John, one thing you said has always been true for the majority of people:
"You cannot afford to purchase one-off custom-made products. As expensive as an automobile is, try making one yourself. Here is a shovel - go dig some iron ore to start. How about a crystal mouth-blown catsup bottle?"
It's a misconception to think that back in the days when all things were made by hand, most people could afford to have them. They couldn't. The standard of craftsmanship was high, but the standard of living was very low by some of the most basic measures. In the Seventeenth Century, long before disposable Ikea furniture, all furniture was made by hand from hand-prepared wood (there wasn't even lumber in today's sense, so do-it-yourself building was really limited to professionals). The furniture was all very nice. The flipside of this is that the typical middle class household would have one or two real pieces of furniture. Typically a rough hewn table with benches and an heirloom chest of drawers. These would be worth months and months of wages and would be passed on for generations. It was impossible for all but the very rich to have things like chairs, sofas, beds. Is this a better situation than ours today? In some ways, and from some perspectives, yes. But in many ways no. I don'k know too many people who would prefer it.
Photography is a more recent example, For its first several decades it was a pursuit limited to the elite. Only very wealthy members of the leisure class could afford the time, equipment, and materials to practice it. Gradually, technological innovations like the dry plate, film, silver paper, the brownie, the 35mm camera, and now the digital camera, have democratized the medium. Is this a good thing? Not in the eyes of the very rich who'd rather keep it to themselves. But I think it's been good for the world that more people have had a chance. How much great talent would never have been known if photography remained limited to the elite few?
Does this progression have its downsides? Of course--everything does. Are they insurmountable? Get real. It's been a hundred years since platinum printing died (with the discontinuation of commercial platinum papers). Yet somehow, there were more people making platinum prints in 1999 than ever before in history.
... And others making silver prints, and others making digital prints. In the big picture, choices are expanding, not contracting. Of coure this leaves room for people to make unfortunate choices--if your neighbor's kid truly does nothing but play video games, then that is indeed sad. But there are other kids doing amazing things--mixing music and making videos in home studios, inventing new sports, silkscreening original designs on shirts, and in some cases doing photography. If it's digital photography, then great. It means that kids who ten years ago couldn't have afforded to explore that side of their creativity can do so today. Would you take that away from them?