Economic Miracle

I’ve had this in the back of my mind for weeks.  Then two events brought it to the forefront.  First, a customer wrote this wonderful comment in an order form;

Your lessons and videos in your Resource section WERE LIKE GOLD to me! I thought only I had questions that you answered there (i.e., how to attach plastic rail guards easily, can AKs shoot clay targets, what EXACTLY is the difference between stamped and milled (it is like EVERYBODY already is supposed to magically know this somehow!), difference between red dot and other sights, and so on). Seriously, I have tried to learn about AKs now for 2 years, most of my knowledge comes from Gabe Suarez (who strongly promotes Ultimak as you know) but you really filled in holes in my knowledge quickly on that one resource page. THANK YOU! Please keep teaching us, it builds amazing trust between us and you and we appreciate it!

It’s great to hear from customers, especially happy ones.  And I know the feeling.  When I was in High School I was expected to know things (event schedules and such) that were never told to me and were not posted, as if osmosis had been expected to work for knowledge transference.  “What do you mean you didn’t know about the meeting?  Everyone else knows!”

Now to the reason for my posting said “lessons and videos” on my web site.  I did it because I was tired of answering the same questions over and over, and explaining the same things in detail to people who just did not get it, plus I was frustrated with trying to sell a product that (it seemed) few people understood.  I spent some time putting that stuff on the web site as a labor-saving measure so I could spend more of my time being productive, and because the more people understand some of these products the more people will buy them.

But there is a much broader point to this.

Regular readers know that I’m a fan of Walter Williams’ writing.  He recently put up a nice bit entitled “Economic Miracle” describing much the same thing;

Adam Smith, the father of economics, captured the essence of this wonderful human cooperation when he said, “He (the businessman) generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. … He intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain.” Adam Smith continues, “He is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. … By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.” And later he adds, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

To the customer, it may seem that our putting up a user resources page is an act of charity, or some other form of magnanimity (after all, it is free of charge).  It may in fact have that effect on people, but the bottom line is; this sort of thing happens millions of times per day, all around the world, all out of self-interest.

In a free market, we have to do a better job of serving the customer than those around us, or we fail to prosper.

Let government interests meddle with free markets and it all starts coming apart.  It happens a tiny bit here and a tiny bit there.  At first it may show up as a minor annoyance– maybe a slight price increase here or a drop in service over there.  Eventually it leads to higher risk, fewer start-up businesses, more failures, the formation of de facto monopolies through the process of government licensing or subsidies, people holding back on investments in capital improvements, etc.  You can rarely ever put your finger on it directly, and if you listen to politicians, things are going to be just fine as long as you keep them “in charge” of things.  Finally it leads to stagnation, lawlessness, and decay, as can be seen in parts of the U.S. and in other countries.

For those of you who voted for Obama; I’ll spell it out for you.  Capitalism works better than any of the alternatives.