Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Reality Capitalism TV

I was just thinking the other night about the current crop of "reality TV" shows out there on the History Channel, TLC and the like, shows like "Ice Road Truckers," "Axe Men," "Deadliest Catch," "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers."

They're televising capitalism. Hell, they're celebrating it. How did that happen?

If I'm not mistaken, it started with Mike Rowe's series, "Dirty Jobs," of which "Deadliest Catch" is a spin-off. For those two of you who might not have seen it, "Dirty Jobs" is a show about people who do the most manual of manual-labor work in some of the nastiest jobs you're likely to find. Crab fishing in the Bearing Sea is among those jobs. It's cold, exhausting, mind- and body-numbing work that can get you dead or injured in short order through a moments inattention or through absolutely no fault of your own.

But it pays great - if your captain does his job well.

In the first three shows I list, "Ice Road Truckers," "Axe Men" and "Deadliest Catch," the stars do high-risk manual labor jobs in rough conditions and pull down good pay doing it. They do this voluntarily - no one tells them they must, they choose their professions. They all know that they could find other work, less dangerous, less risky, but they take pride in the fact that they are doing something that few other people are willing to do, and that has a pay scale commensurate to their rare skills and work ethic.

It's called "the pursuit of happiness" for a reason.

In the last two, "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers," the stars don't risk themselves, but their capital - and they're neither bashful nor ashamed of it. In "Pawn Stars" people bring things in to sell, and we in the audience get to see a huge variety of items that people have collected or acquired. They often but not always get an offer, and they decide whether to accept. Each time an offer is made, the guys behind the counter are risking their money on the belief that at some time in the future they can sell the item at a profit. Experts are often brought in to identify and authenticate items in order to reduce the risk, but not always. I'm not certain what agreements the experts have with the shop, but I would not be at all surprised to learn that at least some of them are paid an annual retainer for their services. Their customers are free to refuse the offer, and often do. That's capitalism at its raw base - an item is worth what two parties agree upon.

In "American Pickers" the stars are more proactive - they go looking for stuff and then try to convince people to A) let them look around, and then B) sell. The stars are not only risking their capital on inventory, they are out spending money and time in active search. They very seldom contact an expert until after they've made a purchase, so their risk is higher, and they have much less in the way of a "walk-in" clientele, reducing the volume of material they can acquire. Consequently, their profit margins need to be higher to cover their risks and expenses.

In both shows the stars use third-parties as restorers/renovators, adding value to many of the purchases and increasing both their saleability and (hopefully) profitability, thus creating jobs. The people who do these jobs are chosen for their knowledge and skills, and they too are pursuing happiness. Vendor A is chosen over Vendor B because of their reputation, not because A put in a lower bid.

I have to admit, as little TV as I watch, I do occasionally enjoy some of these shows, and I'm pleased to see capitalism given a bit of its due on the nation's cable networks.

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