Friday, July 19, 2013

Why you are a Socialist, why Marijuana Kills (just not those who smoke it), and why Blake Shelton might not be a Good American

Thought trains lead me to interesting conclusions.

Yesterday I hiked Table Rock with my roommate.  If you're in the Portland area it's an absolutely gorgeous drive and hike.  

We were making good time, and I was sweating a lot.  Then the thought train started:

1.)  I'm sure glad I'm wearing this Nike Dry Fit shirt.
2.)  This shirt only cost around $12 at the Nike Employee Store, globalization and capitalism are amazing!

3.)  I wonder if anyone at those WTO protests in Seattle or elsewhere wore a Nike shirt to the protest?  That would be ironic.

4.)  Those people are probably socialists (if this is inaccurate please understand all these thoughts happened in about .5 of a second).
5.)  If they want to redistribute wealth, they should buy another shirt!  

Eureka!  I'm so smart sometimes.

The term "Redistribution of wealth" pops up during political campaigns, usually to label someone a socialist.   Truth is, every time you spend a dollar you redistribute wealth, and few things  in this world have a bigger impact than how you do so.  And I'd argue that few people appreciate where there money goes.

Back to that Nike t-shirt.  When I bought it, I got a great price on a good product.  Most people's thought process stops there: "What value did I get for my money?"  

And that's the beauty of our economic system, businesses have found ways to get us better products for cheaper and cheaper because it makes them rich.  The average American today lives a better life than all but the wealthiest of people a few hundred years ago.

But my purchase had other effects you might not think of:  
  • It paid the wage of a laborer in Indonesia.
  • It funded its trans-Pacific voyage by plane or ship.
  • It enriched Phil Knight (who in turn enriches my beloved Oregon Ducks).
Or you could put this spin on it:
  • It helped outsource an American job.
  • It contributed to global warming by needing to be shipped thousands of miles.
  • It made an obscenely rich man even richer.
The point isn't to argue the merits of globalization.  Rather, I'd just like you to think about where your dollars go.  Take marijuana.  America likes to light up.  It was such a scary bad thing growing up that it took some adjustment when I realized a lot of my friends, and a lot of adults I know smoke it (the author of this blog has never smoked marijuana).  

When you buy that pot, you get high and get munchies.  And you also help fund cartel violence in Mexico, here in the United States, and even in my beloved Oregon.  This is part of the reason why I think pot should be legal.  Just like Prohibition made Al Capone and other bootleggers rich, so our ban on marijuana artificially limits the supply while doing nothing to the demand.  The result: big money for those that can grow it.  But I digress.

Oil is another one.  All that gas you burn makes a lot of people rich in Venezuela, Russia, and Iran.  These are not exactly America's strategic allies.  So while Blake Shelton celebrates rednecks driving big ole trucks, unless those fellas are hypermiling, he's also celebrating some of American's worst geo-political foes getting rich.  And I bet he didn't know it.

I won't tell you to choose the farmer's market over the grocery store, or to shop local instead of at a big chain.  I'd be happy if more people just started thinking about where their money went and what it supported.  There are more costs than just dollar signs.  Once you start to factor those in, you'll draw your own conclusions.  

You have, are, and will leave an impact on this world.  What kind of world do you want it to be?

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