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Capitalism makes life more complex

Until I see an economic system that works better than capitalism, I will always believe in capitalism. But sometimes our system can make life a little too complex.

The innovations of bright, enterprising entrepreneurs have improved the quality of my life in many ways. For example, one of the best things that ever happened to me is receiving a free sample of a tri-blade razor in the mail about 10 years ago. It made shaving much more bearable, and I have been buying it ever since.

But sometimes capitalism can be overbearing. For starters, I can't buy anything without being hassled to buy something else.

My car insurer has been peppering me with e-mails about a "complimentary membership program" that will save me money if I go to certain merchants. Even if there were no "catch" to this offer, I would never remember the merchants -- or even the program -- when I needed to buy something. What does car insurance have to do with shopping, anyway?

I don't want to learn more about this offer -- or any other offer -- because it inevitably requires registering on a Web site. I am tired of giving someone my personal information, only to never visit the site again because I forgot my password. Of course, I could write down my passwords, but I have been conditioned by technology-savvy people to never write down passwords.

Even if I didn't have to register online, I would certainly receive some type of card. Store cards are involved in almost every transaction these days. I used to fall for the department store trick of 10 percent off the initial purchase by opening a store card. But now I realize a few extra bucks in my wallet are not worth another card in my wallet. I already feel like I'm sitting on a rock.

Besides, a 10 percent discount might be a good deal for a metro-sexual, but it translates to only a few bucks for a timid shopper like me. All I get is another card, more paperwork and monthly mailings to clutter up the house. It's not that great of a deal.

I even need a store card to buy groceries. A long time ago, I simply had to pull some cash from my wallet and pay the price that was on the little sticker. Now, the price depends on whether I have the store's card or not. Is it even legal to charge one person more than another for the same item?

I just don't understand why I need a card to get the lower (i.e., real) price. If I don't have my card, the cashier will actually borrow a card from another shopper, so that I get the lower price. Does giving me the lower price have to be that complex?

Speaking of grocery stores, "new and improved" products fuel complexity more than anything else. While trying to decide which toothpaste to buy, I used to look like a mannequin in the store aisle: Baking soda or no baking soda? Tartar control or plaque control?

In elementary school, dental hygienists had always warned us about plaque, but never tartar. Has evolution spawned tartar in the last 20 years, or have scientists only recently discovered it, or are some people just inventing flaws for personal gain?

Whatever the reason, here's a good rule of thumb: If you've been content with the original, then just stick with it. It obviously doesn't need to be improved.

But sometimes a great improvement does come along. After all, I am no longer afraid to shave in the morning, and I have capitalism to thank for that.

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