9 Year Old Gets It

Actually dialogue just occurred at the breakfast table with my 9 year old son.

Son 9:    Papa, how much does a car cost?
Me:    Depends.  A new car or a used car?
Son 9:   How much does a new car cost?
Me:    Ok.  The cheapest one?
Son 9:   Yeah.
Me:    The cheapest new car is probably around $10,000.
Son 9:    Oh.
Me:    It would probably be more with tires and taxes and stuff, but around $10,000 for the cheapest one.
Son 9:   Ok.  How much for a used car?
Me:    Well, that depends how old the car is, and whether it's broken or not.  You know what everyone in my family did when I was growing up?
Son 9:   What?
Me:    The farmers in the Ozarks all had to know how to fix a car.  And they taught their sons how to fix cars.  You know who knows the most about fixing cars in my family?
Son 9:   Grandpa Fisher?
Me:   Well, yes he did.  But today, I think it's his son, my Uncle Ed.
Son 9:   Oh, yeah.
Me:   People like my grandfather couldn't dream of buying a new car, but they all knew how to fix cars.  So they taught their kids the best thing to do is find someone who CAN afford a new car and buy their broken cars.  Then you could fix the broken car for a lot less.  Especially if you bought TWO broken cars of the same kind.
Son 9:  Oh, so you can take the parts off of one and fix the other!
Me:   Ok, I've told you about that haven't I?  Exactly.  You know, I think Uncle Ed still has a "parts car" in his yard, even though he owns a company like me and has even more employees.  He learned to fix the cars and he still does it.
Son 9:  Because that's what Hamdy was doing with the computers in Egypt.
Me:   Right, exactly.  He sells computers to Egyptian college students who could never afford a $300 new computer.  He buys working ones, he buys parts, and sells them.
Son 9:  And Hamdy has a company, like you and Uncle Ed.
Me:  Yes.  And you know what?  Uncle Ed and Hamdy and I all started our companies because we didn't have another job.  We had to.  We had to rely on ourselves.  That's how companies get created.
Son 9:  And Mariano does that in Mexico, too.
Daughter 13:  Papa, you know what some kids at school do at lunch?  They take the lunch and when they're done, they throw stuff away, even unopened yogurt that they didn't touch.  I hate that.
Son 13:  Yeah, it's disgusting.  
Me:   You guys have been to Cairo, you didn't see that happening over there did you?
Son 13:  No.  It makes me think of the kid with the camels, Abdullah.  He was about my size, but I think he was 14 or 15.  He was super nice.  He had flies all over him and he was dirty but I think he was really cool and mature.
Me:  When you see people throwing stuff away, it's good to remember people like that.


Ok, so I'm eventually going to be exposed as a doofus dork, and they may eventually become hoarders or become traumatized by their teenage friends for being close to their Daddy's junk business. But no one at the table said "they should leapfrog and get new computers and cars."  And no one at the table asked why they don't eat brioche when they have no bread.

The free market is a beautiful thing, it is an ecosystem.  But we don't want leftover junk cars in my grandfathers back yard, and you don't want leftover junk computers piling up in Egypt and onto Las Chicas Bravas in Mexico.  And if you regulate the disposal of certain toxic components in the cars, you don't want people to throw all the toxic parts into a sea container and throw a new Harley Davidson motorcycle on the top and tell them to cover cost of freight. So what you have to do is remove the bad stuff first, make the sale of good stuff conditional on the proper recycling of the leftover bad stuff, and have a part of the money in trade set aside for proper recycling of the leftover stuff.  It is about Free and Fair Trade. 

No farmer I know would accept the condition of take away a car he didn't need in order to get the one he wanted to fix.

A ban on exports won't work.  Mandating that people cannot buy broken cars and fix them won't work.  What you have to do is establish mass balance controls on the haz waste components (we suggest CRT Glass) and audit that bad stuff is accounted for, and you need to establish trade which contractually rewards poor people for taking extra steps that don't pay for themselves, like cleaning up incidental breakage.

No comments: