Ted (merovingian) wrote,
Ted
merovingian

There's No Such Thing As A Free Ride

I just kicked someone out of my car, because it was a little bit too much for me. This was maybe 30 minutes ago.

I was driving along the highway, on an errand to pick up some ginger beer for a hydraulic bamboo-pipe based logic circuit I'm working on. Using ginger beer instead of water improves performance but the whole thing needs frequently cleaning, and it makes the apparatus smell better. Do you still call it hydraulic if it's ginger beer and not water?

Anyway, I was driving along the highway, and, just as I was pulling off, there was a man with three piglets by the side of the road. The piglets were adorable and very clean and pink. The man was none of the above, but had a sign that said "Free piglet if you give me a ride."

Sold. I like hitch-hikers anyway, and who wouldn't want a cute little piglet.

Then, the man started talking. His voice was a little too high-pitched and strident for me. He was having a little panic attack.

"What if monopolies really are the best way to do business?" he wailed.

I mumbled something, beginning to be uncertain if this was a good idea.

"I mean, Adam Smith told us - no, promised us, that if everyone acted in their individual best interests, it would be the best for the market. But it seems more and more like monopolies are just out-bullying small companies, and then doing best by providing their products in as brutal, psychically sterile, and aesthetically unsatisfying a fashion as is possible. Caring about people has gone by the wayside, and it seems like people are willing to be trampled in exchange for access to slightly lower prices. I'd always assumed that economics will reward innovation and diversity, but that seems not to be the case. Whenever someone does a good job, they eventually get big enough to be bought out by a giant, which then steamrolls their attractive traits into the same mediocrity. The big companies don't want to learn or innovate, they just want to buy over customer lists; when they have a weakness exposed, they buy out anyone who takes advantage of it, rather than correcting that weakness. What if that really is the right thing to do?"

I turned up the radio more and more as he was speaking, but eventually, I had to comment.

"I'm reminded of sexual reproduction and its evolutionary advantages. Sexual reproduction is energy-inefficient, and requires constant and bizarre new evolutionary forms to make it go. Why does it happen, then? Why do sexual creatures, like humans and insects and plants, manage to thrive in a world with efficient asexual amoebas and bacteria? Because sexual reproduction allows for a rapid adaptability of phenotype without wild and destructive mutation, which, in the long run, becomes more important than strict immediate efficiency. Those species that are better at changing will outsurvive those that are not. If the big monoliths continually rely upon larger asset pools to compensate for their lack of good strategy, they'll fail to adapt to changing times, and eventually be replaced," I said, "Now, maybe the economy of scale favors something larger than the kind of mom-and-pop store we find psychologically compelling, but eventually those businesses that do business in a way we want will succeed, and those that don't will fail. It may be that individual consumers have a responsibility to take a broader view in their purchasing, even if it's to an individual disadvantage to buy something that's more expensive. Maybe there's a little of the tragedy of the commons, Prisoner's Dilemma action going on there. I don't know. Maybe the startup-innovation/monopoly-mass-management will reach some kind of happy equilibrium. But, rest assured, narrowly efficient and brittle eventually loses out to wide-ranged and agile. It might just take a few million years."

"You're ranting," said the hiker.

"I'm the driver. I get to rant."

"Not if you want a piglet, you don't," he said.

Bastard. Forget it. I pulled over the car and kicked him out.

What do you think?

Poll #21319 Did I do the right thing?

Cute piglets are...

...in THA HOUSE!
1(4.3%)
...in THA HIZOUSE!
6(26.1%)
...in THA HIZNOUSE!
4(17.4%)
...in THA HIZ-NIGGITY-NOUSE!
4(17.4%)
...not in the house.
8(34.8%)
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