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In specific, perhaps the salt water industry has made use of the "difficulty" of their version of the hobby to create a perception of exclusivity, which they can play to with pricing and marketing? Like golf, sports cars, and other markets where prices greatly exceed the cost of manufacture?
I agree with this. I think part of the answer is that freshwater is perceived as easier and less technical, but also maybe it is simply that the freshwater planted side of the hobby hasn't caught on here to the degree that it has in other countries for whatever reason.

Is it that we aren't willing to dish out the $$$, or is it that the market just hasn't matured here yet?

In general, it's the capitalist mentality. As an individual, my goal is always to get the lowest price. Businesses respond by lowering their costs.

As a consumer, I don't make the connection that this can drive underpaid waiters, assembly line workers, or janitors to steal from me to feed their families.
A true capitalist strives to get the best value for their money. This is very different from getting the lowest price. Just trying to get stuff as cheap cheap cheap as possible is not capitalism, it is what people label as capitalism (or a "capitalist mentality") so they can blame it for the current state of affairs.

There are other countries in the world where it costs $$$ to eat out, clothes cost $$$, taxis cost $$$, but the overall standard of living is the highest on the planet.

It also makes people much more conscious of quality and value, preservation and conservation.
What is the "It" in this last sentence?
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