Saturday, September 13, 2008

Barbie Wins in the End

Having taken on the tough targets this week — conservatives, women, gays, prostitutes, Olympic athletes, and Katherine Taylor’s posture — let’s round things out by taking a tough look at girls who like Barbie.  Or rather, let’s read this Barbie-positive story about a man unexpectedly catching a prize-winning fish with a toy Barbie fishing rod.

The thing I love about that story is that it’s a reminder — the sort I feel I see more and more as I age — that the “expert” way of doing something (such as buying some expensive molybdenum-alloy retracting “smart-metal” professional fly-fisherman computerized megarod thingy) is often little superior to doing it the dumbass way.  An acquaintance of mine once rigged up a fragile-goods transportation system for NASA using rubber bands and Tupperware after numerous genius engineers had spent millions on high-tech gear that repeatedly failed to get the same job done.

I love those old guys who wait until the excitable experts are done blathering and then quietly — and sometimes even correctly — mutter, “Ya could do the same damn thing with a dead squirrel and a rolla duct tape, cost you ten bucks ’steada $10,000.”  A lot of currently wasted time in all areas of human life could be recouped by heeding such lessons — and exposing the people who try to dupe us into doing things the hard way.


dave said...

I’m going to have to label this post as slightly (only slightly – I’m not impugning your integrity here) anti-capitalism. Because isn’t the engine of capitalism people buying a bunch of stuff they don’t really need? Of course part of it is people buying things they do need, but that’s not where full employment comes from.

Todd Seavey said...

I think you’re defining capitalism too narrowly. It includes appeals to purchase things (which some people might well need if they have goals that involve, say, having a 1% edge over other professional bass fishermen or something) and advice to do things other ways.

The only thing I’d consider truly anti-capitalist is a law code that prevents them making such decisions (by taxing and regulating them, or by subsidizing the things they’re “supposed” to want according to experts or a democratic majority and its representatives).

A best-selling book counseling simplicity and asceticism would certainly seem consistent with capitalism as properly defined — and so would a poorly-selling one.

And this is an important point, one perhaps oft misunderstood, so I thought it worth replying in a fairly serious fashion. Put another way: your hippie commune only threatens my capitalist system if you seize land for it via eminent domain or start trying to “legislate” the behavior of neighbors. Good neighbors don’t legislate, and decent human beings don’t govern each other. What they buy and sell (or don’t) is their own business.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Inefficiencies have opportunity costs– the wasteful way of doing something consumes resources that could have gone into something else. Except in the shortest of short terms, paying people to dig ditches and other people to fill them in again is nothing but destructive for an economy– and a $10,000 solution to a $10 problem is no different.

The good news is that discovering more efficient ways to do the same thing other people were already doing is an excellent route to entrepreneurial success.

John Steinsvold said...

An Alternative to Capitalism?

The following link, takes you to a “utopian” article, entitled “Home of the Brave?” which I wrote and appeared in the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold