Wednesday, 21 March 2012

No Downfall, Spiral or Evolution Underway

When I stepped back into the US in 2010.....I came to watch more business news, and read the Wall Street Journal on a regular basis.  There are a number of observations I can make....but this blog concerns what I see as an odd media direction.  There are numerous books out there and being reviewed by folks.....over the downfall of capitalism, the spiral of capitalism, the decline of capitalism, and the evolution of capitalism.  I'd be guessing that over the past three years....at least one hundred books have appeared in some fashion or another.  The theme is typically....capitalism is dead or dying.

I don't profess to being an expert on capitalism, or having studied much of anything beyond basic economics in college.  From high school....I don't remember any teacher ever mentioning the word capitalism more than once or twice a year.  But I've had these fifty odd years of living in the US and around the world.....and have come to have this funny and amusing view of capitalism.  The basic structure of capitalism hasn't changed in two thousand years....which ought to make the negative folks rethink their entire argument.

There are five basic rules to capitalism:

1.  You build and sell only what people want.  If you build or attempt to sell something they don't want.....they won't buy it.  It is that simple.

2.  If someone builds your product at a cheaper price but at an inferior quality, you still 'own' the market.  Once they pass your quality level, you are screwed.  It is that simple.

3.  You have to expect the government (state, federal, or international) to impede, hinder, or tax everything you market, sell, or manufacture.  It is that simple.

4.  High technology developments never occur in 3rd-world countries, but they will adapt to your product and eventually reproduce it for less.  It is that simple.

5.  Risk is the heart and anchor of capitalism.  Failure to understand or grasp risk is the chief problem with anti-capitalists.  No risk?  There would only be Coke and Pepsi existing today, and they'd be $7 a can.  No risk?  No car would be advanced beyond 1960s technology today and max speed would be 45 mph.  No risk?  There would be one brand of dog chow, and it'd be $40 for what you commonly pay $9 for today.  No risk?  Whiskey would be sold at no more than seven percent alcohol and cost $35 a bottle.  It is that simple.

So when some Harvard professor appears on the Today Show and chats over the demise of capitalism.....you might ought to ask yourself some stupid and simple questions.  You need to ask yourself....what exactly is waiting in the wings to replace capitalism?

A Flush A Day

Nassau County, New York, for those who aren't aware of the legendary status of the county.....is one of the biggest tax revenue buckets in the nation.  The cops, the county road guys, the local jailhouse, the prosecution salary structure, the judges, the schools, etc.....demand a huge pot to operate from.  So taxes are a daily topic of discussion.

This week....the county commission came to the schools, and basically said that there would be this fee assigned for each flush of the toilet in the school system.  Basically, you can figure one penny per gallon, being assigned to the nineteen school districts in the county.  The revenue gathered?  One district figures their bill (and they weren't a large district)....would be around $87k for this penny-per-flush deal.

Naturally, this would bring a Bama guy around to a moment of pondering.  I'm kinda surprised that county commissions haven't jumped on this before and done this to everyone.  Schools and church organizations are typically exempt from fees like this.....so this is a fresh new prospective....no one gets a free ticket.

It brings you around to thinking about the quantity of water necessary to flush.  Having lived in Europe....it's a bit different there.  There's no standing water much in a European toilet....when you flush....it literally pumps in the water necessary to wash your "item" away at that point.  If you needed a full gallon....fine, you can press the right button and get the gallon.  But there's the half-gallon button sitting there and usually provides all you need.

This brings you to being a parent in Nassau County.  You can imagine this note coming home from Johnny Junior's school.  It basically says that school figured out that each kid uses the toilet an average of twelve times a week, that a school fee is now figured up, and you owe $12 for Johnny Junior's waste disposal for the entire year.

You pause over this....telling Johnny Junior to just walk outside the school for all his 'liquid' disposal episodes....and tell the school that you think $5 is enough for his more solid disposal.  School officials are disturbed over your advice....in that they really don't want a urine smell around the school bus parking lot.  Some folks might even discuss the idea of teaching every kid to "hold" in his situation as long as possible, in hopes that he might leave the school at 3PM and make it home in time to release.  The medical folks would be fairly upset about a suggestion like that.

Eventually, someone suggests that guys should do their liquid disposal together....two at a time....and save a cent on each flush.  Someone will say that invites some funny feelings, and probably isn't the kind of feeling you want in a high school bathroom.

All of this simply invites 'toilet-talk' around the county commission.  Someone will ask if a fee box ought to be put into each bathroom at the county court house, and make everyone pay a penny as they enter to flush.  A laugh or two will occur, and eventually it's all forgotten.  The sad thing here....is that the schools will simply take this fee and pass it on.  So the county should have just plain taxed everyone and avoided the middle guy, but they weren't smart enough to figure that out.

The Local Guys Know the Score

I read through this Sanford, Florida shooting episode between the Latino guy and the black kid.  It is kinda amazing the amount of press coverage yesterday....from the Today Show....all the way to the local 6PM news.  What you have is some Latino property owner in a gated community....who thinks he is followed by some black kid who is going to rob him.  A discussion or argument occurs at some point, within the gated community, and the black kid (17 years old) is shot by the Latino guy.

George Zimmerman, the Latino guy, claims self-defense.  The parents of the kid, Trayvon Martin, claim he was unjustly shot.  The local cops have gone through the evidence, by local laws.  They haven't charged George with any crime yet.  The parents of the kid are very unhappy with this....demanding charges immediately.  Naturally, the Justice Department is now involved, and working toward a Grand Jury episode, with federal laws applying.

I would make three observations in this case.

First, based on the telephone recording with 9-11 operators....I'd suggest that George (the shooter) might have had legal or illegal drugs in his system.  I doubt if the cops did any blood-test of George, and at this point....it might not matter any more.

Second, in most states.....George would get some type of charge immediately, but in Florida, there is this stand in place law, which allows a guy to confront someone he perceives to be a threat.  The Florida law says you could shoot, if you feel threaten in some manner.  The problem here....the kid didn't have a single weapon on himself.  Not even a 2-inch pocket knife.

Third and final, the cops haven't filed any charges mostly because they know you have to present the case in front of a Florida jury....make up of local folks.  Since most folks in Florida have been robbed or threatened in their life.....they'd identify with George. Out of twelve folks on a jury, you only need one person to identify himself or herself as being just like George.

These fed guys will pat themselves on the back and get some federal Grand Jury to allow serious charges.  But the truth is....once you get into a Florida courtroom.....you have to find twelve jurors, who all will fail to identify themselves like George.  I don't think you can do that....within the state of Florida.  So, George will win in the end.  It might be a mistrial and be done over a second, third and fourth time.....but it won't matter....you just need one juror to screw up the fed case.  

The local cops and prosecutor know the score....they don't intend to waste their money or time on a dead-end case.  The feds?  Well....they've got millions to waste on this.  I expect this to take five years for the Feds to admit it the win potential in this case is pretty low.

Note: Added observation.  Eight out of ten news sources I went to....say that George is "white"....but George is absolutely Latino.  They even featured pictures of George, which made their commentary that of a 5th-grade school newspaper.