For any trivial number N greater than 2 travel coffee mugs, there will ALWAYS be N-2 dirty non-dish washer safe mugs available on the counter.  Further, there will be N-(N-2) dirty dish washer safe mugs in the dish washer.

There is no counter example to this law.

Ever.

Corollary One:

Buying more Travel Mugs does not increase either:

  • The number of clean mugs
  • The chance any mug will be clean

It only increases the number of dirty Travel Mugs at any time.

Some time ago airlines would price their tickets in whatever manner they priced their tickets.  We would buy them through travel agents or, if we were daring, but them from the airline directly.  Over time, and with emerging technology, we became good at finding deals.  I still remember my dad calling from Minnesota on a Tuesday, telling me he was coming to Seattle that Thursday.  See, Northwest would blowout sale their empty planes to certain destinations.

Downside?  No lead time.  Upside?  Retired teachers with nothing to do get to see family often and cheap.

Then we discovered “aggregaters”.  These were the engines on line that would allow you to shop all the airlines at once.  You know, trevlocity, orbitz, expedia, whatever.  And the airlines, and is, LOVED it.  It not only made it easier to shop, but by posting price, airlines were forced to compete ’cause whenever people have a choice to fly from Dallas to Fargo with all things being equal, they choose, wait for it, the lowest price.

So, right after WE figured that out so did the airlines.  In response to the demand for cheaper and cheaper seats, they had to find ways to bring the TICKET price down but still make the profit margin they were used to.  See, it turns out that orphans and grandmothers don’t invest their trust funds in mutual funds that buy companies that don’t turn a profit.  I know I know, the greed surrounding orphans and grandmothers is gross, immense and very ugly, but alas, that is the nature of orphans and grandmothers.  Anyway, so the airline decoupled the price of a person and the price of a piece of luggage.  Now the ticket prices for their seats would be lower and we would buy those cheaper tickets.

Nothing else changed.

The total cost, over time, of flying remained the same, only now it was two line items, not one.  Wanna fly from St. Louis to Bangor?  $375.00 please.  Or, if you want, I can split that up and charge you $340.00 for the ticket and $35.00 for the two bags.  No change, just accounting.

Annoying?  Perhaps, if you’re less enlightened.  Or, if you’re like me you try not to pack things that you can buy at your destination.  Diapers, formula, flip flops…whatever.  Or, you learn to pack better.  Or, you ship your luggage, it might actually be cheaper.  Or, just maybe, you accept the fact that the price of luggage is really the price of admission and just deal with it.  Where I really hate this is when I’m behind the guy that wastes 40 minutes trying to shuffle items from one bag to another to get under the 50 lb limit.  Anyway, enough.

The point?

The point is that lawmakers actually think they can make things better.  Baggage fees a pain in the neck?  Make ’em illegal:

WASHINGTON One of the most loathed aspects of holiday air travel – paying to check bags – is at the center of a growing debate that does not look to be resolved soon. Travelers who could otherwise be spending $50 on an extra gift must instead use it to buy their Samsonite a round-trip ticket in the bowels of an airplane. The anger over increasing fees has gained the attention of Washington, pitting some members of Congress against the airline industry.
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell joined other federal lawmakers last week to press airlines to scale back their baggage fees. Kissell, a Democrat who represents Charlotte and Concord, proposed legislation that would allow travelers to check one free bag on each flight. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced a similar bill in the Senate. To date, no Republicans support either bill.
All fine and dandy, I guess.  But I wonder if these lawmakers are aware that flying people from Kissimmii to Detroit [why ANYone would fly from Florida to De’troilet is beyond me] costs real money and that by making it illegal to charge real money for one thing means that it raise the price of the other legal thing.

If congress wants to choose higher airline tickets over free baggage, that’s fine.  I guess.  I just wonder why congress feels that decision is up to them?

To My Liberal, Democrat Friends and Family:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Conservative, Republican Friends and Family:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

It’s beginning to look like the GOP wants Barack Obama to win the next election:

Newt Gingrich will not appear on the Virginia presidential primary ballot, state Republican Party officials announced Saturday, after he failed to submit the required number of valid signatures to qualify.

The announcement was made on the Virginia Republican Party’s Twitter account. On Friday evening, the Republican Party of Virginia made a similar announcement for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

Ten thousand signatures are needed to get on the ballot for the Virginia primary, which is March 6, known as Super Tuesday. The Perry campaign says it submitted 11,911 signatures, according to The Washington Post. But at 6:30 p.m. the Virginia Republican Party posted on its Twitter account that after verification, it was determined that Mr. Perry did not submit the requisite amount.

