Living in a French Fry Economy

A few weeks ago, we took the kids to Mcdonald’s to spend their gift cards.  Hot to trot, the kids were not only getting lunch at McDonald’s, they were “buying” for themselves.  Our 8-year-old daughter, Angelina ordered the small Chicken Nugget Happy meal, while our 6-year-old, Bradley ordered a hamburger Happy Meal.  As insane as it may sound, those meals come with different size french fries.  Angelina got a “mini” bag of fries, while Bradley got a standard size.  Anyone with multiple kids understands the ensuing drama of unequal distribution of french fries.  Jamie stopped me cold before I could purchase another order of fries to even the “pot”.  She told Angelina that she and I would eat about a third of Bradley’s fries, thus making his fry supply equal to hers.  To my utter amazement, she was happy with this solution.  Bradley, still a little guy, was none the worse.

negotiating with kids

negotiating with kids (Photo credit: cafemama)

My political/economics antennae was raised immediately by the French Fry economy.  On one hand, it solved our problem.  Both kids were happy.  On the other hand, we had to steal from one to make the other happy.  Redistribution of wealth in our nation sometimes works this way.

Many people are simply happy to have something they don’t have taken away from someone else, regardless of how that person attained it.

In a childish economic “tantrum” they are made happy by politicians who take from the “rich” to simply “even the score” or “punish” the rich. People can be motivated by selfish needs by wanting something taken from another person (such as money in the form of taxes and redistributed as a “benefit), and given to them.  That is not always wrong, but often times it is.

What is more baffling is how people are ecstatic to see someone loose.

Do we live in a French Fry economy?  Too many people are naive to the fact that their french fries are being taken to appease a voting block, or a special interest.  Many don’t understand the basics of economics.  Who wins here?  Is it the poor person who is exactly a bad off this year as he was the last 10 years?  Is it the “rich” person who is

worse this year because politicians felt a need to “punish” him to make the poor person/voter happy?  Are the “rich” who turn a blind eye to this “blissfully ignorant”?  Are the poor cheering for “punishment” simply “useful idiots”? This is baffling to me.

How would you solve the French Fry dilemma?
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Intentional Economics Lesson: do you know what you are talking about?

I few years ago I took a random IQ test and scored 126.  I’m not sure how accurate it was as it classified me as an “entry-level” genius.  While I’m not sure what the means, I feel smart but never too smart to grow and learn more. Watching the news on TV the other day, I had a vision of a countdown…126…125…124…I realized the news was stealing my IQ.  I was actually getting stupider.  My readers are smart, at least smart enough to read blogs about personal development and awesome achievement. The news depicts “average” society as moronic and self-defeating.  The Occupy Movement of a few years ago was hyped as a social movement to change the future of banking in America.  It was, however, simply a fest of dirty, unemployed hippies, bored and looking to score. No one is suggesting the Occupy People are a fair look at the “average” person.  Average people have much more influence and are much more ignorant in areas that impact society in so many more ways.

Basic economics has disappeared from the knowledge base of our youth.  The rising cost of college education in America is a direct result of ignorance and bad economic policy.
Face of the Tea Party Movement 16

Face of the Tea Party Movement 16 (Photo credit: theqspeaks)

Many years ago, a small percentage of people were able to attend College.  Partially due to intelligence and partially due to cost factors, many people were excluded.  Colleges had small staffs of professors and manageable costs.  Then, in the 1950’s, the government got into the student loan business. As more people were suddenly able to attend, the supply related to the demand sharply declined.  What happened next?  School started getting more expensive.  The response over the years from the electorate and elected officials has been to raise student loans.  Since 2/3 of all students attending have loans, the government is a major player in the college industry.  Raising the student loan amounts, thus raising the demand, does not raise the supply.  Schools can simply pocket more money and raise the cost of attendance.  This is something we may certainly see with Obama Care.
As the government becomes growingly influential in the “free market”, it essentially becomes “the market”.  Government throwing more and more money at an industry does little more than increase the cost.
Take for example my recent day care shopping.  If I call the local daycare provider as Mr. Normal suburban dad looking for daycare, I’m going to be charged a price the provider thinks is profitable, yet possible.  If I call as Mr. Government, with a  trillion-dollar budget, the provider is going to charge me a price that is profitable, yet not possible for anyone without a trillion-dollar budget.  Those numbers are vastly different based on Mr. Normal verses Mr. Government.  The government should not be in the business of dramatically dictating market prices; that was never the intention of the founding fathers and it’s a dangerous road to venture.
     This post is not an article against student loans or any government involvement at all (although we can discuss my libertarian leanings another time), it’s more about the need to develop a better understanding of economics and influence within society.  1 + 1 equals 2 whether you are black, white, asian, gay, straight, Martian, Canadian, or even a gay handicap Martian who is 2/3 American Eskimo and a descendent of slaves born of gay parents.  We can decide to redistribute money for a greater good and to help people who need it for various reasons.  As a society, we cannot accept being duped into thinking there’s only a nominal cost when that simply isn’t true.
     As your influence grows, you are responsible to educating those within your sphere of influence.  Ignorance within an organization as well as society as a whole is dangerous.  If you don’t understand the basic math of economics and are unwilling to learn, most likely you won’t gain much more influence than your one vote.  Seek understanding.  Speak with confidence, determination, and a real understand of your influence and the influence of the big players.
Recommended Reading:

2. Basic Economics: Tomas Sowell

There’s a ton more to read, listen to, and absorb.  Be intentional about the world around you and have a desire to understand.

Celebrating the Fourth of July with Rush Limbaugh And Karl Marx

I remember the Fourth of July much the same as many of my readers. Fireworks used to be “firecrackers”.  Dad would find one of those traveling Fireworks stands in front of the local supermarket and purchase a collection of pyrotechnical joy for us.  I remember closing out  an evening of picnics and fireworks with the lit up stick that we would parade around and sword fight.   Then the night would be over and back to normal life, since dad usually had to work the next day. The Fourth isn’t much different today.    The usual grill-side conversations are about the history of America and the gratefulness we feel toward our troops.  While these are key to consider when celebrating our nation’s birthday, freedom as a treasured and delicate state need to be discussed with a sense of urgency.

McGill student vote mob 2011

McGill student vote mob 2011 (Photo credit: Adam Scotti)

Rush Limbaugh reincarnated Karl Marx’s use of the term “useful idiot” when he began discussing “low information voters” during the 2012 Presidential campaign.  Strange bedfellows, Marx and Limbaugh.  Rush points to a scary trend in today’s society.  As a ditto head myself (for those of you in Rio Linda, that means I like Rush).  You, however, can completely disagree with him and should still fear the growing power of the low information voter.

Low information “voter-itis” is a disease that slowly leads to Truth Decay and ultimately  destroys  freedom.

The low information voter believes everything he hears on TV, the radio, and especially the Internet. A Pencil is just a pencil to this person.  It fell out of the sky and into his pocket as the shiny and completed lead tipped tool he now holds.   It was never a tree that needed to be harvested, transported,  and packaged as pencil.  It never needed to be shipped to Staples with lights, air conditioning, plumbing (for when you run in haste to use their bathroom – please leave a quarter on the sink), and  employees with mandated health benefits and a federally mandated minimum wage.  The famous Milton Friedman reference to the pencil as an illustration of basic economics makes no sense to the low information voter.  The low information voter wants the government to send him free pencils.  Government pencils don’t involve feeding the corporate fat cats at Staples or chopping down innocent trees.  Economics is much more than the 11th grade class taught by the football coach (he had to teach SOMETHING).  Economics has consequences.  Usually the unintended consequences become the political footballs tossed around by pundits and politicians.  The thing is,  politicians are smart.  They know that forcing a fee (AKA tax) on grocery bags does nothing more than raise the cost of groceries.  It doesn’t matter because the low information voter sees it as a noble act to save the environment.  Since the useful idiot can’t see full picture, there is no downside.  Free healthcare? Who needs to read the bill?  Nancy Pelossi said it best when she said we will figure out what’s in it when we pass it.   To the low information voter, there’s no downside to free healthcare.  You may agree with taxing grocery bags or with Obama Care.  That’s not the issue.  The issue is the low information voter raises an image of the German voter checking a box of approval next to Hitler’s name.  He told a popular story for the time and place, and the people were too naive to see the blurry edges around the consequences.  Freedom comes from knowledge.  True freedom comes the ability to critically think and form a true understanding of the total impact of decisions.  With that freedom comes the courage to challenge ideas that contradict our values, and that is the core of American liberty.

If you are a recovering low information voter or suffer from its more deadly form of useful idiocy, take these few steps to begin your recovery.

1. Read a book.  Start with anything.  Gradually begin to read history and economics.  Read about the concepts and theories (ie, how is Hayek different than Keynes?).  Then read for yourself and discover the differences (upsides and downsides).  Understand the politics of the authors and their agendas.  Let the books inform you rather than form you.

