The Good Joe

by LF (10/23/99)

What exactly is your definition of a Good American? That's sort of a burning question right now in North Carolina, a semi-cerebral chunk of fallout from Hurricane Floyd. The sizzling phrase of the moment is "price gouging," which is being slopped over all sorts of activities and practices now that the recovery from the flooding is in full swing.

First, Revisiting Econ 201

The rock upon which Classical Economics foundered grew out of its inadequate understanding of value. In the crucial debate over why one item was more desirable than another, the early economists (who were empiricists or utilitarians) mistakenly assumed that those goods which required more labor, especially more skilled labor, should rightly command a higher price. Otherwise, it was argued, shouldn't a five-ton locomotive cost the same as five tons of railroad spikes? It was this misconception that can be seen as leading to both Adam Smith's somewhat incongruous notions of economic fairness, and ultimately to Karl Marx's Exploitation Theory (which partially explains the nut's initial acceptance as a useful thinker).

Objective labor-value, although occasionally troubling, went largely unchallenged until the 1870s when the work of Carl Menger, Leon Walras, and William Stanley Jevons began to gain some prominence. These men introduced the notion of Marginal Utility, which asserts that the market-wide price for any good -- assuming that each unit is interchangeable, or fungible -- is established by the least critical (based upon what the competing industries and/or individuals would be willing to pay) application to which the existing supply can profitably be put. This answers the questions as to why gold, which traditionally has been used to make pretty trinkets, costs more than steel, and why sand, which is the basis for expensive silicon computer chips, is still near worthless.

A necessary outgrowth was the acknowledgment that value is entirely subjective -- which condenses neatly down to "a thing's worth what you can get for it" -- as each consumer makes decisions based upon an infinite number of individually-selected criteria. This is why capitalism always stomps the crap out of Socialism, because it diversifies economic decision-making to the greatest possible extent (at least until corporations discover that it is risky to duke it out in the marketplace, and start consolidating their positions by renting slimy politicians who can cripple upstart competitors with regulations).

If misguided jokers want to charge more for their wares than the market will bear, then they will eventually fail. Unless they enjoy a government-granted monopoly or are a "public utility", of course. A chilling example of the latter is Public Service North Carolina, a regional natural gas concern. Over the last six days I called them a grand total of forty-three times. Forty-one times I received an "all circuits are busy" recorded message from Southern Bell, caused by PSNC shutting-down every single one of their local offices in order to save some bucks by routing all calls to a central location, which is apparently fed by only a handful of incoming lines. So there are a LOT of folks in the area who are currently fully enjoying the marvels of 30-40 degree Fahrenheit morning temperatures. The good news is that the scabs can get around to re-hooking me next Thursday.

Second, Back to Floyd

A week before the flood, the local Kroger was selling gallon jugs of water for fifty cents apiece. Now, if that price had stayed the same, how many trucks do you think would've hit the road to resupply the area after the rain slackened? Sure, the stores that refused to raise their prices won some points from customers who managed to beat the rest of the crowds -- but that good will didn't mean that their shelves were any less empty. All they were doing was rewarding the quickest of the grasshoppers who lacked enough foresight to prepare ahead of time.

How many of the armies of guys in full-sized pickups hauling Bush Hogs would have roared over if all they could look forward to was working 14-hour days and sleeping in their cabs in exchange for the same fees they could just as easily earn back home? Prices provide critical INFORMATION to both buyers and sellers of goods and services, and you can only hope that the consumers who got stung once will learn from the experience. Them that can't or won't are probably too stupid to roam the streets without a beefy matron staying within easy tackling range.

Third, Circling Around to the Original Question

After too many days of hearing the whiners from both the Left and the Right go on and on about "gouging" and "selfishness" and "greed", I'm about ready to puke. So really, when you shave away all the fluff, what in your estimation makes a Good American? How many hoops do you expect people to jump through? Apparently for some choads, the list is neverending.

Personally, I couldn't give a rip if my neighbor hoards candles or cans of Beanee Weenee. As long as she leaves me and mine alone, she can sleep on crates of the damned things. The decision to sell off those treasures to the highest bidder should then be entirely up to her. Similarly, if she had the brains to top off her tank before Floyd hit while I stupidly forgot and ran dry, that did not give me leave to siphon off a few gallons to make a beer run.

I don't think I can possibly convey the depth of unconcern I have for the actions of others. I don't care who they diddle, if they get diseases, what they smoke or stick into their arms or arse, if their kids go hungry, what they own or don't own, how much money they make, or how they make it. Just leave me the heck out of the fucking loop and don't make me pay for YOUR concern.

Oh, and if you're a nitwit, I'll bet your first argument will be about the chilllllldrunnnnn. Shit, this whole kid thing has just got to GO! I don't care how it is finally decided, but let's just declare once and for all whether the little snots are:

It's the gaping gray area between the two poles that's causing all the interminable screeching.

. . .

Something that always cracks me up is when Ivy League-trained socialist shitpokes hop on first-class airline seats and then take up luxury accommodations at taxpayer expense in order to explain "market economics" to post-Commie proles. Oh wait, that's not fair. The people they always end up talking to are the old commandantes, decked-out in more finely tailored suits courtesy of the dependably drunken sailors at the IMF and the World Bank, who are ALWAYS on liberty, and to whom no puttied-up whore is ever too disgusting for a billion-dollar tumble.

In the section above I used the term "capitalism", which is misleading since the "-ism" implies an artificial political philosophy imposed from above (Socialism, for example, definitely qualifies). But capitalism is merely the absence of government control over the means of production, etc. The thought that whiz kids from our most exclusive Left-dominated campuses can teach anything to even the sorriest little peasant is pretty ridiculous when you realize that the ONLY reason that there was not widespread famine in many of those countries is because of the black market, which is capitalism in its most furtive and least efficient form. Someone who has learned to dicker and wheedle over a bag of millet under the threat of a trip to a "work camp" if they get caught will not gain a lot by talking to some blotchy-complexioned dork who strolled through Harvard on Daddy's dime.

All our airy-fairy types want to do, of course, is to blow enough cubic meters of smoke up enough asses so that struggling countries with a shot at freedom end up with a new junta or a People's Republic, and drop back to where they started, staving off starvation only through remaining in the good graces of bureaucrats from overseas with boxcars of unearned wealth to burn, who just looooove to get treated like royalty whenever they jet into town. So if a couple million serfs have to get crushed under the wheels of their limos, well . . . like they used to say in the Polish Army, that's just toughski shitski.

Up the spout