Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MAKE CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU!

Well, here’s a cheery little subject that has been running around in my brain for a few days. It seems to be something that is festering in my overly stimulated, cell phone radio wave attacked neurotransmission system of biological messaging. To make matters worse, I’ve just finished reading Bobke II, the second epistle penned by Bob Roll. So, capitalism mashed up with Bob Roll philosophies, what can possibly come of that…

I’m pretty unclear as to which came first – an intriguing journey down the historical recollections of Bobke or these ponderances regarding making CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU! See, it has more power if you put it in ALL CAPS. I just know that something is trying to get out and I need to put finger to keyboard to start the ejection mechanism!

So, I do find some nice tie-ins from Bobke II and capitalism. Mostly they relate to the many, many, many gastrointestinal disturbances suffered by poor Bobke throughout his career. (Oh, that poor French family trying to enjoy the Tour and have a picnic. I still haven’t cleared that one from my brain…) I mean, really, capitalism in its purest form doesn’t give a whoop-dee-do about YOU, the individual. Supply and demand, baby – that’s the ticket. Somewhat similarly, Bobke seemingly SUPPLIED many things to his gastrointestinal tract, which then DEMANDED release. Maybe I’m getting to much of a mashup going here…

Let’s redirect. The driving force of capitalism is that the price goes up when the demand goes up paired with a reduction in supply. We see it in the housing market now. Too many houses for sale (supply) keeps the price down (demand). A good thing if you are a buyer but a bad thing if you are a seller. Again, neither side cares about the other’s well being. Simple supply and demand. Well, not really because that leaves out the banks, who are still sitting on the taxpayers’ money refusing to make loans. But, hey, those are variables that change the fundamental nature of capitalism.

My principal obsessions on making CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU! is more around petroleum prices. Unfortunately, we have to introduce the concept of “market pressures” to even begin to look at this aspect of making CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU! In this case, oil prices are driven up by the fears that something may happen to someone sometime somewhere. Note that nothing actually needs to have happened to divert or negatively impact oil production, deliveries, or existing supplies. We merely need to WORRY ABOUT IT in order to help the oil companies increase their profits while potentially killing off a modest (at best) recovering economy.

This diverges significantly from the “market pressures” addressed in Bobke II. As I took it, most of the “market pressures” Bobke addressed were more in line with the dynamics of group interaction on the local culture and atmosphere. This seemed most prevalent when on training rides during which the team would stop at local 7 – 11 stores and proceed to have a banquet of snacks and drinks whilst recounting the joys of cycling. I mean lets’ talk “market pressures” – a bunch of tired, thirsty, bonking, cyclists come rolling into your local market, you’re gonna sit up and take notice! You’re likely to feel some pressure. Unlike the oil example used above, SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED, i.e., a group of cyclists descended upon a market exhibiting pressure. No one rushed to the store ahead of time because somebody else was sitting around worrying that Bobke and crew just might sometime show up at their local market. The price of PayDay bars was unaffected in advance of the Bobke Express appearance. (Whew, I’m losing myself here…)

O.K. let’s be solution oriented for a moment… Again, the goal is to MAKE CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU! How, you say, might you go about that? Well, here’s a concept that just might work… Reduce demand which, theoretically, should increase supply resulting in lower prices. For instance, urban and transportation planners talk about the last 1 to 2 miles as being the toughest to resolve when encouraging alternative forms of transportation, i.e., cycling in this case.

I live in a mountainous region and most folks would think there are relatively few flat areas in which the out-of-shape, couch potatoed, sloth-like beginning rider can effectively move part time away from gasoline using forms of conveyance to cycling and/or pedestrian forms of transportation. The actual fact, however, is that our town, as did many, many towns, grew up along the banks of a waterway which tend to be fairly flat for the most part. You can actually ride/walk in my hometown from one end of a 5 mile shopping district to the other end and encounter mostly a 1% to 2% grade the entire length of the trip.

I pulled a Google map of the area and, using a drawing tool, located 3 centrally located shopping zones and then drew a 2 mile radius circle around each spot. There were large areas of overlap between the circles indicating that anyone living within the zone could walk or ride quite easily to numerous shopping locations, 3 local schools, and almost all of the local town administrative offices. Minimal need to climb hills on a bicycle or by foot are noted along this alluvial plain on which the town is built. The town populace living within the 2 mile zones comprised a significant portion of the town residents.

So, reduce the demand by leaving the car at home for one or two of these trips each week. Heck, start slow – give up one trip a week in your car. Let it grow to 2 or 3 or more trips per week. I’m not suggesting giving up your car completely. I’m just saying MAKE CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU! Help reduce the demand by increasing the supply. Now, of course, I’m not so naïve as to believe that the oil companies can’t simply keep the pricing high artificially. That may well happen but, even if that is the case, you are not spending valuable money on gasoline at any price when you walk or ride a bike. You are improving your health, which leads to reduced valuable dollars going into a money hungry healthcare system, you will sleep better and have a better mood by getting this fairly nominal exercise. You will also be setting a good example for the younger generations, who will surely not have the car-centric capabilities “enjoyed” by my generation.

By the way, when you ride your bike to that local grocer or post office or school, be sure to speak to the manager and ask for bike racks and supporting infrastructures. Again, supply and demand. You’re his or her customer  - you are supplying a demand for his or her service. If enough of us do it, the combined power of MAKING CAPITALISM WORK FOR YOU! will result in more bike and pedestrian friendly businesses!

If you are still with me, I’m reaching my crescendo… It’s almost over, the swirling thoughts in my brain are about expelled. I have this remaining question left over from Bobke II… Is it “boob-ka” or “Bob-kee”. I can’t sleep at night worrying about this. I think I need to ride!

Until later,

- Zeke

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