Mr. Gingrich submitted 11,050 signatures, but after verification, the state party said it determined that he had not submitted enough signatures.

The deadline for signatures was 5 p.m. Thursday. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul obtained the needed signatures to qualify.

Jon M. Huntsman Jr., Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, the other Republican candidates, did not submit signatures in Virginia and therefore did not qualify.

If they can’t manage a signature campaign, how on earth are they gonna run a Presidential campaign?

Got a bunch of baseball cards in the attic?  Beanie Babies maybe?  How about some old CD’s?

Now, say ya wanna sell ’em.  Everyone knows that if you start the bidding to high you won’t get any takers.  Bring the price down and you can sell almost anything.

Simple:  More expensive, fewer people buy.  Less expensive, more people buy.

Which makes this so mind boggling:

Eight states will ring in the New Year with a higher minimum wage, under state laws that require wage floors to keep apace with inflation. San Francisco, one of the few cities that sets its own minimum wage above the federal level, is also raising wages for the lowest-paid workers in the new year. It will become the first big city in the country to require companies to pay their workers more than $10 an hour.

The minimum wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington will be 28 cents to 37 cents an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project. That is an extra $582 to $770 a year for a full-time minimum wage worker, and resets these states’ minimum wages to $7.64 to $9.04 an hour.

At that higher end is Washington State, which will become the first state in the nation to set its minimum wage above $9 an hour. For reference, the federal wage floor for most workers is $7.25 an hour.

I get it, I do.  No one’s time should be worth so little.  However, by forcing businesses to pay more for labor than they otherwise should, they will buy less labor.  And lastly, should an individual be free to bargain for the value of his time?

 

A free and open market will settle on the demand for goods or services.  As the government adds requirements to that market, the price will change and adjust to accommodate the new cost of that good or service.  For example, if you wanna house, one can be built for you at such and such a cost.  However, when the requirement, however reasonable, that the house have plumbing is added, the cost of that house is going to go up.

I’m not claiming that we allow houses to be built without plumbing.  I’m simply stating that when we DO make that requirement, we price homes above what some segment of the population can afford.

This is true of all things.  And school lunch is no exception:

It’s lunchtime at Van Nuys High School and students stream into the cafeteria to check out the day’s fare: black bean burgers, tostada salad, fresh pears and other items on a new healthful menu introduced this year by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez don’t even bother to line up. Iraides said the school food previously made her throw up, and Mayra calls it “nasty, rotty stuff.”

And why is the school cafeteria serving lunch that students don’t wanna eat?

Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad Thai noodles.

The district, government, tried to regulate the market.  No longer could schools sell food that kids wanted to eat, rather, the school was forced to sell food that the regulators decided was fit for the kids.  Now, do I think that fresh pears and pad Thai is better for you than corn dogs and nachos?  Hell yeah!  In fact, I’ve eaten many many more portions of pears and pad Thai than corn dogs and nachos in the last, what, 20 years.  I fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a corn dog.

Point is, independent of the fact that mandating healthy food is good or not, when the regulation is applied, the market shifts.  It adjusts.

Many of the meals are being rejected en masse. Participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students. Principals report massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away. Students are ditching lunch, and some say they’re suffering from headaches, stomach pains and even anemia.

Waste.  And unhealthy behavior.

But do you know what ELSE happened?

At many campuses, an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare is thriving.

The market adjusted and is now providing the very thing the regulations were meant to diminish.

The lesson?

The market will win.

 

 

 

Christmas is more expensive this year.  3.5% more expensive:

Giving the holiday presents of a French hen, a milking maid, a leaping lord or even a partridge in a pear tree is rather unlikely in this day and age. But the gifts from the favorite holiday carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” are lighthearted clues to how the economy is faring.

Over all, prices are fairly stable and not rising precipitously for even the quirkier gifts, according to the Christmas Price Index released for the 28th year by PNC Wealth Management, part of the PNC Financial Services Group. On the down side, the price tag for the eye-popping 364 items and services in each of the song’s verses breaks $100,000 for the first time this year.

Gold, for example — as in the five golden rings — has fallen in price. Those rings (fairly lightweight ones, one would think) come to $645, down from $649.95 last year. Even though gold commodities, an investor haven, have been hovering at record highs recently, the demand for gold at retail has been weakening.

Unsurprisingly, labor costs remained fairly flat. The nine ladies dancing, for example, remained static, at $6,294, the same as last year, according to figures from Philadanco, a dance company in Philadelphia. The 11 pipers piping, at a price of $2,427.60, and 12 drummers drumming, for $2,629.90, were up modestly, about 3 percent. The only unskilled laborers in the verses are the eight maids-a-milking, who are calculated as earning the $7.25 minimum hourly wage. That wage did not rise in 2011 for the second straight year, so their cost stayed the same.

