The most wonderful time of the year
After work, I spent the afternoon and evening downtown, doing a bit of shopping. I got home to find my interrupted cable service had been restored sometime during the day, a good thing so that I could enjoy a badly needed night off. "Pleased" is too strong a word, really, since Cablevision had the responsibility to repair things. I still doubt they had even started work until yesterday morning, despite assurances they had started working on it Thanksgiving night.
Among my stops was J&R, which I call Manhattan's technology Mecca; when I go there, I say that I'm making a pilgrimage downtown. Afterward, waiting at the R/W station nearby, several others were also carrying J&R shopping bags. I couldn't help but smile inwardly at that and the great variety of other shopping bags. A couple of young women were coming from Century 21, not the real estate company, but the discount department store directly across from Ground Zero. Here are some reviews, and I attest to their truthfulness. Their weekends any time of the year are like the day after Thanksgiving anywhere else. People push and sometimes cuss you out if you're too slow (softly enough so security can't hear). Sometimes you have to rummage through piles that had others left in thorough disarray. And you think that's bad...shopping there during Thanksgiving weekend is like facing down stampeding wildebeest, or driving in midtown morning rush hour with the traffic lights out!
Compared to a regular department store like Macy's, the search costs are very, very high to find most of the bargains, but for most people it's worth it to buy many designer labels at rock-bottom prices. I took a friend there when he came to visit a few years ago, insisting we do at least one thing to make his drab wardrobe a little more elegant. One easy purchase was from a rack of really beautiful men's topcoats. He bought one for just $90, 100% wool that felt just as soft as my more expensive wool-cashmere coat. He wondered if it was too "flamboyant," but it's served him well, and kept him more stylish, back in Chicago.
Oh, the commerce, how I love it. Buyers and sellers coming together, with buyers competing with each other by offering deep discounts. Truly, the most wonderful time of the year. As I earlier explained to two co-workers, I am a capitalist: I believe in free markets and the ability of business owners to reinvest their profits to expand their holdings. I love commerce. But, I clarified, my beliefs are not in "materialism" and the drive to acquire things. I seek to acquire things that are useful, so that we can improve our lives with greater wealth that leads to greater ease and greater comfort.
Greater wealth means a greater ability to charitably assist those -- not through government's coercion -- who, by luck or inability, do not have a surplus the rest of us enjoy. As the only way we can acquire legitimate wealth is to transact commerce with each other, government must therefore not discourage us with prohibitive tax policies and regulations. I maintain it's the wrong thing to say government must encourage us, because it should not encourage nor discourage us either way.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,Jefferson made government's purpose quite clear in the Declaration of Independence. It is not government's role to guarantee (or try to) that our rights will never be violated. It is strictly government's role to ensure that we have those rights, and to punish those who violate them. It is indeed a motivation when the U.S. Constitution promises "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," however, what we choose to do with our rights is entirely up to us. Once government exceeds those boundaries, it becomes the state, that monstrosity about which Bastiat wrote, "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."
Bastiat also wrote, in the first chapter of his Sophisms: "Man produces in order to consume. He is at once both producer and consumer." I humbly take this further in a thought that is certainly not original, but it is a passionate one for me: it does no good for a man to buy (especially to borrow to finance that consumption) in the hope that the buyer's new marginal income will spread around the economy and boost it. That's why Keynesian demand-side economics always fails, and that's why I'm a supply-sider. Not in the Jude Wanniski sense, but in my emphasis on how all the demand in the world won't do a blessed thing if nobody wants to produce.