The Upward Price Spiral Letters

Letters in response appeared in the June and July 2011 issues:

The upward price spiral
Editor: In John Atkinson's very appropriate column on "The Upward Price Spiral" of audio gear ("As We See It," April 2011), he seemed to accept the inevitability of growing income inequality, although, to be fair, he did not seem to feel it was necessarily a good thing. There is certainly a lot of merit in his solution: that companies continue to make quality products at an affordable price. Certainly, from my point of view, there is no need to apologize for reviewing $300 speakers. When I still had a good middle-class job, I bought Vandersteens. Now, if I ever buy any audio gear again, it will be something like the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s reviewed in the same issue.

I do feel a need to respond directly to the economic issues he raised, however. He quoted Prof. Andrew Caplin and Senator Rand Paul on the need to accept inequality as a fact of life, without much comment beyond saying that they seem to have a point. Please allow me to name a few dissenting voices: Nobel Prize–winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have written extensively on why they believe that our level of wealth inequality cannot be sustained, at least not in a healthy democracy.—Roberto Keim, Talent, OR

The rise of the weekend
Editor: John Atkinson was certainly correct in pointing out Henry Ford's importance in helping establish "the American middle class" ("The Upward Price Spiral," April, p.3). But it is imperative that readers of Stereophile recognize another figure equally as important. Walter Reuther fought Henry Ford with word and deed in helping establish the United Auto Workers.

On May 26, 1937, the famous "Battle of the Overpass" set goons working for Henry Ford with club and truncheon against Reuther and his men outside the Ford Rouge Complex, sending Reuther to the hospital. Two subsequent attempts on Walter Reuther's life (no one knows who was responsible) resulted in the loss of the use of his right arm. Reuther ultimately brought 1.5 million workers into the UAW and, along with other notable union organizers around the country, helped bring Americans the "weekend," without which all the speakers, amplifiers, and other high-, medium-, and low-end components would have been superfluous.— Leonard Natinsky,

Structure and form
Editor: I wanted you to know how much I appreciated John Atkinson's piece in the April Stereophile about "The Upward Price Spiral" and what it might mean. He really grasped the underlying economics, and presented it in a way that I think everyone can understand. I think that I'd had similar thoughts in the past, but they were unformed and amorphous; he gave those thoughts structure and form. It was a truly great piece of magazine writing.—Michael A. Bruno,

Thank you, Mr. Bruno. Mr. Natinsky: I am not unaware of the work of Walter Reuther, nor was I trying to portray Henry Ford in a false light. But I do feel that it was Ford's more-than-doubling of the American daily wage in 1914 that catalyzed the nascent growth of the middle class in this country. And I agree with you, Mr. Kein, that the current level on income inequality in the US is unsustainable.John Atkinson


emorrisIV's picture

A small correction: Rand Paul is the junior Senator from Kentucky. Ironically to his comments; one of the most repressed states in the union.

I agree with the notion of the rich being the main customer focus in many markets. Cars,audio,clothing; they seem to be the only ones with disposable incomes and they want expensive (perceived as quality) goods. Thanks for pointing this out, though I personally have realized it for some time.
I hope that if more people come to realize it, they will understand why it is so important that we cut their taxes even more and then we will all reap the benefits of being trickled on even more.


shaunehunter's picture

A strong middle class is what made the United States the world's largest market. A large, wealthy middle class is the difference between the first and third worlds. I really didn't this article could be that badly missinterpreted.

sudont's picture

Yes, and don't forget us working-class audiophiles! Henry Ford, in spite of his other bizarre notions, at least had sense enough to understand where his money came from - something that today's capitalists and politicians seem not to understand. Jobs are created when many people have money to buy stuff - not when a few rich people have a bigger pile.

As for me, used uquipment is all I can ever afford. I've had to build my system over the years by buying used, and trading up. What prompted the search that brought me to this article was the thought that I might actually be able to afford my first piece of brand-new equipment - a pair of Maggies. I happened to see the price of their speakers looking for something else. It never would of occured to me that I might be able to afford new speakers! Not decent ones, anyway. My thanks to Magnepan for being one of the few companies not over-charging for their products. I'd like to see Stereophile using their influence to encourage more of this. After all, wouldn't it create more customers for Stereophile if more "normal" people were able to afford to own actual hi-fi stereos?