As I continue working on items to sell in my Etsy shop, I think yet again about an issue that has also come up with regard to dulcimers, being a semi-professional musician, and shopping for clothes, groceries, and other things. It’s about quality, price, stewardship, and ethics.
I generally believe “you get what you pay for.” That is, it’s often worthwhile to spend extra to get something that will last, that will be sturdy, that will be versatile, that will be more enjoyable, or whatever. That the difference between the $20 item and the $200 item is usually an important difference.
My dulcimer was more expensive than many others — I thought it was worth it because a) it sounds and looks more appealing to me than others and b) when I bought it I was already performing and getting ready to record a CD and it seemed being semi-professional could justify having a better instrument.
How many starving children could I have fed with the money I spent on the dulcimer?
Likewise, we’re paying for Montessori school and the gas and time to get Amy there, when there are much less expensive (and much more local) options available, because we believe the difference matters. If the difference matters to us, shouldn’t it matter to everyone else, too? If Montessori is really that great, shouldn’t everyone have access to it?
How much less oil could we have consumed if we hadn’t picked a school an hour away?
If I make things to sell on Etsy that I couldn’t afford to buy (remembering that materials are cheaper than finished products), am I increasing the gap between the rich and the poor?
If the $200 item is really better than the $20 item, shouldn’t everyone be able to get one? And if the $20 item is really good enough, why would anyone need the $200 item?
On the one hand, we should honor and value the work that people put into their craft — prices should reflect their labor and attention to detail and the quality of the product.
On the other hand, we should make it more possible for more people to buy better things — better in the most solid sense of the word, and not just faddish or flashy.
Sometimes I sidestep the issue by buying secondhand, or learning to do things myself…