Forgeries of Spoilage

When demand exceeds supply, there will be forgeries.  Paintings by Rembrandt are the locus classicus of this phenomenon, but a list of examples would be long and various.  If you’ve ever been disappointed by a “fine dining experience” or a “room with a view of the ocean,” it’s likely because what you got wasn’t really fine, or a view, but rather some crummy forgery or facsimile of the same.

I trust everyone understands that many academic degrees are forgeries, even though some the institutions granting them may be capable of turning out the genuine article.  The demand for fancy academic titles greatly exceeds the actual capacity of our society to supply them, so the shortfall is made up by forgeries.

I include under the head of “forgeries” not only criminal fakes, but also all of the legal forgeries that we call “knock-offs,” “imitations,” and “replicas.”  My middle son likes to point out what he tells me are “fake EZ shoes,” which look to me just as absurd as the originals.  Fake boobs are an example of a forgery by which art supplies a demand that nature cannot satisfy.

When supply exceeds demand, there will be spoilage.  Crops “rotting in the fields” is, perhaps, the locus classicus here, but there are, again, many variants.  Books sent to the shredder, unemployed lawyers, edible food that is thrown into a dumpster.

Many years ago, I worked in Washington, D.C., next door to a Hardees restaurant.  Around 10:00 o’clock each morning, we clerks would develop a curiously urgent interest in taking out the trash, since we knew that the Hardees’ unsold breakfast biscuits would be in the dumpster.  Of course all the bums in Farragut Square knew this as well, so that dumpster was a lively place around 10:00 o’clock each morning.

As the example of the Hardees dumpster shows, shortfalls of demand are often (but not always) conditional on the price.  When, round about 10:00 a.m., the price of a Hardees sausage biscuit fell to $0.00, demand suddenly exceeded supply (hence the “liveliness” around the dumpster).  And $0.00 is by no means the basement of demand, since you can always pay people to consume.

Obviously, there can be spoilage of forgeries, since forgers are hardly immune to overproduction.  But can there be forgeries of spoilage?  I don’t mean Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, which is actually ostentatious spoilage.  I mean the fabrication of items actually valuable, but intentionally made to look like something for which there is little or no demand?

Obviously there are.

I believe that, before venturing out in public, a very attractive woman will sometimes go to considerable lengths to forge the appearance of a less attractive women.  She does this with the aim of reducing the demand on her time by passing horn-dogs.  Indeed, anyone who tries to be inconspicuous is aiming to reduce demand by forging the appearance of being less interesting than they really are.  This can even rise to the level of an outright rudeness that is designed to “drive people away,” in which case we have a forgery of a man for whom there is no demand at all.

In addition to hiding their physical, social, and intellectual charms, people often have good reason to hide their wealth.  Just as many people forge an appearance of affluence in order to attract attention, so many other people forge an appearance of penury in order to avoid it.  They adopt a protective disguise that puts off criminals, sponges, fund raisers, and tax collectors.

I remember reading in Hunter Thompson’s autobiography that he ran for mayor of Aspen, Colorado, on the promise that he would change its name to Fat City, and thereby reduce demand for property in that place.  This would have been a forgery of spoilage because the right people would still have known that Fat City wasn’t just another rundown tourist trap filled with fat Iowans in Bermuda shorts, but actually the real deal for the inner circle of the jet set.

So, in every case I can think of, a forgery of spoilage aims to reduce unwanted demand with simulated undesirability.  It appears that forgeries of spoilage are, in fact, strategies of privacy, retirement, and serenity, and I suppose this is why they at first seem so improbable to people bent on self-promotion and other-directedness.

6 thoughts on “Forgeries of Spoilage

  1. Pingback: Forgeries of Spoilage | @the_arv

    • Working for minimum wage in a big city–you betcha! It really wasn’t that gross. They were always neatly wrapped, and usually still warm.

      • The place where I used to work food service actually forbade employees from eating leftover food, I’m assuming because they didn’t want us deliberately over producing. I get it, but it still always seemed like a waste.

      • I once worked as a dishwasher at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant. On my first day the manager ushered me to the steamy dishwashing room, where a huge drudge was busy hosing down the cups and plates that came clattering through the hatch in bussing trays. He was a happy drudge, for as he told me, this was “the best job in the world.” Looking to either side to be sure no one else would get in on the secret, he informed me that “anything that comes through the hatch is ours!” Half-eaten hamburgers, stray french fries, the remainder of milk shakes–all these were meat and drink to that huge and happy drudge.

  2. Pingback: Forgeries of Spoilage | Reaction Times


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