2. Don’t watch junk:.  Limit the Jersey Shore and Jerry Springer indulgences.  They don’t add value.  Enjoy if you must, but the 12 hour Jersey Shore marathon comes at a cost to your recovery.

3. Don’t stop at the headline: Read the entire article before you form an opinion.

4. Decide for yourself:  Did you cringe at the name of Rush Limbaugh?  Many people do.  Another name that drives people crazy is Glen Beck.  The thing is, most people who have a deep negative opinion about these guys have never listened to them.  “Rush is  addicted to pain killers,  and Glen Beck was fired from Fox News for being crazy.”  That’s all they know.  You don’t have to agree with them to respect the level of developed thought and dedication to the facts.  Give them a listen.  They might just surprise you.

5. Pay taxes: For my young readers out there, wait until you pay taxes.

Wait until your $1,000 check comes in at just under $700 dollars.  This is perhaps, the most valuable economics lesson of them all.

We pay taxes, as we should to maintain the basics.  It’s of course the “basics” that we constantly argue over.  Every “basic” has a cost.

America has asked for a special gift on her birthday.  She wants to assure continued freedom for her people.  The means to freedom is curing the disease of low information “voter-itis”. Unfortunately the treatment is not a covered benefit under Obama Care (it clearly states that in paragraph 1402.456 subsection A/C of document 1.24 in the revised new interpretation under Federal Law 5.44). In case any real low information voters are actually reading this far; that was a literary mechanism known as sarcasm.  You are free! Happy Fourth of July.

Rocco De Leo

How the Connection Economy Unlocks the Mystery of Sushi and the Kindle

Sushi is one of those things that draws people together.  Like the comraderie in the trenches of war, eating sushi with someone instantly builds rapport.  Sushi is a cultlike experience.  Maybe its the co-worker who is grossed out or the relative who calls it bait that makes it an experience rather than a meal.  Whatever it is, I love it.  My only problem with sushi is that I can’t order.  I’m not intimidated by the non-tranferable names such as the “santa-monica roll” or the “Vegas dynamite”, names which mean completely different things at Joe’s Sushi and Sushi on Fire.  The variety gets me.  Too many choices.  I’m the same way with Christmas presents.  I am convinced that you can choose something for me that I’ll enjoy much more than I can choose.  I’ll analyse my choices to death, agnogizing missing one joy by choosing another.

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle (Photo credit: inju)

I am a typical, albeit neurotic, consumer.  I am over saturated, underwhelmed, and looking for assurance that I will make the right choices.

As marketers, how do we capture the hearts and loyalty of consumers paralyzed by too many choices?

My recent journey to choose the Kindle Paperwhite over Nook Simpletouch with  Glowlight was a snapshot of the connection economy at work. Like a hungry patron at Mika Sushi, I was looking for someone to tell me what and why to buy.  The old economy would have me going to a store asking a sales person about each model, then making a choice.  Typically the choice was dumb random luck; like the last store I happen to walk in to. Economy 2.0 had me comparing company websites and reading reviews.  Better, but still predictable.  Nook would champion Nook, and Kindle would champion…guess who.  The reviews usually point out terrible products well,  but comparison of multiple products beyond specs are rare from a website that just sold one particular product. The connection economy is different. It seeks advise from  and true compatriots.  I’ll trust you if you tell me the Miso soup tastes like rotten mushrooms if you are in the restaurant experiencing it with me.

 The connection economy  with tools like Facebook and Twitter is much like the Sushi place with countless mysteries on the menu.

Searching for clarity, I reached out to people I trusted would provide detailed considerations in chosing an e-reader. ultimately, my tribe pointed me to the Kindle.  Not so much endorsing the Kindle as superior, my tribe of writers, entrepreneurs, and leadership experts have more “experiences” on the Kindle.  Amazon has connected with its users by understanding why they use an e-reader.  At least in my tribe, the Kindle is a partner in delivering the fruits of many dreams of people I follow.  Rebels of publishing pushing out unconventional products on a mainstream device through the Kindle.  Amazon affiliate programs at the grass roots on blogs, an ultimately the fear that I would have a Nook and a desire to read a Kindle only book, forced my hand.  The connection economy is real and is growing leaps and bounds everyday.  Individuals, now more than ever, have the capability of building a tribe of trust and influencing customers. Will you be driving influence or watching from the sidelines?

Rocco De Leo