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The Great Can Opener Gap

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Tags Capital and Interest TheoryPhilosophy and MethodologyValue and Exchange

12/29/2006

I'm sick of our economic whiners and their tear-stained statistics. "Ten Million American children go to bed hungry every night." Baloney, thick sliced and ready for your intellectual palate! Who believes such falsification? Were it true, fifty million Americans, given the generosity of Americans, would announce a bedtime snack program. "Kid, if you're hungry come by my house — or better yet, I'll bring by a couple pieces of fried chicken with a side of fries. Total cost: about 40 cents in my kitchen. What American would not sign up for such frugal charity if the statistic were true?

Around Christmas time it's appropriate to consider that never in the annals of history — at least not since the closure of the Garden of Eden — have basic neccesities been so available to so many for so little work. Our system, call it compassionate capitalism — even with the damage due to government interference — still pumps out sustenance for ALL!

A small proof: I see a TV ad praising a new magnetic can opener — just attach it to the can and push a button. Bingo, it opens the can. A nice convenience — but only a convenience. The market is flooded with cheaper can openers and this robotic device costs twenty bucks. A sizeable sum — 20 pounds of bargain chicken, 40 kitchen-made burgers for hungry kids, a pile of chops. And over at the dollar store, they have one of those old fashioned manual metal-bladed things that does the same job. I mean they both open a can. The dollar store product runs from 50 cents to a dollar or so. Same function.

But so prosperous are we that these twenty dollar handy-dandys sell like buttered popcorn. "We can't keep them in stock", a local retailer told me. Imagine! There is an exhuberant market for a gadget that saves us a few seconds of turning a handle, but costs 20 times the price of the basic device. That says a mouthful about the economy; and much more accurately than a Paul Krugman editorial that ruminates on the income gap that blights the land. What would he call this phenomenom, the can-opener gap?

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