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Real Stimulus

February 2, 2009

Let me just say that I love auctions.  For me there is not a better afternoon than one spent watching seemingly worthless junk bid on by the assembled masses.  It’s market research, price determination, and all the other qualifiers of capitalism all rolled into one, albeit brief, interaction.  There are no barriers to entry, no seniority, no VIP status.  Political stroke ain’t gonna do ya a bit of good in this arena.

So it was no coincidence that I found myself at a restaurant auction in a small Oklahoma town (we’ll call it Bugtussle) this last Saturday.  I had wanted to send the Mrs alone, it was her stuff we were after, and I had stuff to do, but she proclaimed she would not be thrown to the wolves.

What I saw in Bugtussle that day was a hundred or so people crammed into a recently closed diner, listening to the rolling cadence of the cowboy hat wearing auctioneer.  They represented all walks of life, young and old, cowboy boot wearing locals and various immigrants.  If the latter didn’t speak the language it was irrelevant, for they had a number and a wad of cash, and were thus equals to anyone in the room, all thanks to the democratizing power of the dollar.  Watching folks bid on the assorted cookware, and later on the appliances and cabinetry in the back, I could not help but think of the rumored economic downturn, and the even more supposed “stimulus” to be coming out of Washington.

Every person in that room represented a dream.  Whether it was a current ongoing dream, or the first seed of a new one, they were there because of their own motivations.  Each one was their own Atlas, holding up not only themselves, but the lives of the others they employ.  They had come to take home the things we take for granted in such a business.  Long before the bidding was even done they had descended upon the assembled items like a pack of locusts, carting off the tables, chairs, cookware, salt and pepper shakers, etc.  Am I saying that pure capitalism is like a  swarm of insects?  Well, yeah.  Like the bugs that clean up an animal carcass, the buyers were taking the valuable resources and scattering them to the four winds.  What will provide more economic benefit for the Vietnamese restaurant owner, the coming “stimulus” or the pile of half price silverware and cooking utensils in her trunk?  Which resources will be put to productive use quicker, funding for STD prevention, or the deep fryer that the Mexican father bought for pennies on the dollar?  A concept that takes weeks for a bureaucrat to even comprehend is completed in an afternoon, and to far more effectiveness.

Businesses need to fail if they’re not productive.  Bailing the place out would effectively be mandating that those resources be put to an unproductive use.  Who does that help?  Why prolong the inevitable?  It’s not as if it’s given away, the owner of the place got a nice check, he was an old man, perhaps he was retiring.  Set a date and watch the buyers come, thanks to nothing but a sale bill.  They’ll even do the work for you.  The building was empty by the end, without anything resembling a committee or central planning.  Often people that had been bidding against each other all day helped each other load items, to their mutual benefit.  In fact the guy that helped me load out a table offered me twice what I paid for it,  the ultimate compliment in such circles.

What did we get, why were we there?  We snagged some stainless steel counters and sinks.  Vines & Cattle is more than just a not so clever blog name, it’s a business plan.

Oh, and the Mrs who was afraid of being thrown to the wolves?  She was bidding on stuff behind my back by the end of the day.

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From → Personal

One Comment
  1. Jen permalink

    Damn straight, you weren’t bidding on that sink. 😉

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