Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rarity, Schmarity

Humans have this strange habit of assigning value to objects (or even ideas) based on their scarcity, or even the perception thereof. When we notice there aren't too many of any one thing, we HAVE to have it, simply so we can smugly enjoy that WE have something that most people don't, as if that makes us special. Now, if that scarcity happens to involve an ability of some sort, say, the ability to speak Tierra Del Fuagan, Spanglish Hip-Hop, or orangatangian, then I have to admit you probably have something to brag about, that is, if anyone can understand you. Then there are those super-rich art collectors who purchase stolen art and hang them on walls in hidden bunkers where only they can enjoy them, unless they feel like impressing some blond bimbo with their "etchings", although most blond bimbos don't know an etching from and itching, and are more impressed with the guy's bank account anyway.

OK, yes, I admit, scarcity can lend real value to an object, especially if the scarcity involves food, water, air, an apartment you can afford, a safe passage from home to work, or gasoline at just about any price. Of course, some scarcities are artificial; they have plenty of it, they just keep it out of reach until the price is right. The only reason that works with many items is people's tendency to give in and pay the ransom rather than simply saying "fuck you, I'll buy it when it's reasonably priced."
This is the one incredible super-power that consumers never seem smart or brave enough to employ. The new Play Station 3 would not cost $600 if there weren't so many idiots camping out in front of Circuit City in order to be first in line to fork over their hard earned money for a stupid video game console. The smart idiots wait about a year and pay half that much.

But I digress (copyright 2004, TimId)

What irritates me to no end is artificial scarcity. The two most egregious offenders are Gold and Diamonds. OK, yes, if you compare the total mass of the upper crust of the entire planet, I would admit that Gold and Diamonds make up a very tiny percentage of that total. However, in the market, scarcity is relative, especially when there is no shortage whatsoever in these gems and metals. All you have to do is walk thru a Mall, anywhere in the world (except Tierra Del Fuego, I suppose), and you will find half a dozen kiosks and an equal number of jewelry stores, not to mention the anchor stores, simply overflowing with gold chains and charms, and hundreds of gemstones, diamonds, and other so-called "rare" metallic jewelry. The mints, be they Franklin or junior, stamp out gold coins by the ton, half of which would have to be melted back down to render any real value. Or, if you happen to be white and very, very brave, stroll thru the "hood" and witness the bling hanging off the necks of the players in communities that claim to be underprivileged and oppressed. Just don't dare scuff that tricked up SUV with the spinner hubs. The GOLD plated spinner hubs.

So, let's admit what true value really entails. It really IS rare, or it actually serves a purpose beyond mere admiration. Food is a good example. In some places, food can be rather scarce, and is either free via charity or overpriced on a black market. If my plane is going down on a deserted island, am I going to grab as many bags of peanuts as I can get my hands on, or clutch my briefcase with the 5 South African Gold Kroners each mounted in their own plastic cases? Water is not thought of to be all that scarce in this country, but look at the sales of bottled water. Look at your water bill if you own a pool and a hot tub and a golf course lawn and 5 very large aquariums. Then there are those closets in New York City they like to call apartments. I could expand Pendragon Hold to ten acres for the sale price of just one of those cramped little rooms, but people pay the rent, and have about as much money left over after payday from their high paying job as I do, and you all know by now how little that usually is. One other thing that I personally consider rare, at least where I live, and I'm sure this is true most everywhere in the country these days, is a clear, unobstructed view of the night sky. Light pollution has gotten so bad now that being able to see the milky way in all it's glory is a rare sight.

So, when it comes to the value of something based on scarcity, it's most often relative, and usually manufactured. The real value of a diamond is in it's industrial applications, since it's about the hardest material we know of. Gold makes an excellent conductor in electronics and is almost immune to corrosion. If gold was so damn scarce, why would they be putting it on the tips of disposable batteries? Platinum isn't exactly abundant, but there's no shortage of catalytic convertors being manufactured for automotive exhaust systems, is there? So, my friends, I hope by now you have stopped buying this line of crap about diamonds and gold being so expensive due their scarcity. And when your fiancee asks what size rock you're planning on putting on her finger to gauge the value of your love for her, I would hope you stop and consider how much you would love her in a nice car or house instead, or even a great vacation to some place you've never been. You know, cubic zirconia sparkles just as nicely. And all that gold bling-bling? What, are you a player?

There's one thing that is extremely rare, and equally priceless, and that's a post written by none other than THE Michael, and you can read it absolutely free of charge! * ENJOY!

*taxes, shipping and handling, and gratuities not included.


Buffalo said...

Here are some scarce items -- TRUTH, HONOR, JUSTICE, COMMON SENSE

Good post, Michael

Footpad said...

This is me, holding up the lighter.

It's nice to know there are pockets of sanity in that state that refuses to deport Katherine Harris.

You know...there are a lot of alligators in that swamp of yours.

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Damn, and I thought I was done with economics, supply/demand, etc. Thanks for throwing me back in to my college days!! you still rock, babe cheers, JP

THE Michael said...

Gee, guys, I never know when I'll score a hit with a post! Thanks!

Foot, what I find hard to believe is that Harris had the gall to take on Nelson in the Senate Race. An alligator would have gotten more votes!

You said it, Buf, indeed you did.

Jane.....blush....I do? grin