Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Free Market

For a number of years we have had a mailman notorious for spending his lunch break parked at the top of my parents' driveway reading Dad’s gun magazines. As a child we’d pull out in the minivan and wave. He’d hold up "American Rifleman" and wave. Later, Dad would get his magazine all nice and fluffed out from being pre-read. I didn't realize that wasn't normal until I was in college.

To this day he still leaves a note in my mailbox on June 23 wishing Mom a happy birthday and now he reads my gun magazines and Dad's. Certain unforeseen perks arise from living on the street you grew up on....

Our mail arrangement is a pretty equitable system. Arthur’s reading certainly doesn't cost us anything and most of the time he manages to shake all those annoying loose inserts out into the street as a public service. It is a symbiotic relationship based on an exchange of value. We let him read our magazines, he takes care of the inserts. Everybody is square. I appreciate that sort of courtesy from service providers and it further illustrates how prevalent the concept of "exchange" is in our society. To me, our arrangement with Arthur says "hey, ain't a free market friendly"?

We are a capitalist society, so if you live in the USA, no matter who you are or what your philosophical leanings; you’ll eventually have to enter into an exchange and generate some cash to get from A to B. I know that and I’m fine with the concept of “profit.” Profit means that I have to pay you some negotiated amount more than it costs you to do or make something, and you get to keep the extra. The key is “negotiation”. I don’t really have to pay you anything at all – you could give it to me. Or, I can pay you a ton. It’s up to us to work all that out.

Isn’t it fun?

If negotiations go properly, all parties ultimately feel the satisfaction of "winning". I get what I want - you get what you want; and we each leave convinced that we have somehow hoodwinked the other. In my experience, that is rarely ever true, but it is a pleasant fiction nonetheless.

My brother, Young George, calls that little bit extra from negotiation: “walking-around-money.” My other brother, Fred, calls it “cashy-spendy-money.” Whatever you call it - I’m glad to get it, but I’m also glad to give it because I don’t want to Roto-Root, for instance, or formulate my own termite spray, or grow huge volumes of tomatoes, or manufacture hairdryers for myself, or pump well water, or drill for oil and refine gasoline. Instead, I just pay someone a little bit more than it costs them to do it for me. Brilliant!!

Sometimes, even though I CAN, I don’t even want to do certain things to my own vehicle. Sure, I CAN put in a new set of wheel bearings, but that’s 3hrs I don’t have right now.

Due to time constraints, I recently crumbled, violated my strict DIY mentality, and took my ailing pickup to the shop. They have not yet called to attempt to take advantage of me, but when they do I anticipate a negotiation of some sort is shortly to commence. I shall report back the results directly.

1 comment:

K@ said...

You have an older brother? And his name is FRED?