#15 – Planned Obsolescence

Our Founding Fathers, or at least some of them, built failure into the structure of our national government, that is to say, they didn’t want it to work. They succeeded! It hasn’t worked although for reasons they did not anticipate.

Obsolescence can be defined as a state of being which occurs when an object, service, institution or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. We admit that this definition does not exactly fit our purpose in this essay but you will get the idea as we continue.

The more common use of the term “planned obsolescence” was applied to products which were intentionally manufactured in such a way as to “wear out” so that the consumer would have to buy a replacement even though the manufacturer could have made the product to last much longer. In a sense, the manufacturer intentionally designed or manufactured a flawed product. The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and the subsequent struggle to implement the U. S. Constitution involved a similar process of planned obsolescence albeit unconsciously.

The problem has its genesis with the early colonists worshipping the god Mammon. The English had the same problem as they were putting the squeeze on the colonies to maximize revenue. “These colonial measures, too had considerable influence in shaping commerce, particularly the intercolonial coastwise trade. Politically they were a factor of disunity tending to separate the colonies rather than bring them together.”   (1)   This is the context as we continue our narrative. Competition rather than cooperation became the dominant behavior in politics as well as commerce. The influence and energy of the security center survival strategy of the false self was in evidence from the beginning of our history.

Back to the illustrious founding fathers and their intentional sabotage. “Once they stepped down from the picture frame and walked into the hurly-burly of actual political life, though, the founding fathers spent much of their time hiring professional slanderers to accuse one another of treason, malfeasance and perversion.”   (2)   In other words, Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton behaved pretty much the way that Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, et al. did of late.

The behavior and rhetoric today is reminiscent of that of the early days of the Republic. “This time around, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was the most adamant advocate of the Republican consensus when he called the president of the United States a ‘feckless weakling’ and asserted that both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton had ‘betrayed the American people.’”    (2)

The behavior of American politicians as they have over the years tried to implement the U. S. Constitution has not been exemplary. The latest presidential election cycle seemed to bring out the worst in those lusting for jobs in Washington. “It would be tempting to say that all this mark’s a new low in the annals of our democracy, save for the fact that this is how it has functioned, or failed to function, for much of its existence.”   (2)

“Now it is hard for anyone, white Americans included, to ignore the fact that national politics form the texture of our lives—now that, for example, tens of millions of us don’t know whether we’ll have medical coverage next year. Our marriages, our homes, our health and our lives depend on the loony, whimsical fibs and tantrums of bad-tempered oligarchs.”   (3)

What are the underlying causes of the failure of the American political system? “Political analysts attribute our current stalemate to a number of likely factors: the corrupting influence of money [the aforementioned Mammon]; the fall of the old party bosses and the advent of primaries; and now the rise of a social media that is centered on forming virtual communities of like-minded people. All true, but the heart of the matter is this: The system is not supposed to work.”   (2)

Why this planned obsolescence? “With a few notable exceptions, the men who drafted the American Constitution were much more concerned about the excesses of power than getting things done. They threaded it with checks and balances that made it easy for a determined opposition to stop any agenda. They considered parties to be an inherent evil.”   (2)

And finally, what is to be done about our government that faces so many complex challenges and yet is becoming increasingly unable to address them? Success on the part of a nation as well as an individual depends on having a plan that will actually work. “Young America was a nation possessed of immense energies but no compass, always threatening to sail off into chaos.”   (2)   To avoid the approaching chaos that has always loomed ahead we will need a better plan. See the link below for an outline of just such a plan.

Insight # 15: Every day each of us choose the reality we want to create and then we experience the consequences of that choice.



  1. Keir, Malcolm. The Pageant of America Volume IV. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927, page 22.
  2. Baker, Kevin. “Political Party Meltdown.” The New York Times. December 20, 2015, page 11.
  3. Anderson, M. T. “Essay: Planned Obsolescence.” The New York Times Sunday Review. December 31, 2017, page 16.