Why I Hate Macklemore Part 2: The Capitalist in Denial

2. Macklemore is cashing in on the hipster fad.

You know what’s in style right now? Being a hipster. Whether it’s making fun of hipsters with shows like Portlandia, supporting hipster fashion like Skrillex, or some hipster I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-this-is-supposed-to-be-doing media with shows like Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl, you’re living under a rock to say that hipster-ism hasn’t exploded.

Fucking face it. You own a flannel shirt. And if you don’t it’s because you don’t look good in them and you wish you did. Even I own some fucking flannel shirts, it’s the way this evil goddamn society works.

But Macklemore looked at all this and was all: “Wait, what hasn’t been cashed in on yet? OH I KNOW. HOW to be a hipster.” And he shows you in great detail with his song Thrift Shop.

“So here’s how it’s done kids! You go to that shitty store that all the poor people usually go, find things, tell yourself you like them and they’re cool, then buy them and wear them in front of people smugly. MAKE SURE YOU’RE EXTRA SMUG WE CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH!!! THIS IS THE ONLY WAY PEOPLE WILL KNOW YOU’RE BETTER THAN THEM FOR SAVING MONEY.”
–Macklemore

They be like “Oh that Gucci, that’s hella tight” /
I’m like “Yo, that’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt…” /
Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition /
Fifty dollars for a t-shirt that’s just some ignorant bitch shit

For the record: I’ve spent fifty dollars on shirts before. They’ve never worn out. “Ignorant bitch shit” is buying poor quality, not spending money.

Most of the song talks about the random, funny, oh-my-god-no-way bullshit Macklemore buys at thrift shops; these four bars (and maybe like, three more) are really the only ones where he calls out consumerism. The rest is just party music (I live in a college town, trust me: it’s party music). On the whole, the message isn’t even received—it’s a catchy-ass beat and the lyrics hardly touch on anything actually meaningful. But there’s an ugly side to those who took something “ethical” away from the song.

Fuck simple addition, I’ma drop some simple economics on you, Macklemore: thrift shops and second-hand stores originally targeted low-income individuals. I don’t care if that’s offensive, it’s how it is and store owners know that low-income citizens are (or were) their customer base.

There’s a higher demand in the thrift business than ever before. And if you increase the demand for thrift-shop items, guess what happens? The price goes up! And what causes demand to shift in the first place? …Right! Changes in taste and preference.

But, Chris, won’t the supply line eventually shift to the right since other producers would see the higher prices, and be induced to join the market? And won’t this balance out the increase in demand, effectively lowering the price again? Classically, yes. But this is what’s interesting about the thrift shop business: this hasn’t happened in a way the keeps prices constant. Most likely it’s that supply is chasing demand, which is growing at an increasing pace. On the whole, thrift shop prices have been rising. Something’s keeping competition from driving the price down.

In short, there’s little incentive to balance prices out because an increase in demand doesn’t really change the cost of supply. It does, however, increase the cost to consumers.

So here’s what you’re doing: you’re causing a spike in the number of people who want to shop at thrift shops because “it’s the cool thing to do”. But these people can tell themselves that they’re anti-corporate, that they’re part of a special, socially conscious market that denies the bottom line. You’ve turned it into a trend and a religion. And now, on the whole, prices for items from thrift shops are increasing. What about those low-income people? Fuck em! Now the business is making more money than ever because they can charge a higher price and they make even more money on the margin. From the standpoint of a store owner, there’s absolutely no incentive to resist where the market is taking prices because what’s the goal of any business? From the standpoint of a customer, I’m happy because I can smother myself in my own delusion and be trendy. From the standpoint of a poor person, I’m fucking fucked.

TO MAXIMIZE PROFITS.

Sounds a lot like private ownership of capital goods. Sounds a lot like investments determined by private decision.

Sounds a lot like you’re promoting capitalism and your product is ideas, Macklemore.

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