Hunches, 3-4-37

    We took a vacation last week, out of respect to those arch-criminals, Sniffle and Cough. So you might expect enough material would have accumulated to make this week's chatter rather easy sailing. No such luck. As I write these words I have not the slightest idea of what will appear in the next paragraph. And that is the fun of the thing.

    My note book says "Wholesale prices for those who have contacts". Now what do you suppose inspired me to jot that down several weeks ago? It seems pretty vague now, but I am sure I was all "et up" about it at the time. So it goes. These are eventful times: the scene changes so rapidly we scarcely have time to do any thing justice. About all we can do is to hit the high spots.

    But let's linger a moment on this wholesale price proposition. There is a growing tendency, unless recent legislation has actually checked the practice, for wholesale houses to sell almost any kind of merchandise to almost any kind of a company at the usual discounts. Consequently it is possible for anyone who has the proper contacts to obtain goods, which local retailers should supply at a reasonable profit, at prices so low that competition is out of the question. Now this is a swell racket, and I would be among the last to give it up, in spite of my realization that it is extremely unfair to retailers. As long as it exists, it is foolish for an individual not to take advantage of it. But if I were assured that everybody got the same consideration I would be only too glad to sacrifice my small advantage for the good of home merchants. This is an undemocratic practice, too, for the very people who need lower prices the most, are the only class who do not have the so-called proper contacts.

 Since we are talking about prices; did you ever try to figure out who actually sets prices? Precious little I know about it, but the generalization of supply and demand has always left me cold--sounds pretty, but who besides the Tugwells know what it is all about? The fact is government has a lot to say about prices in Europe; producers had things all sewed up in the guilds of the Middle Ages; consumers are taking the bull by the horns in the modern cooperatives; and in the good old, but sadly battered American system, prices are controlled by competition. The latter of course, comes the nearest to the supply and demand idea; and since it is based on simple economics it is possibly the soundest. (Which remark will probably cause some worthy New Dealers to fling up their hands in holy horror!)

 The interesting thing about government dictating prices is that they are not enforceable unless they line up with prices under other conditions. Decrees cannot cope with chisseling, if bootlegging becomes popular. And the Fascists know this.

 And the interesting thing about the monopolies of the Middle Ages which gave the producers the upper hand, is the fact that those who would correct modern evils and trying to revive the NRA--a faithful counterpart. Like the Egyptians, they believe in reincarnation. Just how the evils of monopoly are to be cured by creating a bigger monopoly is beyond me. But, you say, a government monopoly is different. And but, say I, are not government officials made of the same flesh and blood as their unwashed brethren of industry?

 Consumers’ cooperatives are the least offensive of the modern gadgets for improving distribution. We can produce like mad, and can consume like nobody’s business, but we haven’t solved the gap between. So here’s a vote for the co-op, as long as they keep politics out.

 As for “laissez faire”, which is the traditional American “live and let live” system of competitive prices. I find it very difficult to question its soundness. It is the only system which is consistent with our best national and individual character. Haven’t we simply omitted "let live”? As the saying goes: Christianity has not failed; it has never been tried.

 Definition: Propaganda is what the other fellow puts out; education is what you put out.

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