The price tag for one round of gifts is $24,263.18 this year, up $823.80 from last year. Repeating the gifts totaled slightly more than $101,000, a gain of 4.4 percent, also close to the federal price index.

It would be fun to “gift” the 12 days of Christmas one year.

 

The desire to protect the citizens drives crazy results.  People, intending to “do the right thing” and “protect” the people, get so caught up in that role they never stop and consider the absurdity of what it is they are doing.  The never ending desire to prevent harm is a constricting burden when placed within the hands of those who fail to understand that man is largely able to craft positive outcomes for himself.

And so it is that government has created a condition such that we are unable to hand our free hot dogs to free people:

Tin Cup’s bar and restaurant in St. Paul’s North End will pay a $500 fine to the city for grilling hot dogs outside on Oct. 2 without an event permit.

Co-owner Gidget Bailey appeared before the city council Wednesday to explain that she inquired with a state agency before cooking the hot dogs, which were given away inside the bar at 1220 Rice St. and not sold or consumed outside.

“I did call the Minnesota Department of Health asking if there was anything I needed to do,” Bailey said. “They told me no.”

The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections cited them for not obtaining a “temporary extension of service area” license for the outdoor event, which led to several calls to the District 6 Planning Council. The planning council then informed DSI of the event.

Council Member Lee Helgen reminded the bar owners that they should have known to check with the city.

The council vote to impose the fine was unanimous.

Note one member of the government body felt that the regulations describing the proper offering of hot dogs was so onerous as to prevent the levying of the fine.

 

As I sit here “flying my desk” I continue to receive confirmation notes from Amazon that:

  1. My order has been confirmed
  2. My order has been shipped

These notes come complete with tracking numbers that allow me to view the status of each order and, then, to see where FedEx is in shipping each order.  It’s my hope that in the coming year I will have outdoor cameras/locked delivery boxes that will allow me to view the delivery of each package.

In any event, I am struck by the absolute and sheer awesomeness of a marketplace that is open 7x24x365.  I’m able to shop for goods around the globe at any time of the day.  Most specifically, a time of day that is convenient for me.

In addition to the fact  that the market makes available global goods of all kinds at any time of day, I don’t have to leave my desk, or sofa, or tub or wherever I am accessing that market place from.  I am able to order, pay for and then have delivered to me my goods and never even leave the house.  Depending on my specific state of organization, this may be literally true.  I could order a book and have it delivered to me before I even ever need to leave the house.

And this whole trade I make with the market place makes me richer.

I value having a book delivered to me more than I value the $10.50 it cost me.  By definition, I become more “wealthy” as a result of this transaction.  As each transaction adds up, I become even MORE wealthy.  Bird food delivered to my door?  More wealthy.  Bakugans for the boy?  More wealthy.

And the genius is that Amazon becomes more wealthy too!  They value the $10.50 more than they value the capital it took to establish the infrastructure to facilitate the sale.  Same with FedEx and the imbedded shipping charges.  And the publisher who printed the book.  And the author who penned it.  None of them would have entered into the arrangement had they not felt so.

We ALL become more wealthy as a result.

And it struck me.  If we reject capitalism, that each man is out to obtain the best value for himself, then what we are saying is that we would only desire to read books written by ourselves.  To wear clothes woven and stitched by ourselves.  Eat food grown or raised by ourselves.  And live i houses built by ourselves.

That, or enjoyed at the coercion of others.

Are there losers in capitalism, even as it functions “properly”?  Yes, without a doubt.  But it is the unmistakable sting of failure that drives us to succeed.  It is the joyous sense of success that drives us to avoid failure.

And so it must be.  It is how we evolved from that first strike of lighting in the primordial mud.  A series of experiments where some failed and withered while others succeeded and thrived.  Evolution is, in a sense, capitalism.

To reject the free market is to reject truth.  And instead rely on “faith”.  Faith that all men, or enough of them, will act in such a manner that is contradictory to his nature.

So, I’m reading a story about an illegal immigrant who is struggling to obtain a kidney transplant.  He has a donor; his brother.  But the system doesn’t allow illegal residents transplant care.  Lifetime dialysis?  Sure.  Transplant?  No.

Anyway, I’m sure I read this somewhere, but it occurred to me that of all the people in the kidney transplant process, the doctors, the hospitals, the nurses everybody, the only person who isn’t compensated for his time and effort is the guy that loses the kidney.

Isn’t that weird?  Maybe if we allowed people to sell their spare kidney we wouldn’t have so many people waiting for a kidney.