VISITORS are invariably shocked. They see Americans cheerfully discarding cars, refrigerators or washing machines from which a French peasant, say, or a Greek shopkeeper would still get years of use. They are amazed at the serviceable suits that an American sends off to the Salvation Army the minute an elbow gives way or a knee frays. Tin cans that would roof a million Caribbean cottages are tossed onto scrap heaps. Perfectly good buildings are torn down and replaced by new ones with an economic life expectancy of only 50 years. Waste, outrageous waste,...

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