to superior results as, by definition, a 'modern'/non-traditional business. Here is one candidate: linen thread. Yes, today's linen thread is inferior to that of the past, but wasn't that 'gold standard' thread made in a factory? I wouldn't be surprised if the finest linen thread was made via factory production (though I'm not asserting that absolutely to be the case).
I know/knew a Venture capitalist who, out of caprice more than anything, bought a company that had been making premium rifles and shotguns for a generation or more. Their products were considered some of the finest in the world. As soon as the new owner took over, all the old men (I'm old too so maybe I just sympathize) who were master engravers were replaced by machines and the line was automated. It didn't take long for the more savvy customers to realize that the company had stepped out onto that slippery slope and demand (as well as cachet) fell off commensurately.
More to my point -- making the wrong decision about lowering quality in exchange for lower costs can be a bad decision. It's not all about figuring out how to make products as cheaply as possible.
In my personal opinion, no matter how you parse it, "sometimes a lower cost solution delivers lower product quality (e.g. GYW); the question then becomes: how much lower cost vs how much lower quality, i.e. is that trade off a reasonable one? That is a judgement that a company needs to make; they will learn whether they were correct based on the feedback of the market." is still, and nothing but, a justification for lower quality. And one that is rooted in and informed by the 'factory mentality"...by definition.
But isn't that in incredibly inegalitarian view? I mean, should it be that everyone should either wear hand made/hand welted shoes or go barefoot? Surely in products that are based on traditional skills, you don't buy those made by your analogues exclusively? I mean, do you buy only handwoven clothing (I am sure you could)? Local, farm-grown food? Hand laid paper or parchment? Hand-cut fountain pens? etc. etc.
As far as the cardboard is concerned, I somewhat agree. I didn't really criticize it. If I were to criticize it, it would be in the same terms that I criticize GY--for pretense and lack of authenticity. For promoting, or even just allowing the customer to believe, the idea that a certain standard of quality is being offered, when in fact it is not. Fundamentally, cardboard has a lot to recommend it in some circumstances ...although perhaps not as heel or toe stiffeners, insoles or heel blocks.
And FWIW...objectively...there is no linen or hemp yarn on the market that is anywhere near the quality that our shoemaking forefathers knew. Period. Another example of "the factory mentality" in operation.(many of the great old Irish linen mills are now closed but the decline in quality began many years ago). And there is no contemporary linen or hemp yarn on the market that is anywhere near as strong or rot resistant as the Teklon. Period.
I am well aware of this, as you know. And, as I wrote, I understand why you make the choice you make, and I am not criticizing it. I am just pointing out that for folks (not saying you did this) to blindly criticize a maker's choice may not be fair or justified. However, parenthetically, you (and all makers) make choices about where along the quality/cost spectrum you want to fall. Why not grow your own linen, or go to Holland and source some long-staple linen fibers and have them spun into linen thread. You could do it, though at great expense. Why not hand stitch, at 24spi, all your uppers? I believe you could do it, though again it would make your shoes much more expensive.
So what does the maker who is concerned (even obsessed) with quality to do? What is the individual maker...not under the influence of the "factory mentality"...to do? Change his/her definition of quality? Dumb it down to fit what is easily available or even ostensibly Traditional? I think not. To do so is to surrender to the factory mentality. By definition.
And to forfeit the essence and exaltation of being a maker, of being a "craftsman."
I never suggested that, nor would I. The issue is not whether adherence to traditional methods and standards is a good idea for a craftsman; I think it is admirable. I am merely pointing out that other methods (e.g. 'factory') don't inherently involve the corrupting influence that you believe is the inevitable consequence of those methods. That is a very different point.
Originally Posted by DWFII
I wanted to add one other observation to this discussion--esp. in this modern world where "communications" are themselves a highly prized commodity, even techies and "modernists" often fail to recognize the implications.
In today's world, we as makers, businessmen, etc., can literally create our own markets. And all those decisions we make regarding what is "Job One" can and do help us find our markets.
For example, if I promote myself as making "quality" shoes using quality and / or Traditional techniques, I can target customers and charge accordingly. And if I handle it right, I'll never be without customers as long as I am authentic and can deliver what I promise.
If I promote speed, low price, etc., that's a different market. It's also one that, despite being enormously larger than mine, is built on quicksand. Definitions of quality and even honesty are subject to customer whimsy, advertising and PR campaigns and costs of production.
As makers, we don't have to buy into the 'factory mentality" (although most of us have already been inculcated at an early age.)
But more importantly, we don't have to compete
with those firms that are exemplars of the type.
We're fools if we do.
Well, in my view, you are competing with those firms, by definition, if they make footwear and you make footwear. Prospective customers will contemplate buying from you, from other traditional shoemakers, and also from 'factory' shoemakers, be they HW or GYW.
Moreover, it seems clear that your life choices reflect no desire to maximize your wealth (and you have no shareholders who are asking you to do so!). I've made a similar choice, that's why I do what I do rather than continuing in a former line of lucrative work. So, I agree, how much is enough, and what is the cost (individually, collectively, and to the planet) of the typical human desire for 'more'? However, much about industrialization, capitalism, and the 'factory' approach has led to far better lives for many of the people on this earth, albeit at substantial cost to the environment, which is not be dismissed lightly.
(p.s. I enjoy the intellectual debate, fwiw)