Thursday, December 22, 2005

Politics: School's in Session.

There's a wonderful essay on the basic laws of supply and demand up over at The Munchkin Wrangler.

Maybe reading it would help some of those alleged conservatives who keep calling for legislation to repeal said laws, because a basic lack of knowledge of simple economic facts is as pervasive on the right side of the political spectrum as it is on the left.

This was brought home to me yet again the other day when I was reading the current The Complete Newsstand Rag of the 1911. (Yeah, I know, it's from Guns & Ammo; it's okay, I wore gloves.) Anyhow, in it was an article by S.P. Fjestad on collecting old 1911s. For those who don't know Mr. Fjestad, he's a respected firearms collector, and the publisher of The Blue Book of Gun Values, which is used as a rough rule of thumb in assigning values to old guns. Anyhow, Mr. Fjestad was lamenting the modern influence of internet auctions on gun prices, claiming that a bunch of parvenues have invaded his sacred hobby and are paying more for old guns than they are "worth". Where his analysis falls down is in assuming that "worth" or "value" is some intrinsic characteristic inherent in the gun, like "weight" or "length", that can be easily measured and announced by the seller. It isn't. "Value" is determined by only one person: the buyer. Years ago, when collecting old military 1911s (or LC Smith shotguns, or S&W revolvers) was confined to a couple of old crocks who passed them back and forth at gun shows, "value" was a fairly fixed and static number, and Mr. Fjestad had an easy time writing his book. Everybody knew how much Fred's old Singer 1911A1 had traded for the last time it changed hands, and this made it simple to assign it a value in the Blue Book. The era of has knocked all that into a cocked hat, and one can tell that Mr. Fjestad doesn't like that one bit, no sir.

Suddenly his Blue Book is no longer quite as relevant (which is why I referred to it as a "rough rule of thumb" rather than "the price bible".) He can state, for instance, that S&W 27-2's are worth only $425 in 100% condition 'til he's blue in the face, but anybody with an internet connection and the time to peruse auction sites and gun boards knows that he's out of his mind. (I think I paid purt' near $600 for my 99%+, 3.5", '64-vintage 27-2, and was happy to do so.) When Joe Blow bids up a 90% Remington Rand to $925 in an auction, he's not "paying more than it's worth", he's paying exactly what it's worth... to him. Everyone else can look at that auction, note where the other bidders dropped out, and adjust the price tags on their 90% Remington Rands accordingly, and if this upsets the old boys who've been passing them back and forth for decades at $500, then tough. That's how the free market works. Buy a helmet.

As it goes for 1911s, so it goes for every other commodity out there, from infant formula to a gallon of gasoline. When you stick the fuel nozzle in your Lincoln Landmass and punch the "Pay Outside" button at $5/gal, you have just announced to the world that that is how much that gasoline is worth to you; you have helped set the price. Likewise, if you shop around to find the guy selling it for $4.95/gal, you have told the market that it isn't worth $5/gal to you. This is not a theory, or an ideology, any more than is the law of gravity; it's a description of how the world works. It'd be nice if folks demonstrated an understanding of Newton before calling for legislation to repeal his laws...

(To return to the opening topic, by the way, Marko's actually quite the essayist. If you haven't read his Declaration of Civil Disobedience, you should read it, too.)


Anonymous said...

Declaration of Civil Disobedience,

Excellent Essay!!

One I have shared with many,and will continue to.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Internet is speeding up the turnover of guns. A faster turnover rate could lead to higher prices, in the same way that additional middlemen increase the price of any product.

Elmo's aphasiatic twin said...

Those who prattle of price gougers, crooks and marketplace conspirators are just as greedy, jealous and self centered as those they label as such.

It's a conspiracy to these people when "free" toilet paper in public restrooms is too rough. And those unfeeling toilet paper providers shouldn't put locks on dispensers, either. We have rights to all the free toilet paper we can tote home. It is a human rights issue.

Xavier said...

"Value" is determined by only one person: the buyer.

Truer words were never spoken.