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An Atlantic correspondent uncovers the true cost--in economic, political, and psychic terms--of our penchant for making and buying things as cheaply as possible. From the shuttered factories of the rust belt to the look-alike strip malls of the sun belt, America has been transformed by its relentless fixation on low price, instead of durability and craftsmanship. This pervasive yet little examined obsession is arguably the most powerful and devastating market force of our time--the engine of globalization, outsourcing, planned obsolescence, and economic instability in an increasingly unsettled world. Author Shell traces the birth of the bargain as we know it from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line and beyond, and marshals evidence from a wide range of fields to show the vast effects of this insidious shift: a blighted landscape, escalating debt (both personal and national), stagnating incomes, fraying communities, and a host of other socioeconomic ills.--From publisher description.